How to measure a Scout's participation for BSA requirements

To earn each of Boy Scouting’s top three ranks—Star, Life, Eagle—a Scout must “be active” in his troop and patrol for a specified number of months and “serve actively” in a position of responsibility such as patrol leader or quartermaster. So what exactly does “active” mean and how can troop leaders measure participation? Read on to find out. 

WHY IS ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IMPORTANT? Scouts best achieve the aims of Scouting (character development, citizenship training, and personal and mental fitness) when they participate in meetings, outings, and service projects, and hold positions of responsibility.

WHAT CONSTITUTES ACTIVE PARTICIPATION? To meet the requirement of active participation, a Scout must be registered in the unit and be in good standing, meaning he hasn’t been dismissed for disciplinary reasons. In addition, he’s expected to meet the unit’s “reasonable expectations.”

CAN A TROOP SET A STANDARD SUCH AS ATTENDANCE AT 50 PERCENT OF MEETINGS AND OUTINGS? Yes, so long as the standard is reasonable and recognizes the many worthwhile opportunities beyond Scouting. A Scout who falls short of the unit’s expectations must be given the chance to offer an acceptable explanation. Certainly there are medical, educational, family, and other issues that may prevent higher levels of participation. If the Scout would have been more active if he could have been, then he is deemed active. A board of review must also provide the Scout an opportunity to demonstrate how non-Scouting activities have contributed to his growth. (However, this option is only available if the board of review members can agree that the young man has already exhibited Scouting values.) For example, he might have missed a campout to attend a church youth retreat. Remember, the advancement program isn’t about what a Scout has done; it’s about what he’s able to do and how he has grown.

CAN STANDARDS GO BEYOND PARTICIPATION? No. Expectations such as uniform compliance, payment of dues, and parental involvement can’t be considered when evaluating the “active” requirement.

DO MONTHS OF ACTIVE PARTICIPATION HAVE TO BE CONTINUOUS? No. A Scout may piece together any periods he has been active and still qualify. And his active months don’t expire if they are followed by inactive months.

CAN A TROOP SET PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR POSITIONS OF RESPONSIBILITY? Yes, so long as they are established up front. It’s a disservice to the Scout and the unit to reward work that hasn’t been done. Holding a position and doing nothing is unacceptable.

WHAT IF A JUNIOR LEADER IS NOT MEETING EXPECTATIONS? The Scout’s leaders should offer him direction, coaching, and support. If nothing will improve his performance, it’s acceptable to remove him from his position. However, it’s unfair to surprise him by telling him at the end of his term that his performance has been unsatisfactory and doesn’t count.

HOW DO YOU EVALUATE A SCOUT WHEN THE UNIT HAS NO ESTABLISHED EXPECTATIONS? If there are no clearly established expectations, then an adult leader or the Scout—or both—should work out the responsibilities to fulfill. BSA literature such as the Patrol Leader Handbook can provide the basis for this effort. If it’s left to the Scout to determine the responsibilities, and he makes a reasonable effort to act accordingly, then he passes the requirement. He cannot be held to unestablished expectations.

CAN MORE THAN ONE POSITION COUNT TOWARD A SINGLE RANK? Yes. The Scout may hold any number of positions. However, holding positions simultaneously doesn’t reduce the number of months required. And service in positions of responsibility doesn’t have to be continuous.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE? The best source is the Guide to Advancement 2011 (No. 33088), which is available at Scout Shops and online at scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33088.pdf.

14 thoughts on “How to measure a Scout's participation for BSA requirements

  1. My boys (6th and 8th grade)love scouts, and they are very lhivaey into sports. During Lacrosse season, they hardly go.(Unless it rains) During the winter they go every week and try to earn some badges Both say they are going to try and make Eagle, we’ll see. We are hoping next year during 9th grade the older one will make more meetings as sports will be more in the afternoon. My kids have learned auto mechanics, first aid, they’ve shot shot guns and bow and arrows, camped in a tent without adults, met astronauts, made their own food, learned fire and axe safety, swam a mile, come home from a weekend camping trip smelly and dirty, and loving every minute. I’d say it was worth all the struggles getting them there, and it was way, way more fun than cub scouts.

