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Proud Eagle

Troop Problems

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I currently serve as the Assistant Scoutmaster of a small troop (7 active Scouts, with a few more registered). The unit is going through some tough times and I would appreciate any advice. I will try to provide enough information to give you a picture of the situation.

 

The troop lost another Scoutmaster back in the spring and has been operating on the efforts of a few parents and leaders and its existing momentum to continue on. The troop has continued to meet, conduct monthly activities, and sent a group of Scouts to summer camp in conjunction with another troop. Currently the troop is conducting its annual Christmas tree sale fundraiser and is thus not meeting or having other activities until after the holidays. The troop's committee chairman has experienced changes in his job situation and has for months been out of the state traveling on business far more than in it. The COR works shifts that keep him from being directly involved in much. The committee is nothing more than whatever group of parents happen to show up and when a "parents' meeting" is called.

 

The troop does have monthly program plans, but its meetings have no particular plan. The troop has largely abandoned the use of the uniform. The youth are not given a true opportunity to lead the troop and are usually relegated to leading the opening, closing, and certain tasks on camp-outs. No other leaders are trained (maybe youth protection, but I would not bet on that).

 

The unit has a good long-term relationship with its chartering organization, however that relationship is quite distant at the moment. Very few (if any) of those currently involved in the troop are members of the Methodist church that charters the troop. There are essentially no activities or events involving both the church and troop.

 

During the final meetings of November and the final "parents' meeting" talk began of the possibility of not rechartering in February, and exploring the option of merging with another unit. The parent/committee member who has been serving as the "acting scoutmaster" in this period has made it clear he can not continue to do as much due to commitment to family, job, and being the head of a youth soccer league.

 

There is a very strong and active pack with the same chartering organization (the pack was last year's number one popcorn seller for the council with over 20k in sales). However, despite the efforts of its leaders, the troop has not established any sort of relationship with the pack. The next group of webelos are likely going to transfer into other troops, despite the fact the pack leaders are not comfortable with those other units either.

 

So, it would seem that a troop with 358 months of tenure, dozens of Eagle Scouts, hundreds of nights of camping, and the most stable and solid record of providing a quality Scouting program over the long term in my town may now have finally reached the end of the road. It looks quite possible that come February we may have a 30th anniversary "celebration" and case the unit's colors and fade into history.

 

I am not at all happy about the prospects of our current Scouts should the unit fold. I suspect they would not remain together for long, and I don't see any of the other troops being a very good fit for some of them. While one other unit is very laid back and I like its leaders, it doesn't seem the parents are at all interested in that unit. Another troop has recently been restarted (again) with a new group of 13 first year scouts with more to come next year. It has very focused and dedicated leadership, but its leaders have made it clear that while our scouts are welcome to join their troop, it should be understood they would be joining the troop "as is" and should fully accept its current leadership, program, and policies. Its leaders are very set in doing things in their own particular and unique ways and it is unlikely they would make any adjustments to better serve a mixed group of older scouts. The final troop in town has a new and capable Scoutmaster, has a similar history to ours, but has been kept on life support by the district commissioner for the last 5 years or so with barely enough to recharter even keeping inactive scouts on the charter, and with some long period of very minimal activity.

 

After this months roundtable I made certain to take the time to speak with our DE about this matter. It was the first she had heard of any problem at all. She said she would make a call to the acting scoutmaster.

 

 

Can the troop be saved?

 

Should the troop be saved?

 

If so, how?

 

If not, what would be the best approach to finding a new Scouting home for the youth?

 

 

 

As for myself, if the troop folds, I don't know what I will do for a Scouting home. I am not particularly comfortable with the idea of joining any of the current troops. I wish I was able to take the Scoutmaster position, and I have been asked to do so, but circumstances in my life make that totally impossible at the moment.

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Lots of triage issues here. Let me ask: Who's your Unit Commissioner? Does your DC do that for you, or does your Professional also provide Commissioner coverage?

 

There should have been warning to the DE before now.

 

The first and greatest long pole in the tent is the adult responsible leaders: SM, CC, COR. That's a showstopper, and if adults are not willing to sacrifice to serve, there's no way to create a culture of servant leadership for the youth to model around. COR is needed to inter-relate with the Chartered Partner. CC needed to run the Committee and provide support to the Program. SM needed to run the program.

 

Second, the adults have stopped empowering the boys.

 

Third, adults have stopped training, so folks do not know "what right looks like."

 

Fourth, the youth are not being encouraged (perhaps with some well chosen arm twisting) to serve that Cub Pack. :(

 

Bite 1 of this elephant is adult leadership. Bite 2 is training.

 

It's time re-look how you serve this Troop, Sir...

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Thank you for the quick reply. I will think on the matter and be back again tonight, but here is brief reply.

 

We don't have a UC. (Well, maybe on paper, but...) The DC has not been doing the job this year, the ADC has been trying to do as much as he can, but a lot of things have slipped through the cracks. The DE does what she can, but she is only one person.

 

You are right that the DE should have been contacted before now.

