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  • Flailing?

    Fellow Scouters - I need some help.

    I'm the Cubmaster of a good sized pack that normally runs between 60-80 boys. I've been Cubmaster for about a year and a half. I'm really worried that I'm just missing something fundamental here and am just flailing. Let me explain...

    The boys and families just don't seem all that engaged. We've got a fairly active pack calendar, but attendance is low. Our fall campout got about 30% attendance. Our upcoming spring campout probably won't hit that. The Pinewood Derby this year might have hit 60%. We had two Pinewood Derby workdays, so I know it's not because the boys didn't have an opportunity to build a car if they could not at home. Summer activities might hit 20-25%. I feel we have to beg folks to attend. There are 3 or 4 signup emails per event that all end up reading "please remember to signup".

    Monthly pack meeting attendance is at best at about 50%. I've tried to make the pack meetings more fun - to some limited success, but attendance has not gotten better. In several dens, the den leaders report similar attendance. Weekly meetings seem optional and folks never RSVP when they can't make it.

    Beyond the den leaders, we have a very small pack committee - just a committee chair and treasurer. We've got a couple of Assistant Cubmasters, but they double as den leaders/assistant den leaders. The pack committee meeting is really a pack leader's meeting. I'm talked with the Committee Chair many times about getting more adults involved, but he doesn't know how or is not interested building a committee. He seems content to preside at our "committee meeting" and help out with special projects as needed.

    Without other leaders, I fear I'm wearing out our den leaders. Most dens have two leaders, but some have only one. In the two dens with just one leader, they are both telling me that they are done at the end of the year. There are some den leaders who rarely show for the monthly leader's meeting.

    I, as Cubmaster, end up organizing just about every pack event - pack meetings, campouts, join scouting, summer activities. For major events, when I ask for help from the den leaders, I generally get it. However, we don't really have anyone outside that group engaged helping out. There's no activities chair, membership chair, etc.. This general structure pre-dated me and it is just the way the pack has always operated. A couple of Cubmasters ago we were smaller and he did run it all, but from what I understand, outside events were minimal. In his time campout attendance was just a few people. Yet, long timers look back on him fondly.

    I recognize I'm burning out. I don't want to quit and want to improve what I'm doing, but at this point I recognize the signs of burnout. My family is supporting me, but I've been pretty much told by my wife that when my son ages out of Cubs in a year that I need to retire as a Scouter.

    So, I'm feeling lost. I know we need to get the energy up, but I'm not sure how. I know we need better attendance, but I'm not sure how. Similarly, I know we need more adults helping out, but again, I'm at a loss of where to start. I feel like it's a self perpetuating cycle.

    I've taken pretty much every training available at the Cub level - including Wood Badge. But, I can't quite seem to make it click.

    I'm hoping some learned people here in the community may be able to help me make sense of it all and get me pointed in the right direction.

    Yours in Scouting...

  • #2
    In order to get attendance up, you are going to have to start with the parents. If you can't get the parents on board with attending the Pack meetings, then you just won't be able to get the attendance up because the boys aren't going to get to the meeting by themselves. You might try asking some of the parents who do not attend regularly why they don't attend. Are they just too busy? Do the meetings end too late? Do the meetings interfere with dinner time? Are the meetings boring? Do they realize the importance of attending the meetings? Maybe a common theme will arise in their answers and you can make some adjustments. One thing that has helped our attendance this year is having each den assigned a Pack meeting to be in charge of. The boys in that den help plan the activities, do the flag ceremony, and run the meeting. The den leaders use it as a time to complete some of their fun badge requirements or electives for their boys, so you will get around 100% attendance from that particular den for that meeting. And it gets to be a bit of a competition too, with each den trying to top the others. Getting the boys excited about the pack meetings means they will start talking up the meetings to their parents.

    Comment


    • #3
      Make a huge effort to greet every parent that comes in the door to the meetings....Learn their first names, know their kids names, know where they work.....Make small talk with them. Know where their kids go to school and know what is happening at that school. At this point you are saying what the heck....

      Your Pack is lacking a sense of community.

      To engage the parents you need to make them a member of the community.....I went from a one man show, like you are now, to working myself out of a job in about a three year period.

      The first year was spent learning the playing field, who was who, the wolves and the sheep and getting parents to step up for small jobs. The second year was building pack leadership, getting Assistant den leaders, Assistant Cubmasters and more committee members.

      Honestly the boys don't care and most will be just as happy sitting at home in front of the video game console.

      You need to get the parents to buy in at Cub age.


      If you do it right and become SM for the troop, all of those parents will follow to the troop and best of all, you have already set the stage and will continue to reap the rewards for building that community.


