How to create a pack handbook

In just a few months, families across America will walk into join-Scouting nights, wide-eyed at the prospect of participating in Cub Scouting. But those wide eyes might glaze over as the Scoutspeak begins. “We just start tossing out ‘den,’  ‘pack,’  ‘Akela’ and all these terms, and they’re looking at us like we’re speaking a foreign language — which we are,” says Cubmaster Perry Lipker of Pack 148 in Hilliard, Ohio. PackHandbook

While it’s smart to rein in the jargon, many packs go a step further by providing families with a pack handbook that introduces them to Scouting in general and their pack in detail. If your pack doesn’t have a handbook, you might want to create one over the summer, when Cub Scouting slows down a bit. Here are some tips to get you started.

Choosing Your Content

A simple handbook would cover these topics:

  • Basic Cub Scouting: The program’s purpose, how the pack is structured and how the advancement program works
  • Basic pack information: Details on your chartered organization and when and where you meet
  • Activities and outings: Information on camping trips, summertime activities, and big events like the pinewood derby and blue and gold banquet
  • Leadership: Leadership positions and the role of parents
  • Finances: Membership costs, dues and fundraising opportunities
  • Uniforms: Where to buy uniforms and where to put patches
  • Communications: Details on the pack’s newsletter, Web page and social-media presence
  • Pack code of conduct and discipline policy: Highlights of the BSA’s Youth Protection guidelines
  • Resources: Information on Boys’ Life and Scouting magazines, the Cub Hub (cubscouts.org) and your local council

Also, think about the questions people often ask you. “If we start seeing a trend of some frequently asked question that’s not answered in the handbook or on the website, we’ll put that into the handbook,” Lipker says.

Keeping Content Up to Date

Some info will change. This year, for example, every pack handbook that describes the Cub Scout advancement program will need a major update. Summer is a good time to make any needed changes.

Don’t just rely on your own eyes, though, because you might see only things that relate to your position. Ask den leaders and committee members to spot things that need to be changed.

Finally, don’t be surprised if you hear from Scouters who want to borrow your work. “I’ve been contacted a dozen times by packs who have found this thing and want a Word copy so they could edit it and make it their own,” Lipker says. “I always tell them: I wish we could take full credit for it, but it’s a work of BSA volunteers across the U.S.”


WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR CREATING A PACK HANDBOOK? SHARE BELOW.


READ MORE CUB SCOUTING STORIES AT SCOUTINGMAGAZINE.ORG/CUBSCOUTS

46 Comments

  1. I would not limit this to just Packs. Troops operate differently than packs and parents need to adjust accordingly. This year we handed out a 2-page FAQ at our webelos open houses that discussed simple things like the scout-lead philosophy, how summer camp worked, what our fundraiser is, and things to bring to meetings. It was a huge hit.

    • Ed, could you provide a link to your troop’s guide? I’d like to check it out as I am creating a guide for my troop. Would love to see what others have done.

    • Hey, I was going through your document and I see the following, “Scouting tries to inoculate a strong moral value system”. I hope not!
      INOCULATE means to give (a person or animal) a weakened form of a disease in order to prevent infection by the disease.
      What you want to say is INCULCATE – to implant by repeated statement or admonition; teach persistently and earnestly

      • Whoops!!! Feedback is a gift, and that’s a gem of a gift!! I’ll get that fixed!

        Thanks!

    • Thanks for providing that link! I am doing a handbook for my troop as one of my Wood Badge ticket items and am collecting resources like this.

    • Hi Carl – anyway that i could get a word version of this so that i can tailor to me pack? Love how you set it up.

      Chuck

    • Mr. Sommer, I wanted to reach out and say THANK YOU for sharing your handbook here. Our pack took this on as a summer project and used yours as a starting point. We are happy with how it turned out. THANK YOU for being so generous with yours!

  2. Can anyone post a link to the one they use for new members of their troop? Ed, can you post your FAQ? This is very timely – I am a committee chair and have a meeting for new parents in about two weeks!

  3. Here’s a link to a folder of google docs we have for parent and committee (and maybe other) postions:

    https://drive.google.com/a/pack222nc.org/folderview?id=0B_hKdFnAvtIlbElMY2VHUXNZVmc&usp=drive_web

    Also, each year (as Cubmaster) I’ve met with the dens (scouts and parents) to talk about what is new and what is the same as they move up to the next den rank. Documents for that, as well as “what new scouts and parents need to know” are in the following bunch of google docs:

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_hKdFnAvtIlODU0MjFjMjMtYmFmYy00NTIwLWE4M2UtZTU1MTRlMGI3Yjg4&authuser=0

    • Once again thank you so much. Can I take it and use it for my pack? It does not right to use all this wonderful work without asking.

      • Absolutely!!! PLEASE use it! The more it improves Cub Scouting for the youth anywhere, the better! The most constrained resource we have in scouting is Volunteer Service Hours.