 

I agree completely that finding leadership is the critical first step, the problem is who and how?

 

I agree with your second point.

 

I agree with your third. So far as I know I am the only person to take part in any training in the last several years.

 

Your fourth point is also on target. The Cub pack has asked for help, even suggested opportunities, but not been given any (to the point they had apparently complained to our DE several times about it, as I found out last week).

 

Aw yes, eating an elephant. It is certainly possible if done one bite at a time, but I suspect it will require some sauce to cover up the taste and some antacid to deal with the heart burn in this instance.

 

On the final point, I am certainly open to examining the way I serve the youth of Scouting, but currently the one option that is not open to consideration is being a Scoutmaster. For more info on my current and past Scouting involvement see this thread Returning Member

 

(This message has been edited by Proud Eagle)(This message has been edited by Proud Eagle)(This message has been edited by Proud Eagle)

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Selecting quality leadershp is one of the functions of the Chartered Partner. That's but one of the reasons why a COR who pulls his end of the load is so important. It's also why keeping the IH involved, which is a professional service as well as a commissioner job, is important.

 

One of the things I've learned along the way... Scouting optimizes itself as a program when all the players do their parts :)

 

For the moment, getting the DC/ADC involved is part of the process. One of their jobs is to be extensions of the DE, to help keep units from closing. DEs have goals these days, and the goals are usually focused on growth. Losing a unit only digs them deeper into a hole.

 

Remember: You are an ASM, not the CC, not the SM, not the COR. You need to have their blessing on this project. They need to understand your economic circumstances are such you cannot take on the SM responsibility just now (CC mebbe?)... If players in the process see you a usurper or a harpy, who will not step up to the plate, you may hit a lose/lose ... the unit goes away, your credibility as a volunteer damaged.

 

Between the Commissioners and the COR, the focus of bite 1 needs to be getting leaders who are relatively free of distractions. SM first, since the interim has said he's done. CC second.

 

One bite at a time...

 

 

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Should it be saved?

 

The answer boils down to one question. Does the Charter organization want a Scout program?

 

If not then the unit is dead. If they want one then the District members have an obligation to fulfill their roles in helpiong to get the unit viable again.

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First thing you need to do is gather up anyone who is interested in the life of this unit and set a goal. It may be the case that no one wants/needs this unit to go on. If that is the case, retire the flags one last time have raise a mug to the troop that was.

 

On the other hand if even a few folks want the unit to continue (hopefully the COR/IH is in this list) then create a "new" unit from the ashes of the old. Create a vision for what the troop should be.

Example: With in the frame work set out by the BSA we would like to form a troop that is boy led, uniformed, meets 40 weeks a year, camps 30 nights, and well what ever the team saving the troop thinks is worth saving and changing. Are you going to be the type of unit that eats breath and sleeps in green and tan or more laid back or some where between. Local or far traveling? Tailgate or hiking?

 

I know, some will tell me this is the job of the PLC but it is too late for that. This troop is dead. I'm going to catch heat for that one I'm sure.

 

With plan in hand, find others to buy in to it, like the cubs... "we understand that the unit did not serve your needs and here is how we plan to create a new unit that will. We will need your support for it to work."

Then use these supporters to follow the BSA plan for selecting a new SM.

 

Than start off day one as a large troop with several openings and plan on how to fill them. Lets face it, approaching parents with an invitation to join a small and dieing troop isn't going to work.

 

 

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wingnut,

 

I think you're right. A vision is the real first step. From what I see in Proud Eagle's post, though, commitment to a vision on the part of adult leaders is a huge challenge. People who would are caught up in earning money for their own families, and serving the community is a back-burner.

 

Without some buy-in, it really is time to go the Chartered Partner and ask the question BW laid on the table.

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What wingnut said it exactly right. Vision, that is what is needed. People do not follow programs, policies or institutions. They follow vision. If the adults don't have it then the scouts never will. If the Charter Organization wants a troop then they need to find a Scoutmaster with a vision for what the troop will be and is willing to work to make it happen. Why the Scoutmaster? Because he embodies that vision to the scouts. The SPL may have a vision, but it will likely only be through his term in office. The CO and CC may have visions, but have no outlet to express it. So it falls to the Scoutmaster. A vision not just of the coming year but to what this ideal troop will be. Find a SM with a vision for the troop and the ability to give that vision to others and the troop will succeed. Don't and sooner or later the troop will fail.

 

It sounds like you are the closest to having this. Why is it that being the SM is not an option?

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Hello Proud Eagle,

 

1) From one point of view, this is your problem. However, my wife has a saying "You can't save every sick kitten." Don't allow this to to remain totally on your shoulders or you will be providing an unpaid baby sitting service for parents.

 

2) This is your District's problem. Get your DE involved right now. If the district leadership is weak, that represents a serious problem but again, not your problem.

 

3) It really will be a shame if a unit with 358 months of service does not recharter. However, that service is only relevant if it helps engender others to step up. If not, folding now will not tarnish the service which the unit has rendered in the past.

