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SctDad

Troops VS OA

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I have heard that many troops do not wnat their boys in the OA. What we are trying to figure out is why.

 

What do you see as the reasons why there is such a decline in the youth membership.

 

What could the local chapters do to help improve the membership attendance.

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Since you asked I will try to answer but hope you will understand that this is the way it looks from inside my unit to me....

 

Bringing the OA in is nothing but trouble for me. They will use up a meeting, cause an argument over election results, hurt feeling for scouts who might have made it in if only the election would have worked. Election of scouts who are barely able to look after themselves.

 

Then when it's all over, they will take 1/4 of my unit away for a weekend disrupting the troop schedule.

All of which might be worth it if they then did any follow thru but the next time I will hear from them is when they have their next membership push.

 

At heart I am a unit scouter and the OA must convince me that they offer something that will enhance my unit. So far, the local chapter has not done that.

 

Sorry if this seems harsh, but I think you wanted honest rather than polite.

 

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First, I don't think membership in the OA should disrupt a troop program. The dates for the Fall and Spring Fellowships are known well enough in advance for a troop to plan around them. If a guys has campouts back-to-back (one OA, one troop) and chooses the OA trip over the Troop trip rather than doing both, perhaps it's time to take another look at the Troop program.

 

The elections can lead to problems if they are not run correctly. Hurt feelings is certainly a result at times, but if explained properly by the election team and if the Scoutmaster in advance talks to those guys that may be eligible but just aren't ready for it, then that can help alleviate hurt feelings if not elected.

 

I do know of a few SMs in my area that do not even mention OA to the guys in their troop. I think that's wrong since OA is another opportunity for the guys and shouldn't be up to the SM to decide that none of his boys are going to even be given the chance for elections to join.

 

We have a few boys eligible each year and they are usually all elected. Of course, you will always get the "flappers" or "sash and dash" guys that want to join because of the honor they think it will bring them and not because of the cheerful service and fellowship they can share with their fellow Arrowmen.

 

From my experience, the boys that join the OA and participate fully in the program all benefit from it. And, the guys in our Troop that embrace the OA have no trouble attending both OA and Troop functions - even if they are two weekends in a row.

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Our Troops involvement in the Order of the Arrow has been very positive. The Order is for the training of Scouts, and may not to necessarily fit nicely into a units "schedule". One election a year, and 2 or 3 Lodge related weekends per year are not going to disrupt the units flow of operations.

An election takes less than 1/2 hour. In our Troop the results of the election have never caused an argument. Hurt feelings? None that I'm aware of (and I say boo-hoo, too bad for that, anyway).

 

The Order of the Arrow is a valuable part of the Scout program, and absolutely NO adult leader should put a barrier between it and the Scouts he/she serves.

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Our Troop has around 45 members. Our OA chapter has well over 500 members (it may be as high as 1300 I was hearing conflicting stories this past weekend at Ordeal. 4 of the last 6 Chapter Chiefs have been from our Troop. For the last few years, there has been at least 4 Vice Chiefs from our Troop each year. We have enough boys for 3-4 Ceremonies Teams.

 

As a SM (also a brotherhood member), I welcome the OA. It offers our boys numerous chances to learn and develop their leadership skills beyond what is available in our Troop. I used to worry that the OA was taking boys away from our unit. Yes at camporees half my unit is busy working as the OA hosts so we don't fare quite as well in the Patrol competitions but that is OK. The younger scouts see the older ones working and look forward to the day it could be them. One of the items I do stress strongly with Troop members in OA though, one of the main functions of an OA member is to serve his Troop, since they are the ones who elected him in the first place.

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Troops in the area where I live tend to not be very big.

By the time a Lad gets to about 15 most of the guys of his age are long gone.

The OA in our area offers these older guys the opportunity to spend time with guys their own age.

I think without the involvement my son had in the OA he'd have quit Scouts.

He went on to serve at the Sectional level.One of his best friends served as NE-Region Chief.

Most of his OA pals also served as Camp Staff members.

I think that the Troop is all about serving the boys, if a Lad becomes active in the OA the Troop should do everything it can to support him.

No good comes when we try to make it a "Them or Us" sort of thing.

Sure at times having Scouts especially older Scouts not be around when the Troop "Needs" them can be an inconvenience, but if we remember that this is all for the Scout, the individual we end up doing what it is we are in the business of doing.

Ea.

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I recommend as a UC to the troops I serve not to schedule camping trips on the 4 lodge weekends and the 2 section weekends. They are on the council calendar long before the units do their annual planning meetings, so it shouldn't be difficult. There's no reason a scout should have to choose between one or the other.

 

An OA election shouldn't take up more than about 30 minutes, unless there are a ton of names on the ballot or they are also doing a make-shift call out ceremony.

