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Question on weekly meetings? What is yours like?

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I am just starting as Scoutmaster for our troop. We have a lot of issues that I won't get into now. I really want to move us into a boy led program. It has been adult led for years. Our typical weekly meetings (topic) has been picked by the boys but then the leaders do all the "lessons", frankly the boys have been bored and uninterested even though the topics have been picked by them. We are good about camping but even that is adult led and the boys seem uninterested most of the time. I think we need to be boy led and frankly I am just learning about how that all works.


Now for my question. What does your weekly meeting go like? We (leaders) call the meeting to order, ask the SPL to conduct, he opens the meeting, then turns the meeting over to leader to bore them to death teaching a merit badge on XXXXX. All while the boys just want to go shoot hoops in the gym but we (leaders) force them to sit still for an hour listening to something they really don't care about, then we free them to go shoot hoops for half an hour.


I was an ASM working with the 11yr scouts for a short time and have been COR for the last 4 years, eagle scout at 14. I am familiar with the program but not an expert at running one the right way. I know what needs to be done, just don't know how to do it.

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When I talk to my SPL about meetings, I put the troop meeting planning form in his hands and tell him that for any meeting for the next month, he must come up with 3 meeting elements. One is the scout skill to review or teach. Then there is the Patrol Corner, where the patrols have to do stuff like meal planning for the next camping trip, take care of patrol gear, discuss what went on in the PLC, and make patrol decisions. The last part is a game, which is up to the boys. I encourage them to use the troop resourses guides to find good games for inter patrol competition. The SPL and Patrol Leaders meet to decide what to do in any given meeting.


As far as merit badges taught in meetings, I am not a fan. I would rather the boys do this outside of troop meetings. Every once in a while, when a merit badge fits in with a campout theme, and the boys really want to do it, I will let them, if they can find and invite a merit badge councelor. If you just teach and review all the basic scout skills, say for a 15 to 20 minute stretch, you will have nearly a year of skills to schedule for meetings. Young scouts can get requirements marked off (If they really learn them, you need to check) and older scouts review skills they may have forgotten.


If you are just taking your first steps as a boy led troop, I would start with this: Scrap your camping schedule, hold a troop meeting, and have them select both the camping activity and the location of the next six camp outs. I did this, and turned the selection of camping themes over to the boys. I made a poster of 24 outdoor or scoutcraft activities, mostly taken from the Troop Program Features books, and listed them on a poster. I also made a poster of camping locations, made of council camps, state parks, other places we had camped at, and so on. The boys get to choose. If they have any ideas on where to go and what to do, they can bring them up. When we are finished, we know where we are going and when, and what we will do (fishing, swimming, boating, hiking). If you let the boys choose, they will feel ownership of the program. You write down the plan the boys come up with, pass copies out to everyone, ask the troop committee to do the logistics like schedule transportation, get permits and reserve campsites, and figure out the money side of it.


That is really the first step to the boy led troop. Later you form the patrol leaders into a decision making body called a patrol leaders council and have them plan and run the activities on the campouts they want. When they get the hang of doing campouts, tell them to plan and run the meetings. I believe the camp outs are the most important part of the troop, so I see troop meetings as a means to plan and carry out the camp outs.


Good luck. Remember what the Scoutmaster Handbook says, that empowering boys to be leaders is the core of scouting.



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allangr's final sentence is key. I just use the SM Handbook and it has worked wonderfully for me. Pages 23-32 are about Troop Meetings. The main parts are Opening, Skills, Patrols, Activity, Closing. "Activity" rather than "Game" can make a huge difference in the value of a meeting. There are tons of fun scouting games that use scout skills and are more fun than shooting hoops.

Training the SPL to be the one to open, run, and close his troop's meetings would be a big step.


Scout On

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Want to know why the boys are bored and uninterested? The two reasons that immediately pop out to me are "being lectured to by the adults" and "exceeding the attention span of the lads".