 

4) I believe that you are correct that you should not step up as Scoutmaster. However, you and the DE should make it very clear to the person who does become SM that you will be a strong supporter as ASM and will make that SM successful

 

5) Most important, don't let yourself get sucked in to trying to keep alive a unit which really does not have the support to be alive. As a non-parent, very young leader without a job, I would suggest it is risky to do that.

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This troop has a lot more going for it than the troop I took over a year ago. I had 5 boys, a former SM and his wife on the committee and another former SM who was treasurer.

 

It can be done. It isn't dependant upon the adults, their training, their vision or anything else. It has to do with the boys themselves. If they want the troop to survive it's up to them. Sit them down, explain the situation and if they're going to fold, go out with a bang. Have a great last year. Take your victory lap and at the end of that year when it comes time to fold it up, I bet you'll recharter for another lap. DE's, UC's, CC's, SM's and all the other adult alphabet soup can't do one thing to have the troop suceed. It's for the boys, by the boys. Get them involved and then let them lead.

 

Stosh

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Your troop situation is eeriely similar to my troop in 2004-05. We went through 3 scoutmasters in a 2 year period,and had the unit commissioner intervene. We were down to 6 boys,almost none who were really committed to leading the troop.We were having weekly parents meetings,and had no concrete plans for future activities. Instead the parents were at each others throat,with their own personal agendas in leau of the troop's.Summer camp planning was either seriously flawed or non existant,until the very last minute as an afterthought.Other troop activities were not done at all. My troop was on the fast track of folding "at the next meeting".To add insult to injury,word got around about this debacle of a troop. Should it have folded? devine intervention was sent in the form of a serious minded new scoutmaster,and totally reorganizing the troop from scratch.Then the troop committee was reorganized with new and dedicated members,some who had gone on hiatus because of the so-called debacle.today,we have a good program,summer camp that the boys like,high adventure plans,and solid commitment. We are now up to 14,and 3 webelos prospects.I can only hope this current trend continues,and thank God for his devine help.( We are sponsored by a Catholic church)

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One has to wonder why a troop of uncommitted boys and a ton of adults wanting it to succeed will ever find it possible to develop leadership. Everyone seems to rely so much on the talents, visions, skills, and charisma of adults that the result of such will guarantee boys that will in essence be followers.

 

If the troop is there entirely for the entertainment of the boys, fine, then a strong leader is necessary to run the show.

 

If the troop is to produce youth leaders, then a strong adult leader isn't necessary.

 

Ever think that with all the leadership, power, vision, charisma in the hands of a few adults, that when they leave, the youth program falls apart? If boys were consistantly being trained up in leadership, then the change of SM's wouldn't even be noticed except for the farewell banquet for him/her.

 

I'm willing to go out on a limb here, but a youth leadership program that doesn't promote youth leadership isn't going to last very long.

 

Stosh

 

Stosh

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"If the troop is to produce youth leaders, then a strong adult leader isn't necessary."

 

Not to step on your esteemed toes, Stosh, but I see the situation a little differently. It might take a strong adult leader to do his job properly (by facilitating the youth leadership program), and perhaps not step in to "straighten things out, just to get things going again."

 

AskAndy talks about the "World's Oldest Senior Patrol Leader" syndrome. I don't think that's a sign of a strong adult leader, that's a sign of an adult leader not delivering the program in the right way. In fact, it may take a strong and committed adult leader to be trained properly, remember the training and apply it properly, and *not ever give in*.

 

On the other hand, I do understand the point you are making --

 

Guy

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as a point of clarity:

 

A strong teacher, yes, a strong leader, no.

 

Stosh

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Proud Eagle,

First of all, the boys do need to buy into the program. Right now the program is lacking. The scouts start loosing interest, because the program is falling apart. Give them a vision, something to achieve. Maybe offer up three or four choices for a future trip (2-3 years down the road). Tell them that it is their decision. Ask them for ideas on how to fund the decision. Once you get them on board, have them make a presentation to the Webelos and Bears while the leaders present it to the parents. You may get some buy in from the pack, and some new members and adults.

 

As for getting the scouts to help with the pack, good question? I've tried to get them to be DC's for the last 3-4 years with know takers except for my son. Everyone involved with the troop, all with at least two years tenure, suddenly want to work with the Webelos, one DC and two or three assitants. Their reasoning for this setup, "We can rotate the meetings if our sports interfere". The troop might double up at crossover.

 

Scoutmaster and Committee Members:

- Has the troop looked at former scouts to see if any of them are possibly intersted in coming back to the troop as SM, CM, etc. The troop I Eagled in needed a new SM. A former scout, then in his late 20's came out of no where and stepped up. Things turned around and ran great.

 

- Has the troop checked out potential crossover Cub leaders who are former scouts, or at least interested in stepping up. Hold a meeting of the Webelos parents and see if there is any interest. I know our villages pack has two or three Eagle dads in it.

 

- If the above fail, then maybe District or Council may know of someone with experience looking for a challenge and willing to step up..

 

Good luck.

 

 

 

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