In the Trenches

trenchesI have been giving this some thought lately, especially since becoming our Boy Scout Round table Commissioner.  But Scouting is in the trenches.  To use an overused cliché.
What I mean by that is this.  Far to many units and unit leaders rely on the District and Council to make their program happen.  I do not have a beef with our District or our Council, but it is fair to say that if I received nothing from them our Troop would still be fine.
Now, I understand that we need the Council and District, more so the Council to support Scouting in the area.  We need the Council to maintain our wonderful camps and provide administrative services to us, but beyond that I don’t need the District or Council to provide my annual plan.
In a recent discussion I had with a couple Scouters that are knee-deep in the membership world of our Council and District we talked about why membership is dropping and why we (the Council and District) can not seem to build more Packs.  Yes, I was talking Cub Scout stuff.
I dawned on me that the Council will never be able to build new Packs till they put their money where their mouth is and get into the trenches with.. yes… with local units.  Scouting is in the trenches, in the community, not on a white board in an office.
We do not necessarily need more Packs, we need more strong Packs that can recruit.  That will bring more Packs and more Scouts.
Now, on the other hand, there are unit leaders that are willing to just wait around for the District and Council to make that happen.  They are satisfied waiting for Camporee or Webelos Woods to be their program.  They are content with the idea that the Council will provide Merit Badge weekends or Fairs so their Scouts can put more on their sash.  They are happy with the idea that Summer camp is a cookie cutter event and they never need to think out side of the box, but then wonder why their Scouts are bored and are leaving in droves.
Scouting is in the trenches, in the units.  This is not an indictment on the Council or District.  I am just saying that Units and Unit leaders need to know that Scouting is right where they are… not downtown at the Council office.  Scouting is supposed to happen in the community, not from the Scout Executives office.  Scouting is in the woods, youth led, and sustains itself through programs that are planned and executed at the Unit level.
Resources, administrative support, and fund-raising happens from above.  We just do Scouting!
That is how Scouting will grow and prosper.  Waiting on the Council or District is a bad practice and a sure-fire way to kill a unit.
In a world where membership numbers matter, this is where the rubber meets the road and Scouting Happens… In the trenches.  On Monday nights at Troop meetings, in the living rooms of Den Leaders, at Pizza Parlors with Crew Presidents.  Scouting happens in the trenches.
Don’t wait on the Council.  Get out there and do Scouting where it matters.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

One comment

  1. At the pack level, I really don’t see much of this, at least in my area.

    Just about every pack I know of runs all of their den and pack meetings with zero assistance from the council – At least 1-2 camping trips each year outside of the council ones. (Our pack does about 4, but we don’t participate in all district/council events out there)

    Typically our district and council have the following:

    Cuboree in September,
    Gold Rush in Oct/November,
    Webelos Woods in December
    Spring camping in April/may
    2-3 Gimmick camping trips, like Camp on the Ballfield after a game, or at the speedway after the monster truck show.

    Not every pack has the resources to provide this level of program at camping events. We usually take advantage of about half of these, and do our own stuff for other trips.

    The thing to remember is that really, it’s the packs that need more help. They generally have a worse leader:scout ratio than troops do – even though troops should theoretically need less adult involvement.

    Packs also have the disadvantage of very high turnover in leaders (4 1/2 year program, instead of a 7 year program) and the least experienced leaders.

    If the council is willing to step up and help packs provide a good outdoor program, I’m all for it.

    For most packs, by the time you recruit a CM, ACM, 3 Committee Members, and a Den Leader and Assistant Den Leader for each den, you have tapped out all available leaders. It’s not like a troop, where you could get by with a lot smaller number of leaders. If any aspect of scouting needs more help from the district, it’s the packs.

    The way the system is setup now, we are depending on the most understaffed, underexperienced leaders to provide scouts for the future of the BSA. If you want a troop in 5 years, you need to help a pack today.


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