Because den chiefs play such an important role in supporting den leaders and encouraging Cub Scouts to cross over into Boy Scouting, Scouter J.W. wants suggestions on how pack and troop leaders can recruit and retain quality Boy Scouts for this position.
Too many times the den leader treats a den chief like an older Cub Scout or mostly ignores him. Work him into your program; show him he is needed and that you depend on him.
Take time before or after each meeting to mentor him. If he has accepted this leadership responsibility, he needs to be trained and held accountable.
Last but not least, reward him. Mark off his requirements in the Den Chief Handbook so that he can see he is accomplishing something.
Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
To recruit quality den chiefs, the pack leader(s) should arrange to visit Boy Scout troops in the area and explain their need. Remind the Scouts that the role of den chief is considered a position of leadership responsibility eligible for Boy Scout advancement.
Recruits should be acceptable to all leaders involved—Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, den leader.
The den leader should then treat the den chief as a young adult leader and give him specific responsibilities, not just consider him to be there as a “gofer.”
The troop and the pack leadership need to work together in this endeavor. Once a cooperative atmosphere exists, allow the den chief the leadership opportunity to be active and responsible. The Boy Scout has to feel that his services are needed and wanted. Give him the latitude, and he will exceed the expectations.
It is imperative that the Cub Scout leader be familiar with the den chief’s job description and not use him to run errands or to serve as a sort of older denner.
Familiarize yourself with the Den Chief Service Award requirements and fit his obligations into the agenda for den meetings.
Treat the den chief as a peer and make sure you include him in your planning meetings, emphasizing the need for his expertise and advice. Whenever possible, let the Scout lead meetings or teach skills, and he’ll develop the sense of ownership for “his Cub Scouts” that keeps him coming back every week with enthusiasm.
The Den Chief Service Award is a great tool for both the den chief and the den leader. The requirements clearly lay out what a good den chief should be doing: leading specific activities, setting a good example, attending pack leader meetings, helping with joint pack-troop activities, etc. Den leaders should use this award as a road map when they work with den chiefs.
Training is the key! Every den chief should complete the one-half-day Den Chief Training course. If you’re a den leader, attend the training with your den chief. That way, you’ll know what he knows, and you’ll start building a collegial relationship with him.
In our troop, we reserve three youth leadership positions for Life Scouts and Eagle Scouts: senior patrol leader, junior assistant Scoutmaster, and den chief. We believe the den chief position is that important because what that Boy Scout does can directly affect our troop’s future. We only want to send the right Scouts to work with Cub Scouts, and we honor den chiefs for their service just as much as we do other youth leaders.
What Is A Den Chief?
Editor’s note: In the October 2001 issue of Scouting magazine, contributing editor Suzanne Wilson profiled two den chiefs from the Greater St. Louis Area Council in an article on the training, duties, and value of den chiefs. Below are excerpts:
“…A den chief is a Boy Scout who assists a Cub Scout den leader or Webelos Scout den leader at den meetings, pack meetings, and other events. He’s a ready source of games, songs, skits, and skills, and he encourages the boys in their advancement.
“His presence adds another important asset. He can tell them about Boy Scouting, with its outdoor activities, trips, summer camp, and opportunities for advancement. When it’s time for them to move up to a Webelos Scout den or a Boy Scout troop, his example and encouragement can help them decide to make that transition.
“‘The den chief is one of the keys to the transition to Boy Scouting,’ says Ernest R. (Tommy) Thomas, [former] associate director of the BSA Cub Scout Division. ŒHe provides the model that the kids look up to…If you’ve got a good den chief, he will generally take the kids right on into the troop with him.’
“The job also benefits the Scouts. By utilizing skills necessary for working with boys, den leaders, and pack leaders, den chiefs can fulfill their leadership requirements for Star, Life, and Eagle ranks….”
DEN CHIEF INSIGNIA
“A den chief wears the den chief insignia on the left uniform sleeve. The Cub Scout pack presents him with the den chief cord, worn on the left shoulder. Cord colors: blue and gold for Cub Scout den chiefs; blue, red, and gold for Webelos den chiefs.
“By completing the requirements for the Den Chief Service Award, a den chief earns an award certificate and may wear the red, white, and blue Den Chief Service Award cord as long as he is a Scout.”