Jump to content

Moving from Adult led to Scout led

Recommended Posts

So my youngest son just crossed over and my husband stepped up as the new Scoutmaster. We have been in the troop a while, and knew that the boys needed more input. However, we did not realize how far off the track things had gone until we started looking into what he needed to be doing as Scoutmaster.


The boys need more than just input - they need to be running the show. I had no idea. Merit badges are being taught at meetings - kids are being talked at all night - adults are going to kids about advancement instead of the other way around.


We knew the kids were bored - which is why we decided to step up. And now we know we need to do almost everything differently. My hope is that we can make steps incrementally to move us in the right direction without running all of the current members off.


I am almost reluctant to ask - because I know I'll be bombarded by lots of preaching and screaching and who cares if you run them off; do it this way. But I am in need of some guidance.


It seems so overwhelming to change everything at once - where do I start and what is most important? These boys do not know how to lead because they have not had the opportunity. And these parents are not going to like the fact that the advancement is going to slow down.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 41
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Scouting starts with outings. If the Scouts decide on an outing they want to do, then plan the meals, shop for the food, get the gear they need together and such, a patrol and troop program starts being boy led pretty naturally.


What kind of outing does the troop currently have and how are they run?

Link to post
Share on other sites



I'm curious about a few things that will shape how you get there:


What is the age and rank makeup of the troop?


Do they have patrols and a boy leadership structure?


You mentioned meetings, are they camping monthly at this point or just focused on merit badges?


I'm really interested to know more about what is already working and what pieces you have to work with. You've made the first step in recognizing the issue and stepping up.

Link to post
Share on other sites

We actually tried to start year round camper last year to get the boys outside more often, but it broke down pretty quickly since I am in graduate school. If I was able to go, I could usually find another adult who would go with me, but if I couldn't no one else stepped up to take the boys.


We did five campouts last year plus summer and winter camp. A couple of them were backyard camping so those almost don't count. But the boys got outside, slept in a tent, and cooked their meals.


Usually, the adults plan the activities. The boys plan the meals with adult guidence and there is a grubmaster, but I don't know how many of them actually shop for themselves or have their mom take care of it. I would assume most of the guys above tenderfoot pack for themselves - but again, who knows.


As far as age - the patrols are grouped by grade.

3 - 6th & 7th graders

6 - 8th graders

1 - 9th

3 - 10th

5 - 11th/12th but only 1 still active


We do have PLC meetings, but again the adults seem to do all the talking.


We have already decided on a couple of steps. Our 3-10th graders are all going to NYLT next month. And we are going to send the boys to a different room for the first part of the PLC (the first one since we are "in charge") to come up with what they want to do and who is going to plan it - then we are going to pull the group back together to get it on the calender appropriately.


Oh and we have 4 new guys who said they intend to crossover into the troop.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm struggling with the exact same issue and smaller Troop so I'll be following this thread.

I have

5- 5th graders

1 - 7th grader (second class rank. SPL is supposed to be star rank)

1 - 10th grader working on his Eagle


You had a better success on your outings in Scouting as I was only able to have one campout. We're working on our second one now for this coming weekend.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, those who have read my old posts know that the SM before me was a great guy. But he IMHO, was a great guy and a great Guide (Tour Operator).


We moved out of adult led and into youth led as quickly as I could make it happen, fortunately the fellow before was a big supporter of "Outing is Scouting" so we had plenty of opportunity to make those changes on outings.


I also took to heart the saying "I don't know why don't you ask the SPL?" While trying to know in advance what he was going to say or at least what his options really were.


The third key for me has been trying to ensure that the PLC gets their training after every election cycle and EXPECTING that they do their jobs.


Part of doing their jobs is that a Troop meeting ought to be able to be run without an Adult in the room, doesn't mean not be there, but they ought to be able to do a normal regular weekly meeting without any input from the adults.


I was talking to a former fellow Scoutmaster today, he resigned(he's still working with the Troop but is more involved with the Council for now) just as he was getting close to his goal of changing his Troop over - It took him five years to get the ball close to the goal line as he saw it.

