Webelos to Scout Transition

Scouting for…

HappinessYesterday was our annual Scouting for Food drive.  Scouts from all over our Council hit the neighborhoods with enthusiasm and the knowledge that for two hours of service they will help feed many people in our community that are in need.
Now, we won’t debate here why they are in need, the organizations that profit from their need at times, or social injustice.. we are talking about Scouts doing a good turn.
Our Troop not only collects food from our neighbors, but also work the better part of the day at the St. Vincent dePaul Food Pantry collecting, sorting, and boxing food to be distributed over the course of the next few weeks.
As Packs, Troops, and Crews collect the food items, they bring it to the Church to be weighed, sorted, and given.  So over the morning I get an opportunity to talk with Scouts and Scouters and thank them for what they are doing to make our community just a tad bit better.
A group of Scouts came in and started unloading their pick up trucks full of food.  The Scoutmaster of the Troop and I exchanged greetings and he remarked about how rude some people are.. kind of blowing off the comment I said, yeah you see that everywhere now a days.. he said no.. today when they were collecting food in their neighborhood a lot of people went out of their way to be rude when a simple, no thank you or sorry we are not donating would do.
He even went on to say that many of his Scouts were yelled at for “Begging” for food.  A real sad story.
I let that soak in a bit and then let it go.
An hour later, a group of Scouts and I were standing outside waiting for more units to bring in food items.  A man walking by stopped and crossed the street.  I smiled and said hello.  He asked what we were doing.  I told him today is our annual Scouting for Food campaign and we were collecting food for the pantry.  He asked why the Scouts were doing it.  I replied that this is a good opportunity for the Scouts to do their good deed for the day and also a way of giving back to our community.  It was then that the discussion went South and in a hurry.  The man said that “these boys should not be our here begging for food”.. I thought back to the conversation I had with my friend the Scoutmaster.  I wonder if this is the same guy?
I smiled and assured him that we were not begging.. just simply helping collect food for the St. Vincent dePaul pantry.
He seemed to be getting very upset.  I asked him if there was something I could do for him, offered him a cup of coffee and a place to get out of the cold.  He did not want any coffee and asked again why were out here.  I again explained the Scouting for Food campaign and thought we were through.. and then he said it.. “It is a shame what you are doing to these boys”  Excuse me I asked.  “Brainwashing them into a bunch of robots” What?  Are you familiar with Scouting I asked?  He said sure.. I know all about how you are grooming these young kids to go into the military.  I said to him that while I know of Scouts that do enter the military, Scouting is not a military organization nor does it “Feed” the military with new recruits.  “Then why the uniforms, badges, and saluting?”
Scouting is like a team I tried to explain, we wear a uniform just like a sports team wears a uniform, it gives us a sense of team and pride in belonging together.  It is a great equalizer, we are all the same, no matter where we come from, what economic status, religion, or race.  We are all just Scouts.  The badges and saluting, well, they are to show achievement, teaching the Scouts that when you work hard you get rewarded.  So far as saluting, we only Salute our Country’s flag.  That is just our way of showing respect to the country that we live in.
He kept on.. well you are a “Ultra Right wing radical group”.. At that I had to laugh.  I told him that I was not exactly sure what he meant by that.. he said we were all radicals and want war.  At that it was time to have a little fun.
Sir, you don’t know a lot about Scouting do you?  I know plenty he said.. You said we all want war.. I suppose you are right.. we wage war against poverty, we want to kill hunger, we want to remove intolerance, we fight against our Scouts using drugs and battle against lack of character.  In 1918 after World War 1, Baden Powell moved Scouting’s goal to be a movement for peace… and that is what it has been for over 100 years.  Scouts from all over the world fight for peace in their own way every day.
Do we seem to be very conservative, sure.. it can be said that we have conservative values, you know all those terrible things like being loyal and friendly, Trustworthy and kind, Brave and clean, Helpful and Courteous.  We value hard work and earning our way in the world.  We teach our Scouts how to be people with Character, good Citizens, and young people that are fit.
No Sir, we do not brainwash or indoctrinate our youngsters into the military or force them to vote republican when they grow up.  We teach them to be good people that are self reliant, we do not want them to be a burden, rather people that take away the burden of their neighbor.
And that is why we are here today.. to help our community and those that are in need.
He made some weird sound, snorted, and turned to walk away.  I had to get one last shot in.  I said to him that I hope he has a better view of Scouts and Scouting now and that he is always welcome to come pay us a visit.  I said “Sir, we are just trying to do our part to make things better”.  He smiled and walked away.
Maybe Scouting for food was different this year.  Giving was down and the mood was strange, it has been a long weird year.  I hope that my exchange with that man yesterday was helpful.  He was Scouting for Food.. the food that is knowledge.  I am sure he was looking for an argument, but found Scouting and a group of young men that showed him at our finest. He found Scouts and a Scouter that have passion for what our organization does and believes.
After Scouting for Food, we went to a Cross over Ceremony for Webelos Scouts moving to Boy Scout Troops.  Our Troop received one of the four that crossed.  As I watched our ceremonies team tell the story of the Scout Oath and Law and the trail that these new young men were stepping off on.. I reflected on my conversation of that morning.  Smiled and knew that we did well today.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Membership Discussion

