Ask the Expert: The BSA’s ‘active’ requirement

Update (May 1, 2012): This answer is no longer valid. Read the updated answer here.

We at Cracker Barrel feel geographically blessed to be in the same building as most of the Boy Scouts of America’s major decision-makers.

So when one of you comes to us with a question about Scouting policy, we know how to find the answer. That was the case when Clarke Green had a question about advancement. Clarke writes:

“Many troops have adopted a policy that interprets the ‘active’ requirement as
attending a specific minimum percentage of meetings and outings. This seems to
be in contradiction to the BSA policy forbidding adding or subtracting from
requirements. Are troops permitted to add these percentages to requirements?”

The short answer: No. For the official reasoning, we went to Bill Evans, team leader of youth development for the BSA. Here’s what Bill told us:

“Good question.  As the writer states, it is true and stated several times in
the Advancement Policies and Procedures Guide that neither, councils,
districts, nor units may add to, modify, or delete BSA advancement policies.
This rule is highlighted, bold, and in a box so people won’t miss it.  If
a unit does modify the active requirement as the writer suggests, it could come
back to haunt them if the youth appeals a negative decision based on that
modification.  The national advancement taskforce just revisited the
definition of ‘active’ and, after great discussion, decided to leave it as it
is.  Units may not add a percentage of meetings to attend.”

We hope that clears up your question, Clarke. Thanks for asking. If you have a BSA-related question, we’ll find the answer. Just send us an e-mail.

19 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: The BSA’s ‘active’ requirement

  1. It is nice to get some insight from National BSA on issues such as this. As a volunteer it’s frustrating that we don’t get more clear guidance on what should be simple policies.
    On this specific question, however, the policy seems to be there is no policy. If “active” means “registered”, then change the requirement to “registered”.
    Otherwise we’ll continue to interpret “active” as, well, “active”.
    John Shepard
    SM T25 Sioux Council

  2. Our Pack struggles with this for the Arrow of Light requirement. In the past we’ve discussed using 50% of Pack or Den activities (combined) as a guideline for what constitutes active. There was an issue in the Spring of the Webelos I year where Scouts would be almost completely absent, but would still rank, and make good progress on AOL.
    Luckily we’ve never had to deny a Scout their AOL based on not being active enough. I’m frustrated by Bill’s answer. I recognize that a Unit can’t change a requirement, but to me this seems like a clarification of how the word active will be applied.
    Frustrated in TX,
    Pack 414 Committee Chair
    Bay Area Council

  3. I feel the same way. “active” sounds more like “active”, not “registered”.
    I don’t see a problem with with units giving the boys a guideline. Letting them know what “active” means to the unit committee.
    Now, if the unit starts getting specific with participating in certain service projects, council activities, or charter organization events…that sounds like “adding to the requirements”.

  4. I think we should keep the word ‘active’ and the broadest application of the term.
    We don’t apply a metric to Scout spirit but use an individual evaluation based on the Scout’s personal abilities.
    Some scouts can make more meetings and events than others for reasons that may not be withing their control.

  5. Real quick question,if Registered = Active, then why is that not policy across the board for all BSA awards and recognitions?
    One example is the Venturing Gold Award
    Venturing Gold Award candidates must be active and registered [emphasisis added] Venturers for at least 12 months before final qualification.
    taken from
    Other examples include teh Sea Scout ranks that require, i.e from the QUARTEMASTER requirements Membership. Attend at least 75 percent [emphasis added] of ship meetings and activities for 18 months. Present a talk on Sea Scouting and complete a service project.

  6. The problem with this concept of “Active == registered” is that this is NOT how it is in other organizations.
    Pretty much all organizations define “active” as “active”. Ie, you are active in the organization, coming to meetings, events, etc. Not just paid up in your dues.
    Most organizations set down member classes, the most common ones being “active” and “associate”. To be “active”, one must met certain levels of involvement (coming to meetings, attending events). If you can’t met those levels, you are an associate member. Active members get more rights (get to vote, hold office, etc), so people are encouraged to be involved if they want to be “Active”.
    Most national/state organizations with local chapters leave it up to the local groups to define what is active in that group. Its too bad the BSA is unwilling to allow units to do this.