Point is not to try and flip the Troop in a month. It's a process, make small goals, enjoy achieving them, get the committee especially the CC on board, let them see the positive changes via the small wins, garner the parent support by building character into the boys as opposed to just teaching them some skills or amassing certifications that they were exposed to what is really a relatively small amount of knowledge(Merit Badges).

It's not about clicking boxes, but about using those box clicks as character building opportunities - do it that way ans both you and the boys and then maybe the parents will see the big wins in doing it the right way.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Scouting starts with the patrol, not the activity.


I would proceed as if this was a brand new troop. It was not a Scout Troop from what you say. It was an adult-run club for boys.


Actually, it's a great opportunity.


A patrol is supposed to be a group of boys who want to pal around together in the outdoors. Have each boy write on a piece of paper the names of the 4,5,6,7,8 boys they would like to be in a patrol with. With the SPL and several of the older boys, use this information to group the boys in provisional patrols with the goal that every boys is in a patrol with at least two of the boys on his list.


(If they are not at the stage where they will have the basis of preferences, you need group-forming activities so they can get a feel each other.)


Give them a talk about the Patrol Method and what a Patrol leader is supposed to be and do (lead; set the example; teach skills; represent the patrol to the Leaders and the adults.


(Get it? "leaders" vs. "adults." Always call Scouts in leadership positions "leaders." Adults are "adults" or "Scouters" and never "leaders." Words have power.)


Have them meet as patrols and elect their PL's. Advise the PL's to wait awhile before naming patrol members to APL, QM, Scribe etc.


Have them meet as patrols several times and take a couple of hikes as patrols (That will take resources, so somewhere in there the adults have to be informed about what Scouting is. It usually comes as a surprise.)


The new patrols need names, flags, and a cheers/yells/songs/yells.


THEN have the patrols come together as a troop. Even then, use every opportunity for them to function as separate teams. Always patrols first! A Scout should belong to his patrol, not the collection of patrols called a "troop." It is usually backwards in this declining age of Scouting.


If the adults are not trained, they WILL screw it up. It is in the nature of an adult to lead every child in reach.

They need to know -- and accept -- that the objective is boys doing things, not having those things done to an adult standard. Those "things" include trying knots, planning program, and every single bit of the leading that is not literally dangerous -- the kid cooking, not the adult-quality meal. (Slightly over-done food does not kill. Heck, they charge more for it these days.)


Best of luck. You are doing God's Work, and somewhere Bill Hillcourt is smiling on you.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well Deaf Scouter - that was for all of 2011. With the ages of your scouts, it doesn't even look like you were up and running for all of 2011.


And with your numbers being so small it probably makes it even harder to get that two deep adult leadership for anything. I would find one or two excited parents and talk to them about the year round camper program. If they have a reason to get out and camp once a month, they may be more committed to it.


Plus, my oldest son's patrol did it soon after they crossed over and it was amazing. Going from the first campout where they had no idea what was going on to just a few months later showing up and the boys know just what needed to happen and getting right to it.


Gunny - I saw that in another thread and was definitely thinking that was something we needed to start doing - ask your patrol leader - ask your senior patrol leader. I also just gave a couple of my boys the riot act about their parents coming to me about advancement. I told them I shouldn't be talking to parents about advancement at all.


Tahawk - they boys already have patrols, and they are happy with their patrols. The problem is, in my opinion, the patrols are too small. (except mine - 8th grade) I have been saying this for a while, but since I am just one lowly ASM - no one listens to me. Plus, I know age based patrols are not uncommon, but I don't understand how the new scouts are supposed to learn from the older scouts this way - and it makes patrol competitions impractical and unfair.

Link to post
Share on other sites


Reaseyann writes:


"Patrols are too small. (except mine - 8th grade) I have been saying this for a while, but since I am just one lowly ASM - no one listens to me. "


It sounds like you are some kind of Patrol advisor, so start with what you CAN control. Don't try to change the Troop, change your 8th grade Patrol! Your husband is Scoutmaster, get him to back you up.