WSJpic1Lets talk about membership.
We all know that we need members to keep Scouting alive.  There are many different angles and directions to answer the membership question.  I am not going to solve this issue in this post, rather, I am opening up the dialogue to see what you all think.
Scouting in the United States if a bit different from the rest of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM).
First, we are not Coed, until you get to the Venturing Program.
Second, our programs are not connected.  Yes, Cub Scouts go to Boy Scout etc… but in most cases outside of the US, a Scout group is made up of youth from 7 to 21.  The units are formed from a group.  This allows for continuity in the program and allows for leadership and example to be promoted from within the group.  Personally, I like this idea.  I think it solves a few of the issues we have in Scouting in the US.  Namely keeping youth in Scouting.
I have become pen pals of sorts with some Scouters from outside of the United States.  While they do have their own issues it seems that young people stay in Scouting longer and have a great Scouting experience along the way.
Starting off as a young 7-year-old and staying in Scouting till they are in their young adulthood.  I think this creates a better Scouting life for them.
Anyway, as stated, I am not going to answer the question, just start the discussion.
I think that the BSA will need to explore the COED option sooner than later.  With declining membership and the Girl Scout program not what most girls want… I think that opening the doors to a COOED program may go along way to saving Scouting in America.
So how does that work?  Will we lose our values and program?  I don’t think so.  I think we can move forward with the program we have.  We need not tailor the program to girls, they will fit right in.  Look at the Venturing program as it is?  It would be much better if it were filled with young people and adventure.
OK, membership at the core.
I think that our professionals at the National and Council level have the very best of intentions when they talk membership.  It is a simple equation.  Get more youth in and membership will fix itself.
A few things that I know for sure.
You will never be able to out recruit your losses.  You will never be able to keep Scouts in a program that is floundering.
When I was a young Scoutmaster I was told the three keys to a successful troop were Program, Program, and Program.  If you build it they will come.  Boys do not join Scouts for Monday night meetings.  They join for cool programs and camp outs.  Parents bring their sons to our program.  Not to our meetings.  They need to be able to see value in the program.
Program will drive membership.  So I think sometimes we put the cart before the horse.  The horse is our program, the cart is membership and money.  Now, you can’t have one without the other, but if your priority is not program, you won’t get members.  That, I know for sure.
So where is our effort more effective?  Building programs or recruiting?  I think we build programs and let them come.
There are more factors to this discussion to be sure.  It is not always that simple I understand.  At the unit level programs need to be the priority.  Build it and they will come.  Recruiting efforts need to be a part of the annual plan.  Focusing on Cub Scouts is not the only answer.  We need to sell Scouting to all eligible youth.
This is where I see other WOSM get it.  They appeal to youth of all ages and keep them in longer.  There is a coolness factor about hanging out with their peers and they longer they stay, so do their friends.  I think this is an important part of our membership issue.
So.. lets take a few posts and explore this issue?
What do you think?  Let’s discuss this.
Here is a little video I stumbled on that really got me thinking.  It is from the Scouts in Germany.  I would love to see our youth in American Scouting like this one day.  I got to see Scouting like this when I was a kid in the Transatlantic Council as we did many International Scouting activities.
Also take a moment to check out the Kandersteg International Scout Center videos.  See what they look like and lets see how we can implement some of this here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

A Sky Full of Scouts from Andreas Herten on Vimeo.