 

 

I know that when I was a scout, it wasn't much of a scheduling issue because the troop campout was always the 3rd weekend of the month and OA events were always a different weekend.

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Part of the fear is that the "OA takes my boys away." I've heard it numerous times as a OACA, and can understand that to a degree. Some troops with poor programs will lose scouts and/or leaders to more active units. Seen that happen twice so far.

 

Also saw it where some OA officers, specifically Lodge level officers, who are away at college will not do as much with their troops as their OA duties are taking up their time. But again that is with the lodge level folks.

 

Overall I've found that those who are active in the OA actually remain longer in Scouting. Since most OA events are scheduled in advance, unit conflicts are for the most part avoidable. now sometimes there is overlap, i.e. council and district camporee and an OA event at the camporee which needs staffing, but for the most part it is avoidable on the Scout and Venturing level.

 

Now if only they would not double book CS and OA events the same weekend. ;) I know my district use to schedule Webeloree the same weekend as Conclave, and it sucked for our Arrowmen. Once we got an Arrowman in charge of the event, problem solved.

 

I am hoping about Fellowship and Camp Charles.

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I write this as an outsider, in a district and council where OA has (previously) been rather moribund. I have never seen them at a cub event like a blue and gold or a cross-over ceremony. When I worked on cub day camp staff, I never saw OA youth involved. OA has been largely invisible to outsiders. At the troop level, I know the first several years my son was in the troop, OA either failed to schedule elections, scheduled but did not show up, showed up out of the blue without scheduling to conduct elections, could not be reached or did not respond to repeated requests for help with elections, etc. None of our boys who went through the ordeal actually became involved, partly because there was little to be involved in and partly because they really had no idea what OA was supposed to be. It is no wonder, then, that the prevailing view of OA was not terribly positive. More like, why bother.

 

In the last 2 years things have gotten better and OA is now a more visible (positive) part of people's scouting horizons around here. But it takes time to overcome both the negative impression some people have developed of OA, and to overcome the total and utter lack of knowledge, involvement, or connection to OA on the part of older youth in the troop. Without predecessors who could come back to the troop and spread enthusiasm about OA, a lot of guys (and their parents, who provide transportation still) remain in the "why bother" camp and it isn't as if there are no other things competing for the time and attention of teenage boys. They need to be given a clear and compelling reason to get involved. To some degree, this has begun to happen. I hope this will continue to change over the next 2-3 years, but it really does take time and persistence before any sort of momentum becomes readily apparent.

 

 

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I happily host OA elections, recommend adults, and help with Tap Out at Camporee.

 

That said, our local Lodge does not appear to do a lot. They APPEAR to have the following activities: Elections, Tap Out, and Ordeal. I hear from them every now and then (I pay my dues, and have updated my contact information several times). I have never seen them at a bridging ceremony (I go to 4-5 every year).

 

So what could improve? Something that attracts my Scouts to want to participate that the OA offers that other Scout activities (The Troop, Venture Scouting, Sea Scouting) can not offer.

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Very, very timely topic for our troop right now.

 

In the past, our troop has had a very strong connection with the OA. In the early '90s our troop basically ran the lodge with a string of lodge chiefs, Vigil Honors, nationally-ranked dancers and section officers. But by the time my older son crossed over six years ago that was long gone and there were no active Arrowmen in the troop.

 

We just elected our fourth class of Scouts into the OA a couple weeks ago. I've been working for three years to try to get the OA some traction in our troop. It is very difficult and the OA doesn't do much to help.

 

Here are some of the problems I see. Some may be local, some may be structural to the organization.

 

Thus far, I've not really figure out what our Lodge DOES. It seems to be a big smoke grinder, consuming a lot of time and energy for no real benefit. Lots of time and effort into elections and ceremonies, but nothing after that. The big focus around fellowships is the spirit award. A good bit of energy is spent on nonsense stuff like costumes, decorations, color coordinated hats and making sure every brings their official lodge kan kozie to meals. I thought Scout Spirit is defined as living by the Oath and Law. What point of the Scout Law covers kan kozies?

 

As a youth, involvement in OA was strictly service-related. Our district had three camporees a year and the OA was heavily involved in running them. We helped with parking, check-in, escorting troops to their campsites, building the council fire for Saturday night, ran a concession stand, etc. In my years in the OA, I only recall two events exclusively for OA members. OA doesnt do much service around here. Several years ago, I ran our district Cub-a-ree and had an unexpectedly large number of Cubs register to attend. I called the chapter advisor to ask if the OA could send a few guys Saturday morning to help with parking and was told their calendar was set a year in advance and wouldnt ask the chapter to do anything that wasnt already on the calendar.