Do not think of the Patrol Method as how a Troop is divided (Patrol competitions, for instance). Start with Green Bar Bill's "Real" Patrol Method, which means that a Patrol is defined by Physical Distance: what it does SEPARATE FROM the other Patrols.


Physical Distance means Patrol Camping and Patrol Hikes.


Baden-Powell's minimum standard for Patrol Camping on monthly Troop Campouts is 150-300 feet between Patrols. If your Patrol of 8th-graders can't be trusted to camp that far away, then camp them 50 feet from the other Patrols, moving them farther away each campout in proportion to their competency.


Likewise, in the rest of the world the usual distance for Patrol Hikes is eight miles (because of their Second Class unsupervised eight mile "Journey" requirement).


This too can be dumbed-down for Scouts who have never experienced the "Real" Patrol Method. Start with a mile. A "Real" Patrol Hike has no "adult association," but to transition away from adult-led, find a second adult to keep you company on the hike, but STAY AWAY from the Patrol as it hikes, and STAY AWAY from the Patrol after it reaches its destination.


It's all about Adventure, so the destination of the hike is more important than the Journey.


An afternoon at a remote fishing hole works for many Scouts. A simple cooked meal (hot dogs on sticks) is a plus, if they are mature and experienced enough for you to supervise cooking fires from your distance AWAY from the Patrol.


If the Troop is adult run, then so much the better! As an adult you can get your Patrol to act like a "Real" Patrol very quickly through Physical Distance without wasting time in the PLC, expecting them to invent the wheel. As soon as you introduce Physical Distance to your Patrol, your Scouts will grasp the "Real" Patrol Method at once. The other Patrols will begin to follow their lead, competing with them through the magic of testosterone. Then all of the other good advice you receive will be practical, common sense, rather than complicated, abstract theory.


The reference for Baden-Powell's minimum 150-300 foot distance between Patrols is Scouting for Boys, in which he in turn refers the reader to the standard reference in the rest of the world: Roland Philipps' "Patrol System:"




Specifically Chapter 16, "The Patrol in Camp:"




See also "The Object of Camping:"




More sophisticated "Hike Theme" ideas can be found at the following URL:




Yours at 300 feet,





Link to post
Share on other sites

Lots of good advice here and links posted. here are my thoughts.


1) if you are rebuilding a troop, look at the 3rd. Edition Scoutmaster's Handbook, volumes 1 and 2. Yes some of the the info is outdated as it was written int he late 1920s, BUT it provided the FOUNDATION of the patrol method and getting your troop to do it.


2)grad school is a pain. Did it twice and sympathize. That is where you need to multiply yourself and go after committee members and parents to help with logistics.


2a) Make sure the folks comign to camp outs know the patrol method and won't interfere.


3) Use your PLs and older scouts. have them come up with what they want to do.


4) Use your resources. The Troop Program Features, Vols 1-3 is a resource for your Patrol Leaders' to use to help plan their year. You won't do everything in the 3 books, but they can pick what they want and it will help.


5) Talk to leaders with youth lead units. Use roundtables, and ask questions here and elsewhere,.


Good Luck.

Link to post
Share on other sites


I second Eagle92's recommendation of The Third (3rd) Edition of Handbook for Scoutmasters, Volumes 1 and 2.


It remains the most comprehensive explanation of Green Bar Bill's "Real" Patrol Method ever published (far more than you will find at any current BSA training courses, including Wood Badge).


Copies can be purchased today for $10 for Volume 2, and $18 for Volume 1 at:




(The Patrol Method is covered in Volume 1).


In the meantime, the brief "Green Bar Patrol Leader Training" for Patrol Hikes can be found at:








"Golden Arrow Patrol Leader Training" for Patrol Hikes:





Link to post
Share on other sites

So the ninth-grader is in a patrol of one? I agree the patrols are too small, but that comes later.


