Making Older Scout Advancement and Leadership Opportunities Possible

scout-1

Kevin V. Hunt

Scouting Historian, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Scouting Veteran, and Camp Director

We have been talking (in these blogs) about the announced changes in LDS Scouting relative to the older boys.  I have talked extensively about the program planning function and how this will ever be key in creating an effective program for our older youth.  I would like to change gears a bit now to talk about how we might all work together to assist boys ages 14-17 still “be Scouts” and how we might help them become Eagle Scouts.   And I apologize that this blog is a bit longer than it maybe should be.  I will soon head to Scout camp for the summer so my blogging time is a bit limited as I anticipate a summer with little or no internet capabilities.  So, bear with me …  (Read it in installments if needed!)

Admittedly, the new look of older Scout programs will be a rather major challenge for us to face.   But, with our united efforts, it will still be possible.

The Original First Presidency Letter stated: “… Young men over the age of 14 who desire to continue to work toward the rank of Eagle Scout … should be encouraged and supported in their efforts and should be properly registered as Scouts.  Adult leaders who are assisting with merit badges or rank advancement with older boys should also be registered and completed required training.”

Following the announced changes, a Questions and Answers section was added on LDS.org about the upcoming changes.  One question says,

”What if my son is 14 or older and still wants to earn his Eagle Scout? According to LDS Public Affairs, any Latter-day Saint young man over the age of 14 who “desire(s) to continue toward the rank of Eagle will be registered, supported and encouraged.” These young men will need to be registered with the BSA in order to work toward the recognition.”

In the aftermath of the LDS decision about Varsity and Venturing, the Deseret News published statistics that were rather interesting.  These statistical charts showed that the average age of youth achieving the Eagle rank nationally in the BSA is 17.3 years.

The Utah National Parks Council (located in a nearly all LDS Utah council) wrote on this subject and gave other interesting statistics:  “We look forward to providing Scout programs to all interested youth, including those age 14 and older who want to continue participating or are on the trail to Eagle. Of those who earn the Eagle Scout award in our council, 93% complete the requirements at age 14 or older and 67% attain the Eagle rank after age 16.”

Pretty daunting news.  And with the coming changes, this means that we will all have to work harder to make it happen – and probably earlier.  So, what are we to do?  What is to be done?  How can the boys remain as Scouts and how can they achieve their advancement – and particularly the leadership requirements.  All good questions!

Well, I have had a few thoughts on the subject – and which I would like to share with you now.

First …  at the time of the annual BSA rechartering with the Church, the person in charge of completing the charter process should take extra care to contact each and every one of the boys turning 14 after January 1st (and their parents).  (This will be an ongoing question critical in the first year – but to be answered each successive year.)  Each boy should be willing to make a commitment right then about whether or not they want to be Eagle scouts.  And this will be kind of a major decision for them.  Do they want to follow the family and church tradition?  Or are they going to say that they are done and satisfied where they are?  All boys wishing to continue their Scouting connection (and adults who work with them) will still need to recharter with the troop.  That will mean new applications for all older boys.

It is very important that the registration remain current without any break.  If there is a lapse, they may not be able to ensure that they have tenure and leadership for the necessary time.  Boys can’t wait until they are seventeen plus and then suddenly reregister to become a “death-bed eagle” before they turn 18.  One of the saddest days of my life was having to tell a Scout in such a situation that it just was not possible for him to complete his Eagle award requirements before he turned 18.  He was a sad young man.

Another key for the leadership requirement – and tenure – is to remember that the time for these can start as soon as the Scout has earned his Star or Life awards.  Remember too, that a Scout needs to have six months between Star and Life and again from Life to Eagle.  But say a young man gets Life three or four months before his 14th birthday.  That three or four months can count toward the next rank IF the Scout is both registered and in a troop leadership position.  So, it is rather critical to make sure that every young man is in a troop leadership position.   Good record keeping is paramount.

Another key will be working with the council to make sure that all of the current advancement records – from whatever unit – are all transferred to those registered in the troop – after the rechartering decisions.

For many years I have been the advancement chairman for all three units – Scouting, Varsity and Venturing – in my own ward.   And I believe that we have a pretty strong Scouting program and support in our ward.  We have a fabulous 11-year Old Scout leader in Jonathan Nichols.  That guy is a saint!  He has worked overboard to ensure that each boy (who wants to) graduates from his program as a First Class Scout.  And the Scout troop leaders have also been great.  Most of the boys graduate from Deacon/Scouts as Star or Life Scouts.  And then they all struggle to get the other requirements completed.  A few boys get it done about age 15 – which is excellent.  And still, like the National BSA statistics, the majority still get ‘er done when older still.  And this is always a challenge … since by that time, the “fumes” have all kicked in (that’s car fumes and perfumes) and this makes for a major impact on the boys and their advancement.

