The get-started guide for new Scouting leaders

50 Tips for New Scouting Leaders Suitcase WELCOME TO SCOUTING! You’re joining a force of volunteers a million strong, some who started in Scouting before you were born (see tip No. 38). Yet you may be uniquely qualified to have a powerfully positive impact on the young people in your unit (see tip No. 43). No pressure, huh?

We at Scouting magazine have been where you are, and we understand just how intimidating the job can be. So we created this handy guide to help you through the first months of your Scouting career. Half of the tips below stem from our own experience; the other half come from Scouters across the country who responded to survey questions on our Facebook page (see tip No. 20).

We appreciate their input and look forward to the day that you, too, start sharing your wisdom with Scouting’s next crop of rookie leaders. But, we also realize that our readers have plenty of additional advice to share, too. That’s why we ask that—if you see something we’ve missed—post your own suggestions for new leaders below.

When you’re done studying the new-leader tips below, make sure you test your new knowledge by taking the “Are You Ready to Lead” quiz.


50 Tips for New Scouting Leaders Add to Bookmarks1. Add to Bookmarks. MyScouting (myscouting.org) is the entry point on the BSA Web site for all sorts of Web-based activities, including training, Internet advancement, and registration for national events. Signing up is simple, and there’s a tutorial if you get stuck. As soon as possible, add your member ID to your profile so you get credit for online training.

2. Become an Alum. Even if you’re new, you qualify for the BSA Alumni program (bsaalumni.org). Why sign up? Four words: free bugle-call ringtones.

3. All in the Timing. Get all your Scouting dates on your family calendar and fix any conflicts. Nothing’s worse than having to cancel a den meeting on your wedding anniversary (except not canceling a den meeting on your wedding anniversary).

4. Training Basics. Every Scout deserves a trained leader, and every leader deserves to be trained. The basic-training sequence has four phases: Fast Start, Youth Protection (the required child-abuse prevention and detection course), This Is Scouting (an overview of the Scouting program), and position-specific training. Learn more, including which courses are available online, at bit.ly/BSAtraining. Remember, you must complete Youth Protection training before you can register as a leader.

5. You are Here. As a volunteer, you can earn all sorts of awards, most of which are represented by those knots you see on veteran leaders’ uniforms. Find out which awards are available for your position and start tracking your progress. Learn about all the knots by visiting bit.ly/knowyourknots.

6. Know Then Sew. When you’re properly uniformed, you set an example for your Scouts and have a place to display the awards you receive (patches aren’t just for the boys). Yes, uniforms can be expensive, but many packs, troops, and crews have closets of “experienced” uniforms that you may use. Before you start sewing on patches, grab a uniform inspection sheet from bit.ly/uniforminspection and get things in the right place the first time. Don’t like to sew? Try Badge Magic (bit.ly/badgemagickit).

7. Get to Know Your Scouts  … You’ll be spending lots of time with them, so find out where they go to school, what they like and dislike, and how you can best contact them (phone, e-mail, Facebook, etc.).

8. … and their Parents. What are their hobbies and talents? Who can haul the boys to camp? Any Eagle Scouts in the group? Give every parent a little job and your job won’t seem so big.

9. Then Check Out ScoutParents. Speaking of parents, surf over to scoutparents.org for extensive information on how Scouting benefits parents and families, not just kids. There’s even a free e-book about the subject on the site.

10. Nights at the Roundtable. Here’s where you’ll find a bunch of Scouters who’ve been in your shoes and are eager to help you be successful. Some of the best discussions happen after the closing, so plan to stay late. Check with your unit leader or council office for dates and locations.

11. Sites for Your Eyes. Another great source for Scouting information is the Internet. You can find Scouting magazine online at scoutingmagazine.org. Ask people in your unit or district for their favorite online discussion groups, blogs, and podcasts. And be sure to bookmark Scouting’s blog: blog.scoutingmagazine.org.

