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Lack of Youth Leadership/interest

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Im sure I will get crucified for saying it but I would like an honest discussion about it Our lodge has gone through many ebbs and flows in youth leadership. We are starting into a dry spell which is causing membership to decline. We have the same 20 30 adults that make up the core group of the OA that keeps the lodge moving. At our low points, we have adults running activities, keeping track of membership, fundraising for the lodge, etc. Then after a year or so a strong leader comes in and starts taking back youth functions as he builds a strong LEC. I am one of those adults and we have gone through this probably 4 times since I was an Ordeal member in the early 90s. [side note: Does anyone else see this? Do you agree/disagree with our approach?] The reason I bring it up is because this might be the worst one yet and even our core group of arrowman are getting older, tired of caring the lodge, and are not sure we can survive the drought. What happens if we just abandon our adult leader role and go into adviser mode? Is it worth loosing the lodge over youth run policy?

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I was Lodge Chief in 1982. I am now the Lodge Adviser for the same Lodge. I know for a fact that when I was Chief (I never use that term around our youth), the Lodge leadership spent more time and effort ensuring that the Lodge was functional. I now find that the youth leaders seem to think that the Lodge only exists on weekends or activities. No amount of prodding, reminding or demanding has made them realize this and step up.


It's a fine line between what is best for the organization: program or youth leadership. I always try to stay with youth leadership. The critical components of elections and inductions must be maintained. If the Lodge youth leadership fails to plan and prepare program for a weekend, so be it. If they fail to determine a patch for a weekend, they may not have a patch.


I would be embarassed if I was demonstrating the "leadership" that kids demonstrate nowadays.

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No OA experience, but troops seem to ebb and flow like that. I see it more on the micro level than macro, but given enough time I'm sure the ups and downs of any organization are the same. We've had a run of good leaders over the past few years, but hit a bump recently with one more interested in the title than the work. It happens.


When I became SM another SM with decades of experience told me his biggest challenge was judging the ability of the youth leadership and throttling his and other adults' involvement based on the abilities and needs of the current youth leaders. I think that's a pretty good insight.


But given your description (and especially with your thread about the OA adult group) I would be concerned that instead of letting the youth lead and being available to step in and help when needed, your adults are running things and dolling out responsibilities to the youth as they see fit. Default should be the youth are leading with exceptions made for current conditions, not the other way around.

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I see some red flags here. The first, and most obvious, is the use of the term "core group of arrowman" to refer to adult members of the Lodge. Adult members are NEVER a core group of a Lodge - it is always the Youth that is the core group - and its a group that is ever changing.


The second is that this "core group" of adults is keeping the Lodge moving. You're doing it wrong then - the adults "keep it moving" by assisting the youth, and helping to identify and develop the real leaders - the Youth.


The third is that adults are running activities, keeping track of membership, fundraising for the Lodge, etc. at low points. Adults should never run activities, keep track of members, etc. - if you don't have youth to do it, it doesn't get done.


The fourth is that at some point a strong youth leader comes in and starts "'taking back'" youth functions. With the quotation marks aroung "taking back" in the OP, I get a sense that there may have been conflicts between the "core group" and these Lodge Chiefs, with a sense of reluctance by the "core group" to let the youth take things backs.


The fifth is this idea of there being an "adult leader" role and a separate "adviser" role. There is no such thing as an adult "leader" in the OA - you are either an adviser, or you are a worker bee. Advisers don't lead, they advise, and worker bees work, they don't lead.


The sixth is that you are starting yet another "dry spell" Well of course you are, with the "core group" of adults doing everything, why do you even need youth members - and no doubt, they probably wonder the same thing and are reacting by just not taking part.


The seventh is the quotaton marks around "youth run". The OA IS Youth Run - it is not a Troop, there isn't supposed to be any lingering "boy led, boy run" arguments from the unit level - it is run by the youth, not the adults.


Is it any wonder why the Lodge is having issues?


Looking at this, I believe most of us who have been involved with OA would say this is just not right - but at the same time, would be tempted to cut y'all some slack because you're just trying to keep the Lodge afloat.


Sorry, I won't cut some slack - but I won't turn around and blame the majority of the "core group" for this problem either. This problem lays square in the lap of the Lodge Advisers and the Scout Executive because they allowed this to happen the first time - and unfortunately, it has led to the cycle you've described. Someone, somewhere down the line, decided that it was a good idea to let the adults swoop in to the rescue of the Lodge - which very likely led to weak or non-existent youth leadership much of the time with the occasional strong youth leader coming in and probably facing resistance from the "core group" of adult arrowmen reluctant to let the LEC "take back" their responsibilities which would lead to - you guessed it - weak leadership. Whoever first allowed that failed the Lodge, the youth and the adults - and that's leading to the failure of the Lodge.


