Front Line Stuff
Edited by Robert Peterson
Convincing More Parents to Serve as Unit Leaders
Scouter T.H. wrote, in our October issue, that his troop was finding it hard to recruit parents as leaders. "How," he asked, "can we instill some sense of volunteerism and commitment to Scouting among these parents?"
Sometimes simply letting parents know that they are needed to make an activity successful will spark a desire to serve the troop or the Scouts.
Everyone has interests or hobbies or is an expert in a certain field of study or occupation. But some are apprehensive about volunteering because they feel inadequate.
By finding out more about the parents of his Scouts and becoming interested in them as individuals, T.H. will find opportunities to invite them to share their talents in a merit badge class, camp-out, hike, or in service opportunities.
Never overlook people in the neighborhood who may not have Scout-age sons. You may find someone who has spectacular talents and can draw a crowd of not just boys but entire families. Our troop has someone who, as a hobby, makes equipment for horsessaddles, bridles, and other tack.
Another is the chief groundskeeper at Utah State University and is an expert on plants. We also have an electrician, a dairy farmer, and an independent environmental consultant.
T.H. should take a look around and draw on the expertise in his community.
When we discovered that more than 75 percent of the Scouts who dropped out of our troop had never had a parent volunteer to help, we made a rule: Every family must volunteer for at least one job. Now our troop has almost 100 percent parent volunteerism.
We have an annual parents' meeting (the week Scouts have school finals) during which each family must sign up for a task or be assigned.
No one likes to be pressured, especially when it comes to volunteering time from busy lives. Start by taking the pressure off the parents by having family nights and other activities that involve them.
As parents become more comfortable around the Scouts, you will be able to casually address the troop committee's needs.
Point out that it is easy to put in a couple of hours a week as a volunteer. Recognize the parents who are already volunteering, and show the new parents how supportive the troop will be. Show how rewarding Scouting is.
My best advice is: Lead by example.
T.H. should try to show parents how much pleasure they will find in working with the Scouts to improve the community.
For example, some of our Cub Scouts have been involved in reseeding parts of burned-out forests on both public and private lands. My den has cleaned up the area along a stream.
After we performed the service project, we talked about the benefits to the environment and the community. Such are the rewards of volunteering and making a commitment to Scouting.
Webelos Den Leader E.A.
I tell parents, "Organization is what you make it. If you give nothing, there soon may be nothing for your son."
Some parents say, "My son doesn't want me breathing down his neck." However, they could come on outings without hanging around him, and could observe him with his peers, learning, applying, and teaching skills.
A Scout might surprise his parent as my son did at age 16 when he woke me at dawn on a bicycling overnight. He wanted to share the silvery gray dawn, the mist indistinguishable from the river's surface, the croak of a heron, the splash of a fish feeding in the shallows. His showing me those things was a high point in my life as a parent.
I invite parents to attend troop committee meetings. For uninvolved parents, the committee's work might seem to require special knowledge. Demystify it by inviting parents, telling them, "We'd love to have your input."
Troop Committee Chair N.B.W.
Copyright © 2005 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.