Jump to content

Rebuilding Order of the Arrow?

Recommended Posts


Reading all these posts there seem to be some common problems with the OA:

1)The election process needs a redo.

2)No real incentive or draw to encourage a boy to run/join.

3)Little interest in dressing up or dancing like Indians.

4)OA viewed as a "slave work force" to the boys.

5)A viewpoint that the OA does not do enough events that are fun.

6)OA being a Scoutings Honor Society instead of the Honor Camping Society of the BSA.


IMO, most of these could be addressed and corrected fairly easily and quickly. Over the years the powers that be seem to have lost their focus and vision and the organization has deterioated into a "sash and dash" one time experience with little support of its membership, most of who are inactive.

Link to post
Share on other sites

A vibrant OA could really help scouting. It would be great if the super enthusiastic scouts in a district could get together and feed off of each other. Challenging campouts. Meaningful service. A lot of intensity. That would be great. Everyone would look up to it. A lot of scouts would want to be a part of it.


But I have to admit, the scouts are correct when they say the OA now is dull. At least our lodge and chapter is. There's a lot of ceremony with nothing behind it. Changing the rules for wearing pocket flaps and how scouts are elected won't change much. If it's the honor society than it should be doing a lot more of what scouts normally do. Go climbing every week in the summer, or do a 100 mile backpacking trip, or build your own kayak, or build a habitat for humanity house, or take a scout reach troop camping every month for years, or, you know, a super version of what we're trying to do all the time. Memorizing Alowatsakima's speech is not nearly as meaningful as knowing that since you took half a dozen kids camping 5 times that you got them interested in scouting. I understand the need for ceremony, but if the ceremony is stripped out of the OA, all that's left is cheap labor twice a year to help the local scout camp. The scouts know this. If instead you had just one scout that could say the OA is more intense than a high adventure trip and more meaningful than an Eagle project, the numbers would take care of itself. That, and Alowatsakima would be the biggest, toughest, most respected scout in the council.


All it takes is an hour a week....



Link to post
Share on other sites

Again one of the keys is having fun along with the work. If the new Arrowmen know abotu the fun stuff, they will continue, irregardless of any challenges.


I'll give you an example. IMHO our last Ordeal was a mess, a true "charlie foxtrot" as some of the Devil Dogs in my lodge commented. Why was it a mes? For the following reasons:


1) We were implementing a new schedule. OK we knew there would be a few bugs, and it was communicated so folks were OK with that. If you keep people informed, things do go a little better.


2) We had double the anticipated number of Ordeal Candidates, and had to really adapt to that problem. (which again if you keep your candidates informed WHY are waiting, etc they won't complain as much when they can talk ;) ) To me that was a good problem.


So we had folks running around getting extra food, supplies, etc. Yes we had folks waiting to get supplies, waiting for assignments, waiting for ceremonies, etc.


BUT we also talked to them about how camp is 95% ready for summer camp. We talked about how they completed some major tasks at camp in less time that planned because of their number and hard work. We gave them a sense of accomplishment and they loved it.


We also promoted heavily our conclave. We talked abotu all the fun that goes on, we talked about the activities that happen, etc. And guess what, we had a very high percentage of new Arrowmen attend. And formt he reports I am getting from friend who went this past weekend, they had a blast despite the rain.


Moral is you gotta mix fun with the "WORK, WORK, WORK!" ( and yes that last bit is shouting as I cannot way the 3 Ws without shouting ;) )


As mentioned already not everyone is into AIA. I admit I love dancing and ceremonies, but I know not everyone is into it. You do have to take a multi goal approach. If you focus on one area, other areas will be neglected. As a "Spanish peacock" once sang, "B A L A N C E balance," is needed. You got to mix in the high adventure, you got to mix in advance leadership, you got to mix in work, you got to mix in AIA, and of course FUN!



Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't pretend to have all the answers. I was elected as a youth in 1980. Sealed Brotherhood 1981. Served as a Lodge Dance Team Chief, Chapter Chief of two different chapters in 2 different lodges, and attended NLS. The year I was Dance Team Chief we took first at our section conclave. Right after my Ordeal ceremony our lodge had a cracker barrel. I inquired about ceremony team at that time and was advised that the ceremony team was full but the lodge was looking for more dance team members. I think I was different than a lot of the youth then and now. I was in 10th grade when I was elected. I was exposed to the OA in my preschool years at a camporee when my dad was a Scoutmaster. This was back in the day of Saturday westerns and real Tapouts. For a rather young kid to watch "indians" by fire light was impressive to say the least. Once I was in Boy Scouts the Arrowmen in my first Troop were only the much older Scouts that I hardly knew. There were none in my Patrol. The lodge flap they wore looked cool and they "were" IMHO cool, guys I looked up to. We shortly moved and the next time I was in a Troop with an OA member was when I was elected. However the Arrowmen I met along the way after the move were all the "cool" camp staff members. The OA was a huge part of my experience as a youth and kept me involved into my college years when life took over. I find it sad that youth today do not have the same experience. I can see the same happening today.


I think it will take out of the box thinking to energize the OA to the point where Aroowmen stand in line for camp staff jobs. I think Councils need to make that happen. The youth staff are part of our target audience are they not. Out of the box thinking seeks donations etc to set up an endowment account to pay staff fees for youth members. Could be a win-win deal.


In my Lodge the active membership problems IMHO stem from poor ceremonies. If the new members see that the existing members do not take the order seriously why should they.

Link to post
Share on other sites

You also need to sell it to the parents who see

1. membership in yet-another-scout-unit along with the time commitment (me driving) and cost (another fundraiser yippy). Unknown leaders (to me) and in joining my permission was not sought (fix that).