As I conduct Scout board of reviews for our Scouts, I always ask them two or three questions at the end of each review.  One is “If we pin this badge on you at the court of honor … will you feel that you have EARNED the badge?”  (And discussion follows.)  And the other question (usually just before the “have you earned” question) is “Do YOU WANT to be an Eagle Scout?”  And then there is a follow-up question to that.  It is, “Whose job is it to make you an Eagle Scout?”

This questions kind of shocks some of the newer kids.  We then talk about how parents, leaders, and others can assist them, but in reality, it is their own personal decision to become an Eagle Scout – and it is their own personal duty to take charge and make this happen.

So, in light of the coming changes, it still boils down to this.  Does Johnny, himself, REALLY want to be an Eagle Scout?  And in spite of changes, is he willing to do anything that may be required (even acting independently) to make it happen?  (And we can’t rely simply on over-zealous mothers to make Johnny an Eagle Scout!)

After that decision time, older Scouts can push themselves forward to make it happen.  But, we have seen that often this doesn’t happen on their own.  It will take help from all of us to achieve the goal.

Next then, is that it will probably take a strong advancement person or someone else to help the youth stay on track.  The advancement chair can (as always) continue to encourage and talk with the boys individually in the hall etc. to help motivate and inspire.  Being ready with the updated advancement records of merit badges and rank dates can be very helpful.

That brings us to the subject of how to stay in the troop and how to achieve leadership requirements.

I guess this is a time to share my own personal experience.  I earned my own Eagle Scout award just before I turned age 14 (and so did my four Eagle brothers – and I admit that I didn’t have to be prodded by Mom and others to do it).  As per the church system, I moved up into the next upper level – Venturing Exploring (that was before Varsity Scouting).  In that program we had grandiose plans.  We planned to go to Hawaii.  But, after all of that planning – and a steady diet of basketball – we ultimately didn’t even make it to the giant Arizona metropolis of Sunflower, Arizona.

I lasted only about six months in that do-nothing program.  I then made the choice to go back to the Scout troop and remained there until I went on my mission.  Now, I know that I was a bit unique, but it was a glorious time for me.  I conducted merit badge classes for my younger troop brothers.  I kept the troop records.   I became the troop’s Junior Assistant Scoutmaster – a fabulous title and truly wonderful job for an older Scout.  I served more like an adult in the troop.  I did not report through the SPL but he reported through me to the Scoutmaster.  I have already blogged recently about how I became the catalyst to take our entire troop from Arizona up to the National BSA Jamboree in Farragut, Idaho.  I became the Webelos Leader – and then 11-year old Scout (Blazer) leader when legally too young to do so.  And it was all a grand experience for me – and my fellow Scouts.  I loved the leadership opportunities.

In our upcoming situation, I believe strongly that the Troop Guide position is perfect for some of our LDS older Scouts.  This BSA position counts for Eagle advancement and is actually quite flexible in its job description.  And you can have every boy – if needed – be a Troop Guide.  It is flexible enough that you can use the position – and the boy – to help meet the needs of the older Scout himself – as well as other Scouts in the troop while getting in his own leadership requirement time).

Now you have probably not even heard of this Troop Guide position because it really has not existed in the LDS church – because all of our boys have moved up to Varsity and Venturing at the specific ordination ages – and thus have by-passed the Troop Guide opportunity.

The Troop Guide is a fabulous position but no one knows about it.  The way it works, an older Scout is registered with the troop.  And he is assigned a patrol – either a new-Scout patrol or even an older-boy patrol – or he serves at large in the troop to multiple patrols.  He is an instructor.  He is preassigned specific troop or patrol meetings to teach Scout Skills – or even merit badges.  He does not have to attend every troop meeting but would be there at least once a month – but perhaps more.  (If this is to occur, the troop meetings may need to be on a night other than the Teacher/Priest meetings so that he can go to both – or he would have to miss his Teacher/Priest meetings when assigned as an instructor in the troop.

The Troop Guide can be found with various job descriptions on-line as I found after spending an evening researching it in preparation for this blog.  Again, I believe that it is a flexible position that you can mold any way that you wish.   Here is a description that was written for a Scout with other older Scouts in an older boy patrol.  (And again, every one of the older boys can be Troop Guides and be given specific tasks or roles.)