  2. Mr. Mark Ray: Your article has caused a lot of controversy among leaders regarding the requirement of dues. Our policies say a scout must be in good standing in order to advance. Paying an amount of small monthly dues is a responsibilty issue for our troop. If you say you cannot require a boy to be current in his dues in order to advance, it changes troop policy and opens the troop for some to say that once a boy reaches the rank of Star, he cannot be required to pay any dues. If a boy is not current in his national BSA dues, can he still advance? So you must be current in his national dues but not his local dues? I have tried to find more information about your ‘dues’ comments and the local Council has no policy on troop dues. The troop pays for all scout awards; merit badge patches and cards; rank advancement patches; neckerchiefs and slides; and we pay for the scout books for our new boys. Why isn’t a scout supposed to be current in his dues? Or are you saying they only have to be current in the BSA dues, not troop dues. What about the issue of responsibility- as a youth paying a small amount of monthly dues teaches responsiblity to a young man. Try not paying your Order of the Arrow dues and see what happens. Your comment of not making troop dues a requirement has caused some of our leaders to say the troop policy must be changed and we cannot require a boy to pay his troop dues. This is underming the financial stability of the troop. So, if the troop re-charters a boy and he is approaching the rank of Star to Eagle, he can stop paying his troop dues and thumb his nose at the troop policy of asking for a small monthly fee to reimburse the things that the troop pays for. I would like more clarification on your comments so that the issue is clarified for those of us out here trying to keep scouting afloat by requiring dues for a young man or young boy so that the program can continue to expand among our youth. Give me some insight so that we can respond to those who feel your articles in the magazine are policy issues. Respectfully submitted.

    • I would submit that refusing to pay dues and “thumb his nose” at the Troop dues policy would be an example of a definite lack of Scout Spirit. If it is done with malice, there may be a deeper problem with the young man’s attitude.
      I do not know the socio-economic situation of your troop, but there are several troops in very urban areas that a weekly dues would put a hardship on a family. These are the young men that we need to serve the most. To ask the National Council to author a policy requiring dues is not a good idea. The current policy leaves the troop leadership and the Chartering Organization to develop expectations for dues and uniforming.

    • I also disagree because I have seen documentation that a scout must be current on dues to be ‘active’ however, even if you did have to take that out of the equation couldn’t refusal to pay dues or make a reasonable attempt to pay dues go against ‘scout spirit’?

    • According to the Guide to Advancement, troop dues cannot be used to determine if a Scout is active. However, the first requirement is that they are registered and in good standing with the Troop. If troop dues are required in your Troop, then perhaps your troop rules (put them in writing) should be changed so that a Scout must be current on his dues before your unit recharters. This would eliminate those who are “thumbing” their noses at your Troop. My personal belief is that finances should never stop a boy from being a Scout. Sometimes a family is unable to pay, that should not eliminate their child from participating in the program and whereas money is a necessary “evil” of Scouting it should not, in my opinion, be the deciding factor if a boy advances.

    • Mark is writing from BSA policy, explaining what is contained in the Guide to Advancement. That is your final resource when it comes to official advancement policy and we are bound to comply with the terms laid out therein. Troops can’t debate the merits of BSA’s rules and decide whether they apply to them or not. If your troop policies are in conflict with BSA’s policies, then your troop policies must change.

      Yes, a boy must be current in his national registration fee in order to advance. Without the payment of the annual registration, he’s not a BSA member any more. If he is delinquent in his troop dues, he can still advance in rank and have his advancement recorded by your council registrar. If you choose to withhold his rank insignia because of non-payment of troop dues, that’s out of BSA’s hands, but it doesn’t change the fact that he advanced.

      Every unit’s financial structure is different. If you are having trouble making ends meet through weekly dues, maybe you should consider looking into a council or unit-sponsored money-earning project and raise the funds from the community you serve rather than from your own families. And make sure your boys participate so that they can have the opportunity to earn their own way in Scouting as B-P intended. No boy should be denied the opportunity to participate in Scouting because of personal financial circumstances, and your troop should find ways to help those who need the help.

      If you feel that Scout spirit is defined by whether a boy can bring his dues payment in each week, your focus is way too narrow. The Guide tells us that Scout spirit is judged “by the way he lives his life,” not by a system of metrics and measurements.

      Too many Scouters look to council and district professionals to resolve unit problems that are really not their responsibility. Your chartered organization and unit commissioner are partners in your success. Make sure they are involved. Use resources like training and Roundtable to extend your knowledge.

      And always remember that Scouting is for youth and our role as adults is to help them succeed, not to throw roadblocks in their way.

  3. Hi there: I think your missing what was written.

    CAN STANDARDS GO BEYOND PARTICIPATION? No. Expectations such as uniform compliance, payment of dues, and parental involvement (((((can’t be considered”)))) when evaluating the “active” requirement.

    Mark stated that the payment of Dues (note it did not say Troop or National) is not to be considered.

  4. Folks, please re-read the article before getting excited. The statement about dues is here:

    CAN STANDARDS GO BEYOND PARTICIPATION? No. Expectations such as uniform compliance, payment of dues, and parental involvement can’t be considered when evaluating the “active” requirement.

    It says they can’t be considered. So why are we talking about this? The only real concern with any kind of payments is that you have to be registered with the BSA to be a member. That costs $15/year. That is a registration fee. Dues are on the troop level.