12. Less Taxing. If you itemize your taxes, you can deduct the cost of your uniforms and the miles you drive as a volunteer. You’ll need good records, so start a receipt file and mileage log. For more information, visit bit.ly/scoutingwriteoffs or consult your tax adviser.

13. Get a Life—or snag your son’s copy when he’s not looking. Boys’ Life magazine content aligns with pack and troop programs, and the jokes are always good for a laugh. For a quick game, create a scavenger hunt where boys look for specific words or pictures in the current issue. Learn more about BL at boyslife.org. 50 Tips for New Scouting Leaders Meet and Greet

14. Meet and Greet: STEP 1. Seek out your chartered organization representative, the volunteer who oversees Scouting at your chartered organization (the school, community group, or religious institution that sponsors your unit). Ask how Scouting supports the organization’s mission and what your unit can do to help. This is especially important if you’re the unit leader or committee chair.

15. Meet and Greet: STEP 2. Seek out your district executive and unit commissioner. The DE is the professional Scouter who oversees Scouting in your community; the commissioner is an experienced volunteer charged with supporting your unit. Their goal is to make your unit successful, and they have access to lots of useful resources.

16. Meet and Greet: STEP 3. Find a mentor in your district who holds the same position as you. Meet for coffee to discuss any challenges you’re facing, then visit one of your mentor’s meetings to see him or her in action.

17. Get to Philmont—Pronto! Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M., is the world’s largest youth camping facility. It’s also the BSA’s national volunteer training center. Every summer, the Philmont Training Center offers dozens of weeklong conferences for Scouters of all experience levels. Best of all, your spouse and children can participate in great family programs while you’re in class. Details at philmontscoutranch.org/ptc.aspx.

18. KISMIF? OMG! Quick! What do the following acronyms and initialisms mean?

COPE KISMIF NOAC WOSM

If you don’t know NESA from NOAC, bookmark the Language of Scouting website (scouting.org/scoutsource/Media/LOS.aspx). You’ll never be at a loss when veteran Scouters start tossing jargon around. (Find the answers to this in your September-October 2012 issue of Scouting magazine.)

19. On the Map. Have you visited Beascout.org? This spiffy new unit locator uses Google Maps to help prospective Scouts find you. The BSA’s Beascout.org is so new that many veterans don’t know about it. Introduce your unit to it, and you’ll no longer be the newbie.

20. Do You Like Us? You are on Facebook, aren’t you? Then “like” the pages for the BSA and Scouting and Boys’ Life magazines. When you do, you’ll get the latest Scouting news. Find us at facebook.com/scoutingmagazine.

21. Find Direction. What do you want to accomplish this year or before you leave Scouting? (Which we hope won’t be this year.) Write down your goals and paste them in your leader book to help you stay on track.

22. Catch Up on Some Reading. Read the appropriate youth and adult handbooks that relate to your position. If you’re a Wolf den leader, get the Wolf Cub Scout Handbook and Cub Scout Leader Book. If you’re an assistant Scoutmaster, get the Boy Scout Handbook and Scoutmaster Handbook. If you’re a Venturing Advisor, get the Venturing/Ranger Handbook and the Venturing Leader Manual. If you’re a … Well, you get the idea.

23. Reach the Summit. The Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia promises a world of excitement for older Scouts and Venturers. You can’t visit until next summer, but the Web site is open for business now: summit.scouting.org.

24. Start Your Journey. Journey to Excellence is the BSA’s performance recognition program for units, districts, and councils. JTE, which replaces the Quality Unit program, measures advancement, activities, leader training, and more. Visit bit.ly/BSAjourneytoexcellence to learn about the specific goals for your type of unit. Then ask your unit leader about your unit’s progress toward Bronze, Silver, or Gold recognition.

25. Meet a Founder. Scouting’s founder, Robert Baden-Powell, died in 1941, but his spirit is alive and well today. You can read many of his books, including Scouting for Boys (the first Boy Scout handbook), at bit.ly/bpowell.