Scoutbook.com

scoutbookEvery unit has a method of tracking their Scouts.  Advancement, activities, special awards etc.  There are software programs and online resources for tracking, even an Excel spreadsheet can be used.  But I want to introduce you to a real cool way of tracking your unit.  Scoutbook.com.
Before I go any further, I should say in full disclosure that my unit does not use Scoutbook.com…. yet.  I was made aware of Scoutbook.com recently and thought I would review it and let you all know about some of the great features it has.  I should also say that as a Scoutmaster, I rarely get involved in any of this, but with Scoutbook.com your committee will be very happy to have such an awesome tool at their finger tips.
At first look I love the interface.  The ease of the program.  It is clean and requires no hunting to find what you are looking for.
tysonadvancement270Second thing that you notice right away is that the Scout has some responsibility for his advancement in this program.  Just like their Scout handbook, the Scout himself now has the ability to track and maintain parts of his record keeping.  Yes, he still needs to get the work done and Yes, he still needs to see the Scoutmaster or who ever signs the book.  But with Scoutbook.com, he has everything at his fingertips electronically.
I remember Former Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzucca reminding us to take Scouting where the Scouts are.  Well, 78% of our teens have cell phones, and not just cell phones, but smart phones.  So put this tool in their hands and see if they get excited about this part of Scouting.
I love that Scoutbook.com is on “The Cloud”.  Pretty much the world that we live in.  The ability to have data on your tablet, phone, computer or other device is critical these days.
Ok, So the Committee has a role in this, the Scout has a role in this, and the leaders all have roles in this.  It is a total package deal.  Constantly updated to meet all of the BSA requirements, linked to ScoutNet, and easy to use.
As a leader, you can track and maintain your training records.  I am sure that the Training chair on your committee would love for your help on that.mytraining280
Printing Blue cards is a snap also.. right from your device.
Merit Badge counselors can track the Scout and report percentages of complete to the committee in real-time.
For the leader, you can track multiple Scouts with just a few clicks.  Monitoring those first year Scouts sometimes can be chore.  But using the tools in Scoutbook.com they have been made easy and right at your finger tips.
Troop Committees can print beautiful reports and even the 34403 form to purchasing awards and advancement for your next Court of Honor.
Scoutbook.com is 100% secure and allows the unit to decide who gets what access.  The Scout, the Leaders, Merit Badge Counselors, and the Committee all have functions suited to them.
There are many features of Scoutbook.com that I can’t write about here, it would take pages on the blog.
If you are currently using other tracking software or online programs you may be able to transfer your data, but before you do, check out Scoutbook.com and see all of this for yourself.  It is worth a look.
And here is something cool about Scoutbook.com… You can have it for a year free because you read my blog.
The first 3 readers that send me an email (tbirdironchef@gmail.com) and ask for the subscription will get an annual subscription to Scoutbook.com.  You need to check out the website to see all of the benefits that come with this cool program.
I think it is a resource that you and your unit need to look into.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

One Word

You know, some times things happen and then you look back at it and have an “Ah Ha” moment.
In my last post I put in a Rockwell print to illustrate “Scouting”… Today as I looked at it again, I thought.. Now that is the ultimate Boy Scout Recruiting poster.
Look at the Cub Scout in the print.. you know what he wants out of Scouting… Look close you will see it.
If you build it they will come pt.2