        Carl

      • This is FANTASTIC and just what we need for our Pack. We are a small Pack with just a few leaders wearing many hats. New Scout parents may feel overwhelmed and not know where to start helping out. This should really help to get the ball rolling and get more parent involvement. THANK YOU!

    • Carl – THANK YOU for sharing. As a relatively new cubmaster trying to revitalize our pack, these are a huge help!

  4. Carl – AMAZING document! Thank you so much for sharing it. I wish I had had it a few months ago when my Pack started to update their Parent Reference Guidelines and Pack Operating Guidelines. Dang it. I’m adding it to my reference archives for future use!

  5. I do this for my pack. One thing I do is provide a “family” tree hierarchy with phone numbers. At the top is our charter organization, then our committee, then the Cubmaster and Scoutmaster, then the den leaders, then the dens by grade. It helps parents see that we are not just a random group, that they can go to any of the levels for help and questions.

    • Carl, thanks for sharing this info!…and congrats on the first day today as “former Cubmaster”! Yes, I was snooping around your website. I’m a Cubmaster of three years and also stepping down this month! I love sharing information and I love searching for information on what others do, it’s so helpful. Have a great camping trip this weekend! 🙂
      Chad -Pack 3049 Holland, MI

  6. I’ve been pushing this in our District Roundtables for years. The only differance is I call it a turnover binder. It would be issued to every leader so that any work the previous leader has done is not lost and does not have to be done over again just improved upon. The binder would also come with a USB drive that contain previous e-mails, tour permits, den meeting plans, etc. Alot of adults want to volunteer but do not because of the unkown factor. Not having to research everything helps the recruitment and retention of new leaders. I am available anytime if anyone wants more info on this subject.

  7. Be very careful! Our sponsoring institution did not like our Unit having rules they did not make, when most of the information was what BSA requires, and what our unit had been doing for years. And handing it out first may be very overwhelming to many parents, even tho your document contains the basis on which you operate your Unit.

  8. By request, here’s a readonly link to the word doc behind the PDF I shared. I find this word doc hard to work with, as it has many text boxes, etc. and didn’t make as much use of the default formatting capabilities built into Microsoft Word. And in full disclosure, I built this version based upon one another scouter shared with me years ago. Had I really had initiative I would have made it an easier-to-work-with document.

    Leveraging each other’s material benefits all of us in scouting. Hopefully folks will find this useful.

    Carl

  9. I have thought many times of creating such a document
    but since most of this is already published elsewhere, it’s redundant for those that take the time to look

    it adds something else for folks to not read

    and it adds a job – something for someone to keep updated

    I suggest that roughly 98.5% of the material in these unit handbook documents really should be consistent from unit to unit, and therefore something that BSA could easily help us all by publishing into a template
    I’m picturing clear and very short bullet point outlines

    and I love the 10 commandments, Carl!!!

    – It would save units and leaders from feeling like they need to reinvent the wheel
    – it would help new and old parents to jump in and “get it”
    – and it could help bring better consistency to how units operate and stay on track with the program

  10. This is such great info! I am trying to put something together for our Pack to enhance our communication with parents and families to encourage more volunteerism. Does anyone have an updated orientation/pack info binder with the updated program details that they would be willing to share?

    Thanks!
    Carrie

  11. Another item to add as a contact list for the pack. It could be some of the key leadership, all the leaders, or everyone in the pack. Nothing is worse than trying to get ahold of someone and not having a phone number or email address.

  12. We’ve had one for years. Includes a welcome letter, an explanation of the purpose and methods of Cub Scouting, then sections that are headed by each method, and a short and clear explanation of how we implement each method. Back cover is a chart of our expectations of akelas, and what they can expect from the pack and the leadership. It’s 4 pages, front and back, and a PDF of it in on the the pack website. We have an orientation meeting where I walk every new Akela through the guidebook so everyone is clear on what CS is all about in our pack.

    Contact information information included.

    • Sorry – should’ve posted a reply to your comment.

      Has yours been updated with information on the new program? Would you be willing to share?

  13. A definite necessity in any handbook for parents just joining would be a notification of the shoddy quality of the new cub scout handbooks, which only a few years ago were well-made and could stand up to the required use. Now they are incredibly cheap, with appallingly terrible bindings, and cannot last a month without pages falling out. Of course this is so the Scout Offices can also sell spiral-bound books for twice the price. It seems to me the new “Scout Motto” is “Rip off a good scout daily.” We were going to return it, get our money back, and buy the more expensive one, but I think I’d rather re-bind it myself, since I know how. It’ll be a pain and take some time, but at this point I’d do anything to not give them more money as a reward for shoddy handbooks. But you should definitely warn parents not to waste time on the handbooks; they’ll fall apart guaranteed.

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