An hour for covering a topic? Maybe adults can sit still and pay attention that long (though I've yet to meet any adult who can really sit that long paying attention to one topic - next time you're at a meeting at work or are at church, or somewhere else where you are being talked at, see if you can tell how long it takes for the adults to start looking at watches, playing with their smart phones or other signs of "adult fidgeting". I can sit through a 2+ hour meeting but if the topics don't change after about 1/2 an hour, I'm done paying attention and am starting to think about my next vacation trip.


I do have a few suggestions for you. One is to ask around your district to see which Troop has the best reputation for being boy led - then ask if you can bring your SPL and a PL and visit one of their regular meetings so you can observe. Then let the SPL and the PL take what they've learned back to the PLC and the unit and let them decide what to emulate and what not to.


My next recommendation is to stop having the leaders call the meeting to order - that's the SPL's job, let him do it. Your job is to coach him to be able to call a meeting to order - I'm guessing the adults call the meeting to order because they assume that they can get the Scouts attention better than the SPL - but I guarantee you that if the SPL forewarns his Patrol Leaders that he will be calling the meeting to order from now on and that his method is going to be very simple - when he is ready to start the meeting he will quietly stand in position at the front of the meeting hall looking at the Patrol Leaders, without holding or hollering "signs up", the PL's will know to be on the lookout and will quickly gather their patrols into formation for the opening of the meeting. It will probably take more than a few meetings for the Scouts to understand the routine - don't give up after the first week or two just because the Scouts took 15 minutes to get themselves ready and organized - patience is going to be your biggest virtue here, and your second biggest virtue is going to be setting the tone for the other adult leaders who might see you "doing nothing" and decide to act on their own - you need to model and insist on patience from the rest of the adults too. The Scouts will get it and you'll be amazed if you let the process work.


Your opening includes a flag ceremony, right? The SPL call out the Patrol responsible for that weeks flag ceremony and turns the meeting over to that PL. Once the flag ceremony is finished, the SPL takes back control of the meeting. For many Troops, now is the time for announcements from the Scoutmaster - upcoming events, reminders about permission slips, and instant recognitions for rank advancements. Try to keep it to 5 minutes - get in, state your piece, answer questions, and shut up. It's the SPL's show. You could do the announcements at the end of the meeting, but most lads that age will be far more likely to be paying attention at the biginning of the meeting than at the end.


My next suggestion is that the adults all hang out in the back of the room and say nothing, or in the kitchen if they wish to talk amongst themselves. You know that old saying that children should be seen and not heard? In the Boy Scouts it should be Adults should be seen but not heard, unless they're asked to speak.


Next suggestion - stop spending an hour on a single topic. Talking about merit badge or other advancement requirements? 20 minutes, tops. If you have a choice between a lad or an adult doing the "lecture/demonstration", choose the lad first - adults should take on topics only if there isn't a Scout who has already done the requirements and can do the teaching, or if it's a special guest adult. BTW, my exception to the 20 minute rule would be a special guest "lecturer" - if you bring in a canoe instructor to talk about canoes, canoeing and whatever else he can do on dry ground, then 35 minutes with 10 to 15 minutes for questons sounds about right.


So where you once had an hour, your down to 20 minutes with 40 more minutes to fill - what happens now?


My next suggestion - after the "lecture/demonstration" portion of the evening, the Scouts break up into Patrols to Try/Practice what was just talked about for about 20 minutes. If you're giving a demonstration on first aid skills, its time to give the Scouts a chance to try and practice the skills - under the watchful eye of the Instructor that gave the demonstration - he's there to answer questions and encourage the Scouts. Are you aware that Instructor is one of the Youth POR's, generally filled by older Scouts that have experience?


What do you do if the "lecture" doesn't have any skills to practice? Then you practice other skills - those are good nights to do patrol competitions like knot relays or tent set-up races (if you have a place to use outside).


So what's next? For many Troops, the next 20 minutes might be taken up by mini-patrol meetings - now's the chance for the Patrols to quietly go over plans for the next campout, or for the PL to get some feedback on what kinds of activities/topics the members want to talk about that he can take back to the PLC.


Now we get to "shooting hoops". First, know there is nothing wrong with that. A lot of Troops set aside time during the meeting for the lads to go do something active - shooting hoops, football relays, hackeysack. But - 30 minutes? Have you noticed yet a pattern developing? I've been recommending 20 minute time blocks for the different activities and that's a hint. No more than 20 minutes for shooting hoops, and that includes putting the balls away.