So what happens if you abandon the "adult leader" role and go into advisor mode and back to youth run? You either save the Lodge by letting it get back on track or the Lodge dies. It's not your responsibility to keep the Lodge alive, and by doing so, you're making it easier for the Supreme Chief of the Fire, the Deputy Chief of the Fire and the Chief of the Fire not to do their jobs right. By doing so, you're making it easier for the youth to not take responsibility, if they even want to try to take responsibility with a core group" of adults running things the way they see fit.


The first thing y'all need to do is refresh your undestanding of what the role of adults are in the OA and with that, the understanding that "youth run" is really Youth Run. Next, you help identify and develop the Youth Leaders, as advisers, not as leaders, and if certain things fall by the wayside at first, let them. Throughout this whole time, you have to resist the temptation to swoop in to the rescue. You're Lodge may need to scale back, alot, from what it's doing right now, if it's as bad as you say it is - the next few Lodge Chiefs and LEC may want to concentrate on elections and one Ordeal/Brotherhood/Vigil Honor/Work Weekend per year until they can develop enough new, excited membership to start doing more. As adults, let that process take place - don't rush in to plan a Winter Banquest because y'all will miss it - if it's not in the cards, it's not in the cards - it can grow back again - but the "adult core" will have to either adjust their ways, or step completely out of it if they can't.



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In the other thread, you said your lodge is about 50-50 adult/youth. That means you have about 30 youth. That's not a lodge, it's a low-functioning chapter. Forget event patches and display cases. Seriously, forget them. You're a year or two away from dying.


PROGRAM and SERVICE should be your watchwords. Focus on a few high-profile big-impact events - a giant inductions/conversion/fellowship/service weekend rather than separate shindigs. Work with the ranger on one or two lasting projects that will be immediately noticed and welcomed by troops this summer at camp. Get your most outgoing youth in charge of elections. Make it clear this is a new day for the lodge, or else you're not going to be around much longer.

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If service isn't your #1 priority, then there is no need for leadership. All you need are program managers. Those, unfortunately, can be either adult or youth. If the youth wishes only to sit on their hands, well then the program doesn't even have youth management.


If it were me, I would suggest, (notice the emphasis on an adult talking to youth) you step up in the leadership position and with even a handful of followers set up service opportunities to pursue. If others see that the lodge is going to actually accomplish something of value, they will come out of the woodwork. If they don't, then they have joined OA for all the wrong reasons.



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Lodges will not be allowed to die by the staff adviser as long as Quality Lodge rubrics are number based (Brotherhood conversion rate, membership growth, etc.) and Quality Lodge is one of his annual performance evaluation factors. Therefore, adults are recruited to "cover" the critical functions (elections, induations, etc.) and end up running them. In six years, I have yet to see ANY activity/event fail or be cancelled due to poor youth leadership and, frankly, many of them should have failed.

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Concur with the previous posts--service is the key. And yes, organizations ebb and flow.


That said, there is nothing wrong with a small lodge. I was a vice lodge chief in the late '70s in a very small lodge in AK. For activities, we served on camporee staff, held ordeals to set up and tear down summer camp, and had a conclave once a year. That was it. Membership was geographically separated quite a bit, and getting together for camporee, summer camp, and conclave was the best we could do. For a long time, one lodge flap. No dance team, very basic costumes (in a footlocker) for ordeal and brotherhood ceremonies. Result? We enjoyed every minute of it.


Because of that experience, I wouldn't be in a big hurry to gin up numbers for the sake of numbers, nor expend a bunch of energy planning events. Better a dedicated team of 12 scouts in the lodge that represent the ideals of the Order than a roster of 120 who are just looking for the next edition of the lodge flap, or sit around waiting for lodge leadership to hold fun events for arrowmen. Be visible, be working, be professional, be humble. In the long run, that will draw the kind of scouts and scouters you really want in the lodge.


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To answer one of your questions about approach, my approach would be to put as much effort as possible into getting the scouts to take over and run everything, but I recognize the challenges and wouldn't expect it to happen all at once.


But here are some questions for you.


Do you want to take this on and how much time and effort do you want to put into it?


Given that you have 20-30 adults that get things done (a really great resource, by the way), do you think they'd be willing to change the way they do things? Would they listen to you? Could you get them together to brainstorm ideas?


How many of these adults work well with scouts? I ask because some people that are great at organizing events are really lousy working with kids. I also ask because the way to get scouts motivated is going to require a lot of mentoring and success.


How many scouts are there that you'd call leaders? Self motivated, dedicated, confident, team players?


Roughly speaking, the goal is to get more scouts to see what the OA scouts are doing and say to themselves "I'd like to do that." Do you have ideas that you know will work to achieve that? Can you keep the scouts around for, say, at least 4 or 5 meetings?


Can you simplify what the OA is responsible for down to the point where the scouts you have can be successful without burnout?


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Perhaps you can sit down with the "Chief of the Fire", your Scout Executive, and discuss concerns with this band of adults? While they may be helpful with camp service, their hindering the youth development. We have a group of adults that are very eager to help fundraise and do projects at camp, but they went and formed a Sertoma club specifically for that purpose.