      Comment


      • #4
        What you describe is quite common for most Packs, mine included. Base offers excellent advice about building community. Try not to take attendance at campouts or summer acitivites personally. Some people like the overall cub program but they hate camping. TIger/Wolf/Bear Cubs can't attend camp without their parent/guardian so they will not be camping if their parents don't like it. Our Pack campouts have about 25 to 30% attendance and these are the folks that like camping and are already invested in camping equipment. Summer activities are a challenge due to family vacations and other conflicts. My Pack does well to have 30% attendance at any one summer event even with advanced planning. The only time we might exceed 50% is Cub Day Camp. The bottom line is to enjoy the time with those that do attend these events because this is your true "core" group that will sustain the Pack going forward.

        Our leader meetings are combined pack committee/leader meetings and what you describe is not really a problem in my opinion. We are all present together to hear each other and make plans. We never have 100% attendance but it works well overall. Oh, by the way, we don't have every committee position filled.

        I've been Cubmaster now for 2.5 years and I have felt some burn-out even with good leader/parent support. Learn to say No even for those things that may fall under your responsibility. My family comes first and then scouting. I learned that I don't need to do everything to be a decent CM. When I say "No", I have found that encourages others to step up and fill the gap. If they don't step up, then the event does not happen. If I am doing everything, then no one has an incentive to volunteer. Sometimes, you have to let things slide. If a parent complains about an event that did not happen, that's an opportunity to ask them to help with the event next time around. Further, you don't have to be at every single event - take occassional breaks. Just let folks know ahead of time that you will not be there. Oh, did I mention the Council/District might ask you to do stuff because you are CM? I generally say no to District events because I'm too busy at the Pack level. Finally, have a succession plan and start targeting adults that can potentially take over your position. If you are ready to retire, make an announcement now that you will be stepping down within the next year to allow for a transistion time.

        Comment


        • #5
          ParkMan raises some good, and quite common, issues.

          One thing I'd say is that it's a mistake to limit Pack Committee Meetings to den and pack leaders. We call 'em parent meetings and in five years we've NEVER had a monthly parent meeting flop because of poor attendance. We schedule parent meetings each month as part of our annual den and pack meeting plan. They are usually on the fourth Monday of the month, with th stated aim of planning the den and pack activities for the next month.

          We usually have meetings at the same place --- currently at a Starbucks store, and at other times at a library meeting room. One of the aims has been to get parents IN THE HABIT of attending.

          When we have a spring or fall recruiting night, we invite new parents to our committee meeting and treat it as a reception for those new parents, to encourage them to attend and to feel welcome.

          Comment


          • #6
            We just discussed these issues last night at our Pack Parents Meeting.

            Question: Of the 60-80 boys, what percentage are advancing to the next rank each year? Is it 100%? Do you keep boys on the Charter that should be dropped? The reason I am asking is perhaps the attendance is low at Den and Pack meetings is because the boys are no longer active scouts. Do the Den Leaders reach out and call the parents and find out why the scout did not attend the meeting?

            That being said, we have good Den and Pack meeting attendance, but we have poor event attendance. Our Pinewood Derby, Raingutter Regatta and Blue and Gold events are the monthly Pack meeting. We will have awards and announcements and then the main event. I know the scouts should receive immediate recognition, but our Pack awards the belt loops, Webelos Activity Pins and other bling at our Pack meetings. Miss a Pack meeting, miss the bling. And, most times, we try to award them with some flair. The scouts and parents know if they miss the meeting, the scout will have to wait until the next Den or Pack meeting to get their awards.

            Our Pack meetings are fun. As a Wood Badge ticket item, I have visited other local Pack meetings to see how we can improve our meetings. We are doing a good job. We get the boys up and moving around--Ultimate Frisbee, Halloween obstacle course in the gym, stand up and sing silly songs and laugh at me, etc. We also keep thing moving. In between den awards, we will run a skit or a stunt or run on. They don't know what's coming next. The other Pack meetings I attended the adults got up to the podium and talked and the boys had to sit still and behave. Boring!

            As far as our other events, our attendance is low, perhaps around 30%. This includes our COR service conservation project, senior home visit, campouts, indoor trampoline jump, summer pool party, hike with the CM, etc. Last night, we discussed combining the Journey to Excellence event categories (fitness, outdoor, service) in order to decrease the number of events on the calendar. For instance, instead of our December Holiday Party Pack meeting at the school with a potluck and dance performance troop, we discussed visiting a senior home. There we would entertain the seniors and perform den skits, pass out scout awards, sing carols, etc. Or, go to the local food pantry and help fill food boxes. In other words, combine a monthly Pack meeting with a service project.

            As far as our campouts go, the best campout is our January lodge event. We have about 50% attendance. This is partly due to the fact it is less than 5 minutes from our homes and we sleep inside a large bunk house. We thought maybe the parents don't camp due to lack of equipment, but we have offered up tents, sleeping pads, cots, etc. and we haven't had any takers. We also had a family ask for a Friday/Saturday campout in order to be at home on Sabbath Sunday. They didn't attend the Friday night or the weekend campout. I think you are either a camper or not. So, instead of scheduling 3 campouts a year, perhaps we should schedule 2--one in September and the other in January.