IDEAS FROM SCOUTERS

For Working With Scouts
26. The most powerful words in the world are, “That sounds cool. Make it happen.” ­—Cassie Johnson 27. Be willing to do whatever you are asking the boys to do. They will be more willing to participate if you make a fool of yourself first. —Stephanie Gourley 28. Listen to the Scouts. They are smarter than you think. —Andrew O’Connor 29. Scouts just want to have fun and learn. They never have an agenda. —Skip Tamke 30. Trust your older Scouts—but verify! —Tim Hagey

For Working With Families 50 Tips for New Scouting Leaders Volunteering
31. There are never enough volunteers. Recruit those parents from the day they sign up their kid! —Jane Hansen 32. Share as many details about an event as you can before a family has to commit. That way they have every opportunity to make sure it is right for them. —Shelli Smith Luna 33. Stick to your schedule. Families will come to understand it’s easier to work into a planned schedule than to pull things together at the last minute. —Laurie Good Kautz 34. Some kids have a very structured home life; others are the opposite. Make your den rules apparent from the beginning and stick with them. —Michelle Cianflone Flynn 35. When someone asks you “How can I help?” you’d better have an answer; otherwise, they may never ask again. —Dave Ruiz

For Getting Up to Speed, Fast
36. Go to roundtable, learn online, and make friends. —Christine Needham Martin 37. Don’t wait to get all of your basic training done. —Kirsten Johnson 38. At your first roundtable or training, look for the person with the most knots on his or her Scout shirt. Knots indicate experience and knowledge, and those individuals are a wealth of resources and contacts—and they are free. —Lindsay Foster 39. Talk to other Scouters. At summer camp or other council or district events, go to other campsites and talk to the Scouters there. —Chuck Pint 40. Ask questions. Most leaders are willing to help, but they don’t want to make you uncomfortable or overwhelmed. —Aileen Sheehan Masone

For Measuring Success
41. Success as a Scouter can be measured in grins and laughter. —Tom Osen  42. Do you go home after a meeting tired but smiling because you saw a boy do something big for himself that most people, even his parents, probably would never notice? That’s when you know you’ve done it right. —Phil Peck 43. Success is seeing your Scouts following the morals and ethics learned in Scouting and putting them into practice with enthusiasm. —Ronald Pierantozzi 44. Success is seeing the smiles of the boys as they learn new things and watching them come back every week eagerly anticipating more. —Charles Nesloney 45. Wait 15 to 20 years to see what kind of men they become. Then you’ll know if you were successful. —Calvin Gray

Miscellaneous Tips
46. There are so many Scouting urban legends out there. (“The left-handed handshake has been banned because it’s a secret sign.”) If someone says something that seems odd or strange, ask where it can be found in print. —Michelle Matowski 47. Plan for more than you can do in an activity or meeting. —Bradley White-Findeisen 48. No one, especially the Scouts, cares what you know. What is important is what you do. —Joe Julio 49. Learn to listen, not lecture; to joke, not judge; and to laugh whenever possible. —Dan Hartnett 50. In volunteering, you are truly receiving a gift. The more time and effort you set aside for your Scouts, the greater the gift you’ll receive in return. —Anthony Daniel Thorne

WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AS A NEW LEADER? Think you’re ready to lead? Take this quiz to test your knowledge!

60 thoughts on “The get-started guide for new Scouting leaders

  1. The Best advice I can give is to start each year off with an open mind. Things always don’t go as planned, people don’t often share the same view as you, but things always seem to work out. Remember you are doing this for the boys and not anyone else, so take advantage of the training, and have fun!

  2. Get ALL your parents involved. Have a parents meeting and ask them to sign up. If they don’t sign up, they will be assigned an activity. Parents that are involved are willing to help more.

  3. DON’T be afraid to ask for help! As a new leader, you don’t know everything, but the new parents don’t know that — they see you in uniform and expect you to know everything. Get to know your Unit Commissioner and ASK FOR HELP.