  5. Pingback: Ask the Expert: The BSA’s ‘active’ requirement, revisited « Bryan on Scouting

  6. Hi guys~My 12 year old just earned first class (smile!) in May and will be given a position of responsibility next week. He will be going to boy scout camp this summer and in addition will be taking a class at the museum to earn an Eagle badge and will also take lifesaving and swimming at our town pool to earn those badges. Although he will be busy with scouts all summer, he will not be attending to whatever job has been given to him other than for the week of summer camp. My question is…do the summer months count towards advancement? Reading the literature referred to above, it sounds like it is the responsibility of the higher-ups to see that the boy is challenged and engaged, and if the scout upholds his duties then he is considered active, even during the summer, but that doesn’t sound reasonable to me. What’s the skinny? Thanks!

  7. Where is this notion of allowing a minimum attendance requirement coming from? This is stated no where in the official documentation, and in fact it states that units may not create their own requirement. See below:

    Definition of “ACTIVE

    A Scout will be considered “active” in his unit if he is

    Registered in his unit (registration fees are current)
    Not dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons
    Engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis (informed of unit activities through Scoutmaster conference or personal contact, etc.
    In communication with the unit leader on a quarterly basis.
    (Units may not create their own definition of active; this is a national standard.)

    If the Scout does not initiate communication, the unit leader is to contact the Scout and ask if the youth wishes to remain in Scouting. If the answer is negative, then the unit leader should no longer communicate with the Scout. If the answer is affirmative, the unit leader should provide the unit calendar. After six months of nonparticipation, the unit leader may cease to contact with the youth and drop the Scout from the unit at recharter time.

    The Scout may return to the unit at any time while on the unit charter. At any time a Scout is dropped from a charter, the youth may re-apply to a unit for readmission; the acceptance of the application is at the discretion of the unit. The youth would be reinstated at the rank and level that can be documented by either the Scout or the unit.

  8. Unfortunately, and as evidenced by this thread and other discussions on this matter, Scouters routinely ignore the fact that attendance and participation expectations are already written into every rank’s requirements. In fact, Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class tell a Scout EXACTLY what is expected of him, participation wise, to achieve that rank. Star, Life, and Eagle candidates could not possibly satisfy the requirements for their positions of responsibility without at least “reasonable” activity and participation…..Further, the 2011 Advancement Guide paragraph on this subject clearly indicates that this is not about setting new standards, which begs the question as to why a unit policy was mentioned. In all likelihood, the same units that were using unit attendance policies outside of BSA policy prior to 2011 will continue to do so, while overlooking the caveats outlined in the 2011 Guide that require a BOR to make exceptions for well involved youth. As in the past, the weakness will not be “underperforming” Scouts but ill trained Scouters trying to band aid a poor program.

  9. Our son had perfect attendance at Scout meetings, as did his Dad. He was one of the few boys current on dues, although many of the boys who couldn’t “afford” to pay dues could afford to attend camp, go on outings, etc. Our son didn’t participate in any outings because his doctors refuse to allow him to camping just yet (multiple Special Needs), but he participated in lots of other Council-level activities without the Troop, and he also served as a Den Chief for his old Pack. His Eagle Scout Dad was an ASM also with perfect attendance, while I remained active in the Pack.

    Despite our participation, he was KICKED OUT OF HIS TROOP when a leader — one with NO children in the troop – took offense to me asking a question about why the parents and leaders were doing the Eagle Scout candidate’s projects.

    To date, our District has backed the Troop. Worse, our visually-impaired brain damaged son used his First Aid training to provide emergency First Aid to an unconscious stranger who, according to her family had just been released from the hospital where she was treated for a blocked carotid artery) and received a letter of commendation from the Fire Department, but our Council wouldn’t even consider nominating him for a National award and we suspect it is due to politics.

    So, no matter what your child does, if the people “in charge” don’t like him, he will not be rewarded. We are African-American in a district with less than 2% African Americans. If you read our 2010 Strategic Plan, you will see that the Council is focused on increasing participation of Asian and Hispanic boys. In fact, the Council used our son’s life story in their 2011 fund raising letter but refused to include our son’s picture for fear of alienating its white donor base or Asian/Hispanic target demographics.

    Our son is now a Lone Scout looking for a new Council.

  10. I am curious. Would it be considered acceptable for a Scout who ran for and accepted the position of Patrol Leader but has not come out for a single Troop meeting or Patrol Leader meeting for a period of 3 months be granted credit for that position during that time? He has come out for an activity and possibly one fundraiser during that time, so by your definition, he is still “active” but having not been present in the numerous planning and running of activities for the Troop, I was wondering if the definition of “active” precipitates his ability to get credit for being a Patrol Leader during that time. Major illness does not appear to be a factor in his absence. My inquiry is meant to see if after encouragement to return to fulfilling his role, if other Scouts who have been truly actively participating to take care of his duties can be reassigned his role as Patrol Leader, and if appropriate, how soon that can happen. Rotations of positions occur every 6 months, so waiting another 3 months will be the same as continuing on as it has been. Of course when the other Scout agrees to return in the capacity to fulfill leadership responsibility of his position, I agree he should be able to get credit for it but also wonder if he automatically gets to return to the position of Patrol Leader.

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