Eighteen years later, Jay Perry still remembers the one-two punch that caught him off guard.
First, his son’s Cubmaster told him many of Pack 3187’s families were transferring to another unit, leaving him as the sole leader. Second, the pack’s longtime chartered organization began saying it might drop the Scouting program altogether.
Perry met with his church to find out what was wrong. The group didn’t feel it was getting any value out of Scouting, and Perry’s family was the only Pack 3187 family that was a member of the congregation. The chartered organization representative offered him a lifeline, asking, “What are we going to do to change this?”
Perry responded by assuming the role of Cubmaster — he’s now committee chairman — and working to address the group’s concerns. Along the way, he created a roadmap other packs can use to build strong relationships with their chartered organizations.
Match Values and Create Value
Every chartered organization, whether it’s a religious institution, civic club or school-related group, has its own mission and set of values. While there’s usually plenty of overlap with Scouting’s mission and values (or else the organization wouldn’t have adopted Scouting in the first place), there’s rarely perfect alignment.
Perry was also quick to find examples of good alignment. Case in point: When church members met to talk about environmental initiatives, he was able to report that Pack 3187 had planted 4,000 trees the previous year.
“Everybody was like, ‘Oh my gosh. You do this?’ ” he recalls.
What’s more: He made sure Scouts were involved at the church, showing up frequently to serve as greeters, rake leaves or raise money at an annual pancake breakfast. His consistent message: “We are part of the youth group, and as part of the youth group, this is how we contribute.”
Bridge the Gap
Perry also worked to make sure his was not the only church family involved in Scouting. Every year at Gathering Sunday (the church’s fall kickoff), he manned a table to recruit new Cub Scouts. But he didn’t actually ask families to join.
Instead, he said, “We have a Scouting program. This is the day we meet. Here’s an application. I look forward to seeing you there on Tuesday night.”
And he didn’t just talk to families of boys in elementary school. When he saw someone with a newborn, he would let them know they could join the pack in just six years.
“I always wanted to make it look like we expected them,” he says.
That work paid off as more church members got involved in Scouting.
“I think that’s one of the biggest things you can do,” he says. “Once you have that base of parents from the church in your program, there’s a snowball effect. It gets bigger and bigger.”
Finally, Perry worked hard to keep lines of communication open between the church and its Scouting units. For example, he frequently met with the minister and youth minister, and promptly addressed any concerns. (Sometimes damage would be blamed on the Scouts at times they hadn’t been in the building, and he was able to quickly correct the record.)
Today, Scout leaders meet with the lead minister, youth minister, office manager and facilities manager three or four times a year to talk about Scouting. They also stand ready to work with church leaders to solve problems specific kids are having, since those problems often occur in both Scouts and Sunday school. And when the church produces its annual report, Scouting appears right alongside other ministries.
Although it took a few years, Perry’s hard work has paid off. In the years since he took over as Cubmaster, the pack has grown from two boys to about 40 — and roughly a third are members of the congregation.
“We’re now a part of that church again,” he says. “No one’s questioning why Scouting’s there anymore.”