 

I will allow that I really dont know what happens at Lodge meetings. That seems to be a very tough circle to break into. I think that may be where the councils Good Ol Boy Club trains its youth members.

 

Chapter meetings are excruciating. If our PLC meetings ran like this the troop would never have another program or campout ever. The chapter chief struggles to conduct the meeting from a printed agenda which is really just the standard meeting outline. The advisor does little to help the boy along. After allowing the boys to struggling for 20-30 minutes over what color kan kozie to order, some adult will chime in with a litany of problems with the decisions the boys made and the whole process starts over. Meanwhile I'm in the back of the room slitting my wrists.....

 

At the troop level, adult leadership is my biggest problem. Apparently, we need to create a parallel troop leadership to accompany our OA members. And dont tell me its just three fellowship weekends a year. Someone has to take the OA Troop Rep to chapter meetings monthly. There are three Ordeal weekends a year and schedule-wise its looking like we have guys wanting/needing to go to all three. Lodge banquet, chapter fundraisers, etc. And that is just with basic membership, -- no ceremony team practices or running elections for other troops or things of that nature. I am the only adult OA member in the troop. The Lodge requires troops to send two-deep leadership to all activities (they'll fudge it to one leader and buddy you up when they get there.) They want the adults to be OA members, unless you have no other option.

 

That's another issue. There seems to be a lot of "rules" they want you to follow, except when you really drill into it, they're not really rules, they're the rules people would make if they had the authority to make rules. Example: Everyone has to go through a Call Out ceremony. But our chapter call out is in February, so anyone elected after that has to go out of district. So your Scoutmaster spends four days and multiple emails and phone calls trying to find out info on the other districts Call Outs. When I mention my frustration to my buddy the Lodge professional advisor, he tells me it's not a requirement. (I will grant you that Call Outs at camporees can be cool for the candidates, who first learn of their election when their name is publicly called. But these chapter Call Outs are a waste of time. Everyone knows they've been elected otherwise they wouldn't be there. There is no real public recognition as everyone there is a participant.

 

Rank and file Scouts see the whole Indian thing as pretty lame. Their only exposure to it are Call Outs (which seem to be conducted by the third-string ceremony teams) and some bozo showing up in a neon-orange cartoon head dress for elections. The actual Ordeal and Brotherhood ceremonies are quite good and my guys have been impressed, but that is because part of those ceremonies is explaining the significance of the Indian connections. Without that context, the Indian costumes come off as rather silly. I've had a number of guys decline nominations because of this. Question: did Native Americans really speak in monotones and Longfellow-esque tetrameter?

 

Although the theory is noble, elections are popularity contests. I take seriously the "approval of your Scoutmaster" clause in the membership criteria, so every boy on our ballot is deserving of nominations, but almost every year there are boys who don't get elected who should. The pattern I've seen is these are usually the less popular, "uncool" guys who are really into Scouting and would enjoy and really take advantage of OA membership.

 

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>>"When I worked on cub day camp staff, I never saw OA youth involved."

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Wow, twocubdad hit the nail on the head!

 

The only point I'll echo is cheerful service...I see very little in today's OA.

 

Most OA activities seem to be focused inward on patch collections, fellowships, and OA internal politics/issues.

 

The OA should be the first to step up to any tough/dirty job in the council and community...that's leadership. The ordeal isn't a one time event--it's a template of service for ones' entire lifetime.

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Maybe it's a good thing that my lodge requires 7 hours of cheerful service in order to obtain a ldoge flap. We are BIG on service, 3 Ordeals and a lodge workday during a normal year. More workdays than normal this past year due to hosting conclave.

 

Also we staff all kind of CS events. Heck one of my complaints was that someone switched weekends of the Webloree to the same weekend as Conclave, and our Arrowmen worked that instead of going to conclave.

 

One of the challenges that has been noted in this post and elsewhere, and I have also addressed this issue, is that the OA has been a behind the scenes presence for a very long time. We are the grunts doig the dirty work, and people don't realize that, yes the OA is helping with this event. Not trying to toot our own horn, btu sometimes the simplest thing can make a world of difference in visibility. We make sure OA sashes are worn at soemtime during events we work. We advertise our presence with signage. We ask that folks where chapter or lodge t-shirts when working.

 

One of the most impressive things I've seen is getting all Arrowmen, active or not, to stand behind the Call Out ceremony team and serve as a backdrop for the ceremony. Nice to get 60+ folks out there. and gives the chapter visibility, esp with the parents.

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Eagle92, thanks for sharing your lodge's story, I think that's what the OA is all about. Sorry to say, I think your lodge's sense of service is not common elsewhere. Wish it was.

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