What's next? The SPL gathers the Scouts back into a circular formation. I suggest skipping a closing flag ceremony - it's really not neccessary after a short meeting like this - it's not a Cub Scout Pack where the closing flag ceremony really does put the period on the meeting. Boy Scouts have a different way of putting a period on the meeting. First up, a Scoutmaster's Minute. Know why it's called a Scoutmaster's minute? Because the Scoutmaster has a MINUTE (no more!) for his parables/stories/however you fill the minute. Lastly, the Scouts close with the Scout Benediction (the version I use: May the Great Scoutmaster, of all good Scouts, be with us until we meet again" followed by the SPL or Scoutmaster saying "Goodnight Scouts" - I like when the SPL and the Scoutmaster take turns saying that rather than one or the other dominating - it's a reminder to the Scouts that both are important leaders in the Troop).


So let's break out the timing:


SPL opens the meeting and opening flag ceremony - 3 1/2 minutes

Scoutmaster makes announcements - 5 minutes

"Lecture/Demonstration" - 20 minutes

"Try/Practice" - 20 minutes

"Mini-Patrol Meetings" - 20 minutes

Physical Activity "Hoops" - 20 minutes

Scoutmaster's Minute/Scout Benediction - 1 1/2 minutes


Total time? Well how about that - 90 minutes - probably about as much time as you need to meet on a weekly basis.


Of course there is set-up and take down but those are pre and post meeting activities not included in your official meeting time.


Oh, and if extra time is taken up (for instance the SM accouncements go a little bit long, or the Scouts take too much time to get organized or in the patrol meetings, where does the time come from? I suggest from playing hoops. When the Scouts get 5 minutes to play hoops because they took 15 minutes to get in formation to start the meeting, they'll adjust really quickly.


One last thing? Welcome to the Forum!

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I was vexed by this when I became Scoutmaster as well. I was a bit overwhelmed with all those Scouts and wondering what to do with them week after week. At that time, our outings were sporadic, no PLC existed, and there was no activity schedule.


I instituted a PLC and a monthly outing on the second weekend of each and every month through out the year. These two changes, although they took several years to really become part of the Troop culture, have made all the difference in what we do as a Troop.


The monthly activities drive what we do in our Troop meetings. Out of the four monthly meetings, three are almost entirely devoted to the outing. We spend the majority of the two meetings before a camping trip focused on food and equipment preparations, and then meeting after a camping trip looking at pictures and discussing what went right and wrong and how to do better next time. Then we have one meeting a month to work on skills and advancement. We do a lot of camping and have very good participation on most trips.


The PLC has made a big difference because it has really empowered the Scouts, and let them know that it is their Troop and they make the decisions. It has baffled many a Committee member when I let them know I cannot make any decision on an activity or service project until I meet with the PLC to discuss. For example, when we had a significant problem with cell phone usage a meetings and camping trips, I did not yell at the Scouts or impose a rule. Instead I brought it up to the PLC, let them develop a rule and then implement it. The problem was gone in a few weeks, 'cause the Scouts were the enforcers, and no one wanted to step out of line!


Good Luck, and know that it will take a while to make any change, but it's worth it!


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Thanks for the feedback. A lot of these things have been bothering me for years but I wasn't really in a position I could "fix" things. I offered suggestions and even made requests but the leaders would try something once or twice and decide it wasn't working and revert back to what they wanted to do. I took charge with our last camp and tried to keep a distance from the boys as they constructed a shelter using rope and a tarp. They did a pretty good job and when done I stopped by to check it out and we had a brief discussion about some of the issues they encountered. They all expressed on the ride home the next day that the camp was fun and they had a great time making their own shelter and didn't want to use tents any more in the warmer months and would rather make their own shelter.


I look forward to getting the boys involved in THEIR program.


We do have some challenges with our programs that have a lot to do with the religious organization that is our charter and how they would like us to run things. I am pushing back on some of it in order to make our troop work.

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