ADVENTURE!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Captain Obvious

Earlier today I received an email from a “fan of the blog and podcast”.. his email is certainly appreciated and I am glad that he took the time to express his thoughts, but…
I will not post the email here, but let me share with you the part that got me to write this post.
“OK Captain Obvious, we all know the ‘Methods of Scouting’ and use them, please tell us something we don’t know.. after all, if it isn’t broke we are not going to fix it”.
Really now.. it isn’t broke.  Well good timing my friend.  Last night at the Top Team meeting our Scout Executive presented the 2011 Progress review to the District Chairman.  I was floored by the results of the audit at both the National level and our Council.  Let me tell you that we have work to do.. at both the National Level… and the Council level.  Now our SE said we are going to “Celebrate our short comings.. and work to fixing the issues”.. I would suggest, strictly from “Captain Obvious’s” point of view that we need to work and work hard to get some of these things fixed.  So, tell us something we don’t know he said.  Let me tell you that the discussion on Methods is exactly what we don’t know.
Let me share some National numbers with you..
MEMBERSHIP-  In my last post on the Outdoor program, I suggested that PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM, and working the Outdoor program method was a key point in getting Scouts to join and stay in Scouting.  It is what gets Webelos to cross over and invite their friends to join.   When I was at the National Meetings last year in San Diego, Rex Tillerson the BSA President talked to us about “the Main thing”.  that Main thing is delivering Scouting to young men.  They can’t do Scouting if they are not in Scouting.
In our Council we are seeing a terrible trend in Cub Scout market share (market share is how the BSA measures growth).   Our Council is pretty much average with the Nation, but here are the numbers from 2007 thru 2011.  In 2007 we had 15,022 Cub Scouts in the program, 14,465 in 2008, 13, 902 and 13, 303 in the next two years and in 2011 we ended the year with only 12,600 Cub Scouts.  That is a significant loss.  The reason that I find this alarming is that without Cub Scouts you drastically reduce the ranks of Boy Scouts.
Boy Scout membership in 2007 in our Council was 11,960 and in 2011 it dropped to 11, 731.  Now this may not seem significant but long term, the Cub Scout numbers will catch up.  Boys are in the Boy Scout program longer than their Cub Scout years, so we have not felt the impact of the dropping number yet.
I would suggest that this is broke and the question first is why?  Could it be programs?  Could it be the lack of leaders not trained.. we will get into that in a second.  Could it be that methods are not being followed?  I wish I had the answer.. but Captain Obvious here knows broke when he sees it.
Now the good news is that our Retention numbers are looking pretty good.. but only pretty good.  The National Average in retention is 70.6%.  We have way too many Scouts going out the back door.  Our Council’s retention rate is 76%.. still not a great number.. so why are they leaving?  Is it that they don’t agree with our values?  are they bored? are they not getting the bang for their buck?
The average size of a Boy Scout Troop in America is 21 Scouts and we recruit about 9 a year on average… so where are they?
Ok.. lets move on to Advancement.. yeah.. remember that’s one of the methods also..  How are we doing?
Only 39.8% of the Boy Scouts in the Nation advanced a rank last year.  Need we say more?  Captain Obvious says we need to work a little harder on this.
Now get ready to treat for shock.. TRAINING!
Only.. and I hope you are sitting down for this.. ONLY 34.4% of Direct Contact leaders, that’s Tiger Leaders, Den Leaders, Webelos Leaders, Cub Masters, Scoutmasters, and Venturing Advisors are Trained in their positions!  As my daughter would say OMG!  And we are taking these boys in the woods and asking parents to feel good about it.  I would not allow my sons to be in a unit with untrained leaders.  34.4 % is the National Average of trained leaders and I would suggest this needs immediate fixing.  There is no excuse what so ever for an adult to be un trained.  NONE.  In an age where the BSA has made Training easier than ever to access, District and Council training committees are holding multiple training events annually… why are we not trained?  How do we have “Adult Association” and mentoring for “Leadership development”.  How does an adult who is not trained teach, coach, train and mentor a Scout?  Captain Obvious is shocked.
So once again, I would like to thank the reader for the email and suggest that we revisit the “Main thing” and the Methods of Scouting.  maybe, just maybe we can fix some of these issues… nay.. we have to fix these issues and the methods will help you and your unit fix what you think is not broke.  Here is what I think.  Those that don’t know.. don’t know.  Those that are untrained, will not know.  There are no excuses for this.  We all love Scouting and for the most part will do what ever it takes to deliver the promise of Scouting.  Scouting is alive and well, but has some work to do to deliver that promise.  It’s obvious what we need to do.  ON MY HONOR I will do my part!
What are your thoughts?  I am curious to know what you think.  drop an email, leave a comment, or send me smoke signals.
Have a Great Scouting day!

“NOT WORTHY”