  4. I’ve been in scouts for 6 (almost 7) years, and now I’m an adult… I’m going through some changes in my life, but one thing I don’t want to change is scouts-I love it too much to stop now.

  5. I can’t stress enough to get to know the resources in your pack. All of the adults in your unit are perspective guest speakers, activity hosts and outing guides. If there is a mom/grandmom in the Webelos den who loves to scrapbook she’d be a great guest for the Tigers who have to scrapbook for a requirement. Have a Wolf uncle who does woodworking? Who better to come teach Whittling Chip to the Bears. Utilize the Parent Talent Survey to the fullest to present an awesome Scouting Program.

  6. Use Boy Scouts to help. They use to be cub scouts, they are what the younger boys look up to and they love helping and have great ideas!

  7. Have fun is the best advice you can get. If you are having fun with the meeting the boys will to. Scouting is great for all the boys and their families. Rememer “KISMIF” – Keep It Simple Make It FUN!

  8. Be EXCITED, Be READY for EVERYONE, Wear the UNIFORM PROUDLY, Show the kids that they are important and they are SPECIAL KIDS !!! Show them that EVERY ACHIEVMENT is AN AWESOME THING !! Make a BIG DEAL OUT OF EVERY ACHIVEMENT THESE KIDS DO. ALWAYS DO THE ACTIVITY with them and HAVE FUN !!!!

  9. When working with Cub Scouts remember the rule of 10. Have backup activities. When you think it will take 10 minutes and the cubs are done in 4 have other activities ready.
    With Boy Scouts let them make mistakes, then talk with the patrol later about what they did and how they would do it different next time.

  10. Start out with a plan for the year, modify it as you go along, make notes of what worked and what didn’t. Keep a couple of filler games or songs in your ‘back pocket’, there will be a time when you’ll need to engage them for just a few minutes.

  11. Remember that scouting is boy led. Find your leaders get them trained. NYLT is great for that. and then the hardest part…. sit in your chair and watch the boys work. Don’t be afraid to let them fail a bit. If you are not aware who your natural leaders are do a patrol competition and watch closely. your leaders will come out and show themselves. then use them to develope more leaders. And go get yourself a more comfortable chair!

  12. Never feel alone; there are thousands of new leaders just like you that have the same questions or in the same situation you are in now, just like the thousands of new leaders before you. There are many people who can help you, many in your own community. Learn who they are and how to contact them. We are ready, willing and able to serve and support you.

  13. Best advice that I can give/have given to Cub Scout leaders is to be prepared. Know your handbook and what you’re required to do. Make a schedule so you’re able to complete all of your requirements on time without waiting until the last week or two cramming to get everything done before the Blue & Gold. When working with crafts, make one in advance so you know the level of difficulty (and remember not everyone is crafty). Get your parents involved!! They are you number one resource. Seek out assistance from other Den Leaders who have “been there/done that”. Most of all, relax and have fun. Most likely your son will be in your Den along with his friends. Remember they’re kids and its okay to act like one too when you’re with them. They’ll remember the “crazy Den Leader” that was running and jumping, playing with them more than the “learning” part of Scouting. Have fun!!

  14. don’t be afraid to look silly, especially with Cub Scouts! the whole point of their program is fun with a purpose, sometimes leaders can forget that part… except me, I never forget (^o^)

  15. First and foremost, DO YOUR BEST! Have fun doing what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Boy Scouts is volunteer based organization, you can never have too many helping hands! Get your parents to sign up to help at events; like the B&G Banquet, Pinewood Derby, Crossover and many more.

  16. Expect the unexpected; then ask the boys how to solve the unexpected problems when they do happen (and boy will they!) You don’t have to have all of the answers.

  17. Attend your district roundtable. It is an invaluable tool for leaders of all ranks. You learn new things, keep up on the district/council events, and can fellowship with those who have been there to get advice and help.