I've noticed in my decades of service with the OA that there is an ebb and flow of youth leadership and it has a correlation. It really seems tied to highschool graduation. We get a group of young, enthusiastic leaders who work well together through highschool. Once they graduated within a year, there is usually a regression until the next group forms and takes over. While it's painful for a year or more, it is tolerable when you consider the alternatives.

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TO Answer your questions

Do you want to take this on and how much time and effort do you want to put into it? - I want to see the lodge be successful and serve the youth, the council and camp so whatever it takes, we are in the long hall.


Given that you have 20-30 adults that get things done (a really great resource, by the way), do you think they'd be willing to change the way they do things? Would they listen to you? Could you get them together to brainstorm ideas? Not to brag but they would listen to me. My family is well known in the council and they all have seen me grow up in the lodge.


How many of these adults work well with scouts? - That is a great point. Some are good and others are not. Thats why they need a "point man" that can work well with the youth.


How many scouts are there that you'd call leaders? Self motivated, dedicated, confident, team players? - 5


Roughly speaking, the goal is to get more scouts to see what the OA scouts are doing and say to themselves "I'd like to do that." Do you have ideas that you know will work to achieve that? Can you keep the scouts around for, say, at least 4 or 5 meetings? We have lost a lot of our leadership that promoted it... thats the problem. It is coming back through marketing, wearing the sash, and having activities during council events.


Can you simplify what the OA is responsible for down to the point where the scouts you have can be successful without burnout? - Also very hard. With a small council, OA is depended on for council event staffing, fundraising help, etc. Looking at some other posts I do like the idea of combining events to help reduce burnout.


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My guess is you're in reasonably good shape. Five good scouts makes for a core you can build on. If you have five leaders and another five or so that will at least participate there are events they can run.


I haven't run an OA anything but I'm guessing it has similarities to a troop, so here's my suggestions. It is based on my experience with my OA chapter, it might not have anything to do with yours.


The first thing is recruitment. Recruitment to my chapter consists of adults berating scoutmasters to send scouts to OA meetings. How does your chapter do recruitment? Sending scouts would be fine if, when they got to a meeting, they were encouraged to join in, participate, and make new friends. At my chapter I had some scouts go and they were mostly ignored. Guess how many more meetings they went to. For most people, when they go to a new situation they are going to be a bit apprehensive. It doesn't matter if they're adults, webelos or new ordeal members. If they aren't welcomed they won't come back. What can you do to make a better connection with the scouts? Teenagers don't understand how cliquey they can get unless they're on the outside looking in. One more thing is that recruitment should be a constant activity. If you don't recruit every year you get bubbles in the leadership pipe.


Friendship is the basis of everything. I have two troop guides per new scout patrol, and they pick each other, just so they have a friend there with them. If a scout has friends in his troop but doesn't make friends at OA then he won't stick around. If he makes friends he'll do anything and the worse it is the more he'll laugh about it with his friends. How do you promote teamwork and friendship? And service?


The next thing is helping the scouts figure out what they can and want to do. Do you have a list of everything that the scouts should be doing? Do you know what's reasonable for each scout to do? Don't burn out the scouts you have. If you have 20 scouts worth of stuff to do and 5 scouts, what do you do? How do you get scouts to buy into this? The usual approach is having them decide what they want to do given a boundary set by you.


I asked about adults working with scouts because scouting is all about on the job training. You implied you'd be the "point man" for mentoring scouts. My experience is that you can do that for three or four scouts but any more than that and you need more mentors. I have one per patrol leader in my troop. It's amazing how much time it takes an adult to keep a 13 year old focused. I'm constantly surprised at how much they can forget in two days. At the same time, when they are kept in roughly the right direction, they come up with great ideas and generate great experiences. It takes a lot of patience. Do you and a couple of more adults have that?


Next, change takes time. Some people don't like change and others just ignore it. Just a little thing like making sure patrol boxes are clean at the end of the campout took me a year of constantly pushing it. Now it's troop culture. How much do you want to change? Can you come up with some simple, specific goals? The more you want to change at a time the more you'll need buy in from the other adults. The bigger the change, the more you'll need adults to support it. You won't be everywhere at every event, so many people have to share your ideas.


And that brings up the last point. Assuming you need adult help, they need to have faith in your ideas. There's a huge difference in having faith in what you want to do and agreeing to what you ask for. I learned this the hard way. My approach now is to say here's the problem, this is how I'd like to solve it, what do you think? Then just control the conversation until you come up with a common set of ideas that everyone likes. That will get you the best ideas and buy in.


At this point, are you starting to form some ideas of where you'd like to be and how to get there? To make this work you probably need to do everything in reverse of what I described. Come up with some ideas, get adult buy in, get scout buy in, make it happen, recruit.



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