Last night we had another Webelos Scout cross over into our Troop.  He started in his last year of Cub Scouts a little late and wanted to complete his Arrow of Light, so rather than cross with the rest of his Den, he waited, finished his AOL, and crossed last night in a ceremony with his Pack.
Our Troops ceremony team conducted the ceremony and true to form, did a great job.  Last night as I stood patiently awaiting the new boys arrival from one side of the “Bridge” to me, I listened as the team presented the decorative arrows symbolizing their journey to achieve the Arrow of Light.  In the ceremony they test the arrows to see if they are straight and true and worthy to continue the journey.  In the quiver are placed non decorative arrows that are broken in the ceremony.. they are “Not Worthy” to continue on the trail to Eagle.  As each arrow is tested the suspense grows with the beating of the drum.  The Scouts are all worthy, and soon will cross the bridge to their next adventure.
I really have not given much thought about this ceremony until last night.
The symbolism of the broken arrows and how fragile they are.  Keeping the arrow straight and true and worthy of being a man of character.
Our character is that arrow, the Scout Oath and Law help keep it straight and true and worthy of the journey.  It is when we fall off target, like the arrow that is not straight or has a flaw that we will give our character away.
After the ceremony, we went back to our Troop meeting to prepare for the up coming camp out.  Last night, I shared this thought with the Scouts of the Troop, each having seen this ceremony at one point along the way.  I challenged them to seek an arrow that is straight and true, one which will not fall off its mark.  It is then that they will be worthy… worthy of a life of character.. to be called an Eagle Scout.
I challenge you.  Find that arrow within you and keep it straight and true.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Delivering the Promise

At last nights Roundtable I was pleased to see a great turn out in the Boy Scout break out.  Last nights attraction was Camporee and what units can do to get ready for it.  We had about a half hour left so I thought it would be worth our while to talk a little District talk with the leaders that took their time to be at the break out.
Now first of all.. I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it again.. at Roundtable we typically are preaching to the choir, but there were plenty of newer faces in the room, so putting on my District Chairman hat, I stepped up front and spent a few minutes sharing some district news, reported back a little on the District Journey to Excellence Score card, and made myself available for questions.
Summer camp.  This became a big subject last night.  There are way to many units that still have not reported a summer camp sign up for this year.  It is a fact that Scouts that attend summer camp stay in Scouting longer.  We looked at the numbers. Only 1/3 of the scouts signed up for our council camps are from our council.  That means that lots of units from outside of our council are flowing into our camps.  That’s a great thing, except to say, that means that lots of Scouts in our council are not going to summer camp.
Retention.  Summer camp leads us to retention.  IF lots of Scouts are not going to summer camp, then its no wonder why they are not staying in Scouting.  Our numbers show that we are doing well crossing Webelos into Boy Scouts, and we are doing a great job getting boys to join Scouts “off the street”.  But we are not doing the best we can to keep them in Scouting.  It is no surprise that boys leave the program when they are not engaged.  If they are not having fun, or participating fully in Scouting, they will leave.  I mean, why stay?
Program.  Back when I was a new Scoutmaster, a mentor of mine shared with me that regardless of everything else the key to a successful unit is the program.  He said Program, Program, Program!  I have shared this here before to, my “Field of Dream” philosophy.  If you build the program, they will come.. and stay.  Monthly camp outs, Summer camp attendance, advancement focus, service opportunities all add up to great program.  Youth leadership that is driven to lead to the next adventure keeps them excited and wanting more.  A solid program at the unit level is the answer to most if not all of the problems we face in the Scouting movement.
Which brought me to the final point of the evening.  What is the role of the Council and the District?   Resourcing.  It is not the role of the Council or the District to run units.  They are there to assist in the administrative tasks, financial opportunities, and resourcing of program (materials, camps, etc).  I think too many people wait around for the Council or District to do things for them.  The unit is where Scouting happens.  It is where Scouts become men of character, good citizens, and discover fitness.  If you wait around for the council to do that, you will never be a successful unit.  The council and district can not build you a program that is successful.  They can assist with the resources that will help your success… but wait around and you will fail.
A question came up about the DE and his role.  Again, he is a resource manager.  He is there to raise funds, develop relationships in the community to build and grow scouting.  He is there to assist units in training, growing, and ensuring that the promise of Scouting is being delivered in those units.  But wait for him to do the work at the unit.  You will fail.  This is not a bad thing.  This is the way Scouting was designed.  Scouting is owned and operated by the volunteers that care to serve our youth.  Bottom line.  We are Scouting and we Deliver the Promise.  We, the volunteer.  Our District committee is made up of volunteers, our Council committee is made up of volunteers, but more importantly, our units, Packs, Troops, and Crews are made up of thousands of volunteers that every single day do something to deliver the promise of Scouting to the great kids that come seeking fun and adventure.
It was great to be able to talk with some of those volunteers last night.  As I looked at the room and saw the faces of the BSA, people that really care.  I know that all is well.  The numbers are the numbers, and they will come around.  The people care and will do what ever it takes to develop those programs to make Scouting the greatest.

Have a Great Scouting Day!