  18. Make a plan for your meeting (use the guide for help!), and try to start the meeting and end the meeting with an opening and closing flag ceremony. It will help the boys get in the mode and be ready for FUN! And make sure that fun is built in and have a back up plan (if it’s raining, do a sports and academics belt loop instead – ie: chess, math etc..).. Mix it up, and don’t make it all book learning (they get that in school) – have them do things. They love hands on activities and making a mess. Make sure that you wear a uniform and, if the activity is paints or has stain potential, have them wear an activity based shirt instead…

  19. Don’t ask someone to be the next “enter title here”, ask and seek parents out who can and will take on a task or event, and once they do some things for you…that’s when you know there’s a role for them. Too often we try to push the roles and not see what someone can and is willing to do first.
    Also, be proud of what you do as scouts and share that in your community often. Remember that the more active you are and the more they can see you active, the more likely people will be to join you, participate in your fundraising and events and help make scouting happen for the youth!

  20. YOU set the tone and YOU are the example. If something goes wrong and you react negatively to it, then so will your scouts. If you roll with it and continue to go forward with a smile, then so will your scouts!

  21. The boys NEED good structure. Give it to them. This in itself eliminates many of the questions that parents (and boys alike) have. But, don’t forget the value of being flexible. : )

  22. Have fun!!!!! The boys are here to have fun. If they sense that you are not enjoying yourself, they will start leaving the program. Make out enjoyable for yourself, the parents, and most especially the boys!

  23. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Everything you need has probably already been done by someone already. Find out what your resources are and use them without being afraid to ask questions. Get to know your boys’ handbooks inside and out. If you don’t know what’s there, the boys won’t either. There are others in your shoes. You’re definitely not alone in this. As long as you care about what you’re doing, you’ll be a great leader. A great leader is a caring leader, not a “perfect” leader.

  24. Don’t be afraid to throw out the agenda.
    If the scouts aren’t into what you are teaching them, then stop. Some meetings don’t go as you plan so have a back up game. Keep a soccer ball, Frisbee and/or long selections of rope in your scout box.

    There is knowledge you need to impart to the scouts but forcing them to learn won’t work.

  25. KISMIF! Keep It Simple Make It Fun! Attend Trainings and Roundtables and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many people around you to help.

  26. Scouting is 3/4 outing. So be outside as much as possible. They boys are inside (the house or at school) way to much. So do almost everything outside.

  27. Don’t be afraid to let the boys decide. When they fall on their face and see what they did wrong it always is the best teaching. Guide them and don’t do everything is the best way to accomplish all they need.

  28. A SCOUT IS CHEERFUL
    “Anyone can put on a happy face when the going is good. The secret is to wear it as a mask for your problems. It might surprise you how many others do the same thing.” – John Wayne

    A SCOUT LEADER IS CHEERFUL TOO!
    Your youth are here to have fun. Those things that happen in the background need to stay in the background so your youth can have the fun they expect.

  29. Take as many training courses as you can, especially the ones offered online. Keep meetings simple. Accept any and all help. When another parent asks if they can help, let them! Even if it is just handing out supplies or keeping order among the boys.

  30. There’s always the old stand by of “Keep It Simple, Make It Fun”. But I have another motto for you, “Perfection is not an option.” Stay calm, if the kids are having fun and learning acthingvorvtwo, you’re doing ok.

  31. Everyone was a new leader once, and has been in your shoes before. Every scout leaders I know will help answer a question, or find someone who can.

  32. The Patrol Method! Practice what you preach. I have begun using the patrol method with our leadership and parents. Scribe, Webmaster, Troop Guide ( for new den leaders), etc. This introduces the families to the Patrol Method, gets more parents involved, and makes life easier for the Pack and Den leaders.

  33. Want to learn and teach your boys go to a summer camp that provides Patrol Style cooking the boys will learn how to prepare and cook their own meals and how to clean up afterwards. I think every Boy Scout summer camp should offer this type of program.