  • Create activities that are fun and interesting to the older boy patrols.
  • Work with ASM for the Older Boy Program in selecting merit badges to work on at weekend campouts.
  • Attend Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) meetings.
  • Prevent harassment of new Scouts by older Scouts.
  • Refresh older boy patrols in the basic Scout skills.
  • Regularly attends troop meetings, troop campouts, and troop events during his service period.
  • Set a good example.
  • Enthusiastically wear the Scout Uniform correctly.
  • Live by the Scout Oath and Law.
  • Show Scout spirit.

The Troop Guide description for an older boy assigned to a New Scout Patrol is very similar:

  • Help all first year Scouts earn advancement requirements through First Class (serving in a role similar to a Cub Scout Den Chief – but assigned to the 11-Year Old or New Scout Parol
  • Help older boys who have not completed First Class – assigned to help specific Scouts needing his individual help (probably on a hike or a meeting separate from the troop.  (Two older Scouts – Troop Guides – could also be assigned together to one or multiple Scouts interested in advancing)
  • Advise patrol leader on his duties and responsibilities at Patrol Leaders’ Council (PLC) meetings.
  • Attend Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) meetings with the New Scout Patrol Leader.
  • Prevent harassment of new Scouts by older Scouts.
  • Help Assistant Scoutmaster train new Scouts by older Scouts.
  • Guide new Scouts through early troop experiences to help them become comfortable in the troop and the outdoors.
  • Teach basic Scout skills.
  • Regularly attends troop meetings, troop campouts, and troop events during his service period.
  • Set a good example.
  • Enthusiastically wear the Scout Uniform correctly.
  • Live by the Scout Oath and Law.
  • Show Scout spirit.

So, in summary, the Guide would be a leader kind of between the Patrol Leader and the adult leaders.  He could work specifically with the new Scout patrol – and in this role (kind of like a Den Chief – but to older Scouts) he would teach and train Scouts in specific Scout skills.  He could do this with a group or with a couple of boys on their own.  He could be perfect to work with two or three boys who are behind and need some individual attention.  He could be preassigned to teach specific skills at troop meetings or campouts. If on a camp-out, he should not be there to goof off but again to teach specific skills, be the example, wear the uniform, etc.

If you have a group of these older Scouts, they could be their own patrol in troop meetings and on outings.  Of if you have only a couple of them, let them cook and hang out with the adults.  Plan ahead and give them specific leadership tasks.  With advance notice, they can plan ahead and be prepared to be a true teacher and guide.  The Troop Guide is flexible enough for the troop to kind of custom design a role for each young man – with definite things that they should accomplish in their service – new Scout patrol, scout skills training at troop meetings and/or campouts, or by individual assignment to specific Scouts.

Older Scouts can also attend Scout Camp (again not as a goof off – but as a troop leader).  And older Scouts can also be encouraged to attend NYLT and other youth leadership training opportunities through the council and the troop.

Another idea that I have been toying with is to be a catalyst – to start my own “Super High Flyin’ Eagle Battalion troop.  In such a troop, I could invite any and all older boy Scouts (from all around our town) who very seriously have decided they want to become Eagle Scouts.   I am still thinking of this option since it could be real fun with a team of die-hard dads who loved Scouting and want to give their sons the opportunity to also achieve the Eagle Scout Award.  I haven’t committed to this yet, but it is making me think and dream a bit.

I hope that these ideas may be helpful to you.  I would welcome comments about your own thoughts and how to make a success of the coming opportunities.  Let’s all take a personal interest in the older Scouts and give them opportunities to be true leaders – using the skills and training they have already received as Scouts.  Help each young man customize a plan for his leadership requirements and the growth of him and his fellow Scouts.  It could be exciting!

Best wishes along your Scouting Trails …  Kevinthescoutblogger

See this link for an introduction to Kevin the Scouting Trails Blogger.  Blogging articles have excerpts taken from Kevin’s many personal journals and Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership,” “Gnubie to Eagle Scout”,  and others at his Scoutingtrails website.  Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy ScoutThe Scouting Trail and the Voice of Scouting.  Feel free to comment on anything you read!  Find Kevin on Facebook at:  Scouting Trails Books and Blogs.

To explore or buy Kevin’s books on Amazon, go to: amazon.com/author/kevinhunt

Contact Kevin directly via email: kevin@scoutingtrails.com

@ 2017 Kevin V. Hunt

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Making Older Scout Advancement and Leadership Opportunities Possible

  1. Pingback: Ideas for Older LDS Scout Advancement | Missionary in Training

  2. Another leadership position not used often enough is that of den chief. I am hoping that more LDS troops will use this position to help in their own packs as well. Most packs should be able to use at least 3 den chiefs. (Wolf, Bear & Webelos dens).

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