            Unfortunately, we are competing with sports and other activities. So, our Den Leaders have been flexible with meeting nights. One of our dens met on Fridays during football season to help increase attendance. Our Webelos den met on Sunday afternoons, which works well with outdoor daytime activities--hiking, washing a car, patrol style cooking and meal planning, etc.

            We have lots of varied activities, so I don't know what the answer is to the event attendance issue.

            Obviously, you need to start finding your replacement now. We had to ask our current Cubmaster at least 6 times to take on the position. I finally told him, there wasn't a better parent for the job. He finally got it and took the training and accepted the position. Both the CM and I told the parents last night, we have one more year in our term. We have started the process of finding our replacements as well as other chairs. Are the Pack parents aware you need volunteers? Are the Den parents aware their leader has stepped down? This is why I feel it is important to have Parent Meetings and not Leader Meetings. I told our parents in September, you are a Pack leader whether you wear a tan shirt or not. This is a group effort.


            Comment


            • #7
              One thing I started doing this year as ACM for our camping outings is to invite parents/scouts that do not wish to actualy campout over night to attend the activities durring the day. We have gotten a handful of scouts that otherwise wouldnt have attended the event now comming for the day which is much better than them not coming at all. This way they get to show up and get a feel for the campout, and maybe next year they will decide they wish to stay overnight.

              Comment


              • #8
                We have a large pack as well and 30% attendance is about the normal for campouts. But 30% attendance is like around 20 families which means around 60-80 people with parents/siblings included.
                I don't think its a bad turnout considering when you have to compete with parents schedules, other sibling schedules, sports and kids getting sick etc, and of course people who just don't like to camp out.


                I think the biggest key is communication which gets harder and harder the larger pack you have. Get to know what parents read emails, need to be texted or called to be reminded of events. I usually sent out at LEAST 2-3 reminders for each event through the method I know the parents will see.


                The "Parent Meeting" idea posted by SeattlePioneer is an *EXTREMELY* good idea and could generate more involvement from parents who don't know more involvement is needed/required. Make sure you have concrete things that the parents can volunteer to help out with. One example that we involve parents in is the campfire planning meeting. When we do a campout, usually on Saturday night we do a campfire with skits/songs/etc. Put someone in charge of it and get a few parents to volunteer to help out, attend a campfire planning meeting and help come up with songs/skits/activities to do at the campfire. The biggest thing is that when someone steps up and says they want to help, have something asap that they can take charge of and own.

                Just make whatever the event is the best event you can for the kids that showed up. You cant get disheartened about attendance because of all those factors I listed above.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Polaris View Post
                  Question: Of the 60-80 boys, what percentage are advancing to the next rank each year? Is it 100%? Do you keep boys on the Charter that should be dropped? The reason I am asking is perhaps the attendance is low at Den and Pack meetings is because the boys are no longer active scouts. Do the Den Leaders reach out and call the parents and find out why the scout did not attend the meeting?
                  Excellent points me thinks.
                  I have the sense that our pack is flailing too. Although I haven't been counting for the pack, only our Den, it just seems that the numbers are dropping. I know the overall scout count dropped because we just dropped a bunch that were no longer active but that were being carried. I think my "sense" is really just fueled subconsciously because I 'know' the overall number dropped significantly.
                  I like the idea of follow-up with no-shows. Something we need to do more of for sure.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Many thanks all for the most excellent advice!

                    If I pull out some of the common themes, I see:

                    Community

                    - Get parents involved

                    Get Parents to Buy In
                    - Value in Coming to Meetings
                    - How to overcome "nah, I don't want to go this week"

                    Leader/Committee Meetings/Parent Meetings
                    - Invite parents.
                    - How to overcome folks just talking with each other

                    Pack Meetings
                    - make them fun!

                    Have a replacement now

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hi all, sorry for the double post here. I was editing my post and walked away for 5 minutes. I came back and the post had been done. Not sure why. Here's a revised version.


                      Many thanks all for the most excellent advice!

                      If I pull out some of the common themes, I see:

                      Community
                      - Know familes and greet them by name
                      - Get parents involved. Start with small tasks & build up.

                      Get Parents to Buy In
                      - Need to see value in coming to meetings
                      - Need to overcome "nah, I don't want to go this week"

                      Leader/Committee Meetings/Parent Meetings
                      - Invite parents, especially new ones

                      Pack Meetings
                      - make them fun!

                      Have a replacement now

                      These are absolutely fantastic. Let me do some thinking and I'm sure I'll be back shortly with follow up questions.

                      Thank you all so much for taking the time on this!

                      Comment

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