  34. El mejor consejo para mi es formate ,prepárate ,
    estudia perfeccionando la metodología scout saludos
    yanett scout de las animas maldonado uruguay

  35. Sign up for Wood Badge! During my Wood Badge training I learned so much about myself, how to become a better leader, the history of scouting, and how other Packs run their meetings. Wood Badge provided me with around 80 new contacts outside of my Pack that I can turn to for advice and assistance.

      • As much as I love Wood Badge, and have been on staff 3 times. This is a guide for the new leader, WB could be very intimidating for a new leader, I think they need to get their feet wet first. Just the time involved might scare one off, when just getting started. I think BSA recognizes this and is why it is not included.

  36. As a new leader, I have found it very valuable to utilize the resources in my community. We have had some good field trips/goseeits….no one says no to sharing their organization/expertise/time with scouts! Remember to write a thank-you note after your outing!

  37. I agree with Tina, do Wood Badge. It is more than the two weekend course. It’s your ticket items. Writing up ticket items specific to your den or Troop (and your own) interests opens new doors for training. In my case, I did Wilderness First Aid, had my Webelos (myself, and parents) become CPR/AED certified, and did the BSA Emergency Prep requirements. Now that I will obtain my beads in the near future, I am looking to attend Powder Horn to bring in more high adventure to my Troop.

  38. Best advice I got…don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially of those who have gone before you and those coming up with you. Odds are, what you’re thinking, someone’s done.

  39. Pingback: So your a new scout leader: what’s next? | Cub Scout Pack 95 Homewood

  40. Remember they are still boys. If you have a long project planned, plan in a break here and there. About the time you start losing their attention it will be break time.
    We were screen printing troop tshirts, about the time they started getting bored, sent them out to play ball for 20 minutes. They came back in and finished up quicker.

  41. Get to know your Scouts Parents and their abilities! Do you have a Science teacher encourage them to take a meeting, do you have a doctor or vet they can help too maybe a national forest ranger(this is my favorite)! Many parents are more than willing to help!!! Know your groups skills!

  42. First, #38 is why I wear no knots on my uniforms. I may be able to do things and know a lot and “be free” but I have a lone scout, boy scout, two crews and a council committee to handle. I am not your resource.

    But I suggest getting every BSA publication, giving each a speed read through, then turn around and re read them carefully. Your DE doesn’t have all the answers, too many commissioners never read the guide to safe scouting updates, and others make up rules they think are national’s or their council’s, or they apply rules from another council after they move. YOU are the one who has to know the answers, not the many people suggested as resources here.

  43. remember that most kids want adventure in their life…but usually that comes at a cost…have lots of fundrasier set up so those who want to can participate!!! and as always remember the core values teach them guide them so that one day they will be ready to guide and teach us.

  44. REFLECT: Learn about doing reflections, from Introduction to Leadership Scout Training document, and after that den meeting take a minute with a cup of Joe, or your favorite beverage, and think about what went right and wrong or what was fun, who participated, when was it over, what could be done better, How was it fun for the boys and you. Make a couple notes, then go spend time with your family. You will grow in ability as a leader.

  45. Pingback: Quiz: Are you ready to lead? - Scouting magazine

  46. Pingback: Reader additions to the New Leader Guide - Scouting magazine

  47. A lot of these links listed here point to pages with a “404 – File or directory not found” messages. If you’re going to promote an older article as a current resources on your social media outlets (Facebook/Twitter), you should make sure they are still current resources.

  48. Meet and Greet #4
    Get to your District roundtables. You will get a bit of formal training and a lot of informal tips and advice from the others in the trenches with you.

  49. This is a great little Excerpt to follow for new comers . I feel that any training is the best training. I have been in for 40 years now and I still feel like a kid at times and have loads of fun. The sounds of youth learning and experience what they have learned. The best reward ever is the Thank you from the very youth you have taught . Boy Scouts have made many leaders over the years and your sons can be a part of that list . My God Bless all of these youth . Also now the Venturers are accepting you ladies at the age of 14 years . Wow become a part of the best organization in America.

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