2. secret squirrel stuff. Alarms go off when told or suggested that parents not attend.


Have answers to their common questions

1. What does OA do for my son that his Boy Scout troop does not?

1a. Okay, why doesn't his Scout troop do that, it earned a quality unit award? Parents are usually under the impression that summer camps are setup/taken-down by the camp counselors and the units/scouts attending.


Parents often do not see the need for OA or equate OA to being similar to their school National Honor Society - an honor with a ceremony and bounded service commitment.


Scouting tends to be invisible, parents rarely see scouts in the community but they do see them at troop meetings. Now OA, parents might NEVER see a sashed OAer well except at a Klondike Derby selling candy (ughh!).


My $0.02 and if you want to shoot the messenger, please use wood arrows.


Say that would make an interesting ordeal - make you own arrow(s) and shoot.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Speaking of arrows. We old guys went through Ordeals where they notched your candidate arrow/stick if members decided you were not meeting the candidate challenges. In our lodge, five notches resulted in likely failure of the induction, though I think they had an appeal process. It occasionally became a problem if not properly overseen by fair minded adults; but rarely did it lead to a real blackball. Yet, that was the main reason the tradition was eliminated. Not sure they accomplished much by doing it, as it contributes to the idea that there are really no consequences to breaking or bending the challenge rules.


One of the many things that has changed dramatically since "way back when".

Link to post
Share on other sites


You could get up to 5 notches?!?!?!!?! man it was 3 notches you're out in my old lodge. ;)


Seriously though I too think that policy should be back in place, and it is NOT hazing.


I agree with ya. We had an adult who talked and complained the entire time at one Ordeal. Lodge could not send him home despite his refusal to keep quiet.


Finally we ended up sending him with an adult member on a 2 man work party to keep him away from everyone else. I do remember seeing him get his sash, but never saw him again.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep; and I still have my notched stick (never really got it made into a real arrow). One notch, gotten right before the end when one of my "friends?" tricked me into a short response to a question. He thought it was funny of course; said I could not get out without at least one. But I was pushing sixteen then, so think I handled it well (he was able to get up; just kidding).


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ive got back involved in scouting a few years ago, after a long break. The first OA function I attended left me speechless, and confused, I didnt recognize anything but the sashes. I was inducted in 1981, sealed my membership by completing my Brotherhood in 1982, and was given the Vigil Honor in 1985, all as a youth member. To say I was involved as a youth member would be an understatement. I served in various elected and appointed, positions in my lodge, and section, as well as serving on multiple NLS staffs, and NOAC staff. In the early 90s,a s an adult I had also served as a Chapter Advisor. What I saw in no way resembled the order I knew from my past. Why I looked like nothing short of a mommy and kiddies play town event. Dont get me wrong, Im not against women in the order, and put the idea forward, in one case, before it was official; thats not what Im driving at.


Ill use the recent Conclave I attended as an example. Not one time was our Higher Purpose, or obligation mentioned. There was no motivation to be good Arrowmen provided, no inspirational presentations, and an overall lack of youth leadership. There was no lack of fellowship, or fun. Movies were played Friday night, Guitar Hero tournaments were held, and sporting events held. Hey, I like to have fun, and like games, but isnt Scouting about games with a purpose? I missed the purpose, me and everyone else. Shows, no, there werent any real shows, and the one half-arsed one done had nothing to do with the OA. Training, yea, it happened, if briefly, and the ones I attended were fair. My point is, Conclave was not much more than a big party with people in cool sashes, ran by adults theres a whole lot wrong with this picture. Fun, oh yea, gotta have that, but fun with a purpose the event was without a purpose, the OA has lost sight of the arrow, and strayed.


First youth need to lead, just like in a troop.


Second, all Arrowmen need to visualize a path that leads them onward, and upward, the OA should put their feet on the path, and act as a guide.


Third, OA activities, events, and games need to have a fully realized higher purpose.


Fourth, the order is a thing of the spirit. We talk about service, but we forget the first two the ones that must come first, or it is a slave labor force.


Fifth, the OA, like Scouting, is a thing of the outdoors, and must be closely tied to the Council/District camping programs. Put the Order back in the camps, and youll find the camping in the Order again.


If you want an opinion of yet another old timer, here it is 


Link to post
Share on other sites



Well said....


I completed Brotherhood in '79, was a vice lodge chief, and after a couple long breaks, returned to scouting a few years ago.


Went to a conclave two years ago that sounded alot like the one you attended.


The only things "OA" were the sashes and lodge flap sales.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks desertrat77, I'm glad I'm not alone in my views. I've remained mostly inactive in the order since my return, but just fired off an email to our newly minted advisor, who is gung ho about getting things on track, offering to help. I won't complain and not offer to help.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Old_OX_Eagle83, I'm sure they'll appreciate your leadership. On the other hand, in my most recent council (military mover), I've offered to be active in the OA several times (talking to the adult advisor) and have received a polite stiff arm each time. Can't even get them to take my dues. And I haven't been here long enough to offend anybody! From what I see, the lodge is small, active, and very insular. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it...if they are happy, that's what counts. I'll just continue to wear my lodge flap from two moves ago.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Now I admit, we advertise the conclave as a big party. In my lodge we work hard: 3 Ordeals/year, 1 lodge workday/year, chapters do their own work days, and staffing various district and council events. Our 2 "fun" events on the lodge level are conclave and fall fellowship every year, and NOAC when they occur.


Grant you I haven't attended a conclave in several years, and I've been involved with AIA when I did attend, but various training did occur, and in regards to AIA training and competitions, were excellent. I cannot comment on other areas as I practically lived at AIA site those weekends.


But I agree if somethign about our Obligation and cheerful service isn't mentioned at a conclave, something is wrong.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...