Right now, your greatest asset is the three guys going to NYLT. Use them. I wouldn't make any drastic changes until they return. Meet set up a planning meeting with just with the three (cancel a troop meeting if that's the only way to schedule it). Let them know the three of them are your leadership team and they will be the guys running the troop from now on. You have to sell them on the idea of a Scout-run troop. Get them excited about it. They get to be the Abraham Lincoln -- or maybe John Connor -- of the troop. Start by asking what they learned at NYLT and how they envision implementing it within the troop. What do they want the troop to look like in a year? In two years, when they age out? In seven years when the new cross-overs age out?


With the SM's guidance, have them come up with a plan for the troop and then let THEM sell it to the others.


At this point, I think you need to address patrol structure. With 14 active boys, you need no more than two patrols. Let the three handle it, with the goal of allowing the rest of the Scouts to decide which patrols they are in. However they want to organize themselves is fine. I don't really think you need an SPL at this point, but if your three leaders want to organize as two PLs and one SPL, fine.


What the three should have seen at NYLT is how a model troop operates. Where you need to guide them is to replicate that with the troop for a couple months. Essentially, I would treat this as a new troop as Tahawk suggests. If you look in the SM Handbook and the program guides, there are meeting plans for starting a new troop. I think where you need to end up is with a "model campout" at which these three guys train the rest of the troop in the patrol method. Do everything by the book. Run the troop meetings leading up to the campout using the troop meeting planning, Write out duty rosters, menus, tent assignment, the work. Ditto for the campout. Kudu has good advice on that. Make sure the patrols and adults are all separated. Plan time for separate patrol activities (a hike is perfect). When the troop comes together, make it for an inter-patrol competition, like Manhunt or Capture the Flag. Maybe you cap the day with a troop campfire at which all the patrols bring a dessert they've made.


When you get back home, your three guys stand up and ask the rest of the troop, where are we going camping next month.


Frankly, I'd do nothing but prepare for campouts. Roll from one to the next.


Blowback -- you need to prepare for it. Making change almost always results in some folks being unhappy. First thing I would let the merit badge teachers know that they have until the week following NLYT to finish their current MB classes. Of course, you dont start more. During troop meetings until then, I'd offer some counter programming of traditional Scout stuff. Don't make a big deal of it, you just get off in one corner and start building a really cool signaling tower, or demonstrating some exotic climbing knots and see who wanders up.


One wild card you need to deal with is the one active 11th or 12th grader. Do you think he will come on board or has he gone ROAD on you? (Retired On Active Duty). If he's an asset (and understands and supports the new methods) throw him in with the three other leaders. Maybe you make him a JASM and put him in the elder statesman role.


Good luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

We had two simple ideas of how to become more boy run;

1. Get the scouts so that if the adults didn't show up, the troop would run the same.

2. If there was something in the program we didn't trust the scouts to do without the adults, train them.


Teach them, trust them, let them go.


Human nature is to learn from the freedom of experience. The problem you and most of us face is our scouts freedom is limited by the adult fears.


That means the adults have to learn more faster than the scouts so that we get out of the way.


We have to learn how to let them go!


Exmple: You say the adults don't trust the SPL to run the PLC meeting. So let's train him to ease your fears. Teach him to use a simple meeting agenda at every meeting. Something like:


1. Open meeting with last meeting minutes.

2. PL reports

3. Old business

4. New business

5. SM closing


And keep it very simple to get the habits developed. Add more to the meeting by training the SPL as he gets more confident. Small step.


Get the other adults out, or at least out of direct vision of the SPL. They intimidate the SPL and they are tempted to jump in. Only the SM speaks if an adult must speak and that is by permission of the SPL. Remember, the goals is acting without the adults. The SPL should be able to run a meeting from his agenda without any adults by his forth month.


Of course there is a lot to running smooth meetings, but that requires A LOT of small steps over the years as the scouts mature.


Evauate the program like this. If you don't trust the scouts with freedom without adults in anything the do, tran them. It's your fear that holds them back, not theirs. Fix your problem.


It's takes lots of little steps, but training the scouts to be independent takes time for both the adults and scouts to develop. Once the adults learn how to recognize where training is needed and develop teaching and letting, your boy run growth will go faster than the adults can keep up.


Good luck and get ready, a true boy run program is a lot of fun for everyone.


I love this scouting stuff.






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...