The September-October 2012 story titled “The get-started guide for new leaders” collected 33 comments from readers sharing their own advice for new-to-Scouting adult volunteers.
We took these comments and numbered them one to 33. And, using a random-number generator, we selected 10 random comments to receive a $10 Supply Group gift certificate. The winning comments are listed below, and we think everyone can glean some value from the words of our experienced Scouting readers.
Tap into community resources
As a new leader, I found it very valuable to utilize the resources in my community. We have had some good field trips/go-see-its. No one says no to sharing their organization, expertise, or time with Scouts! And remember to write a thank-you note after your outing.
Reflect after each meeting
Learn about doing reflections—from the Introduction to Leadership Scout Training document—and after your den meeting, take a minute with a cup of Joe to think about what went right and wrong or what was fun, who participated, when was it over, what could be done better, and 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.
Why no Wood Badge?
It’s hard to believe that Wood Badge didn’t make the top 50! —Jenson Crawford
Wait for Wood Badge
As much as I love Wood Badge—and have been on staff three times—this is a guide for the new leader. Wood Badge 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, especially when just getting started. I think Scouting recognizes this, which is why it’s not included [in the New Leader Guide].
Don’t miss summer camp
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.
Imperfection is OK
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 a thing or two, you’re doing ok.
Don’t force an agenda
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 that you need to impart on the Scouts, but forcing them to learn won’t work.
Scouting is supposed to be fun
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 it enjoyable for yourself, the parents, and most especially the boys!
Get to know your parents’ expertise
Get to know your Scouts’ parents and their abilities! Do you have a science teacher? Encourage him or her to host a meeting. Do you have a doctor or vet? They can help, too. Or how about a National Forest Ranger? (They are my favorite!) Many parents are more than willing to help. Get to know your group’s skills!
Knot always your only resource
First, No. 38 is why I don’t wear knots on my uniforms. I may be able to do things, and know a lot, and be a free source of information, but I have a lone scout, a boy scout troop, two crews, and a council committee to handle. I am not your resource.
Instead, I suggest getting every BSA publication, giving each a speed read through, then turn around and re-read them carefully. Your District Executive 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. YOU are the one who has to know the answers, not the many people suggested as resources here.
Got anything else to add? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And, read through the additional comments we received on the New Leader Guide to gain even more advice on starting out as a Scouting volunteer.