  7. Is BSA National listening to the frustration from the volunteers who make this organization run? There should be some clear guidelines to make this easier for whe who are working at the unit level.
    Active does not equal registered by any stretch of the imagination. I agree that not every boy can have the same attendance level for a variety of reasons. However, you can tell a lot about Spirit by attendance, for example: I have two 13 year old Scouts on the same Basketball team. Jimmy makes nearly every Scout meeting and most outings, even showing up for meetings in his practice uniform so he doesn’t miss as much of the meeting. The other Scout, Bobby, doesn’t make any meetings or outings during Basketball season, citing that he cannot because of Basketball. Clearly, if Bobby cared as much about Scouting as Jimmy, he would at least make some meetings. Basketball is the excuse to miss meetings, showing a lack of Scout Spirit. I know there is more to showing Scout Spirit than attendance, but wanting to be at Scout meetings and events is, in my opinion, a great first measure.
    BSA National should at least allow for individual Units to come up with measures for this requirement.

  8. On one hand I think that active is one of those things that you know when you see it. There are a number of BSA members (both youth and adult) who are not active in any sense of the word, despite being registered. And sense a registration is paid up for a full year in advance, what prevents a scout from not participating in troop activities or meetings but meeting the “active” requirement because he registered several months before?
    On the other hand, it is easy for things like this to compound. Some of the literature for our troop on scout leadership positions has very restrictive requirements of who was eligible, based on meeting attendance, uniform, activity participation and rank. These were all extra to the real requirements and would have resulted in certain scouts having leadership positions they weren’t suited for while other, dedicated, scouts were shut out because they had other obligations or were more junior.

  9. I agree with Clarke here. I also think that if the Scout isn’t around, you can’t know him enough to sign him off on Scout Spirit, so that is in a sense a throttle here.

  10. By the way, “active” is defined in the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures:
    A Scout will be considered “active” in his unit if he is
    1. Registered in his unit (registration fees are current)
    2. Not dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons
    3. Engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis (informed of unit activities through Scoutmaster conference or personal contact, etc.)

  11. I’m not sure there is a correlation between the “active” and “spirit” requirements, as suggested in some of the comments. As Bill has graciously reminded us, the “active” requirement is clearly defined. The spirit requirement says “Demonstrate scout spirit by living the Scout Oath (Promise) and Scout Law in your everyday life.” The new requirements ask a Scout to provide specific examples. I see nothing in this requirement that allows a unit to use the number of meetings attended or events participated in as a measure of Spirit.
    Can a Scout demonstrate Scout Spirit without attending an established number of meetings or events? I think so. Is attending meetings and events a measure of Spirit? I think not. A Scout can certainly live the Scout Oath and Law in his everyday life without attending meetings. Can a unit leader evaluate Spirit if a Scout has not attended meetings? Yes, but it’s harder.

  12. What about the Life scout who vanish for two or three years and return to get their Eagle? They don’t go camping, they don’t interact or attend meetings, but they are “active” because they are registered. The young scouts are confused by this and have asked why he is allowed to be awarded the Eagle. This has happened several times in our troop. The other adult leaders and I don’t think it reflects the scouting spirit or sets a good example for younger scouts.

  13. I think BSA needs to decide if they want Eagle scouts who have scout skills and knowledge or Eagle scouts who are void of scout skills and knowledge. I have been a leader for almost 5 years. I have seen both sides of this debate and it seems to me that what people want is everything. Bsa wants the money and the service hours to provide them a job and the marketing material to go to corporations and say this is what we give back please support us. Problem is when the eagle scout shows up at a job interview and cant perform the corporations will soon realize what fraud has been perpetrated on them. If eagle scout has no meaning then why have it. The book says that we provide the opportunity to become an eagle scout not that we bend over backwards to give it to them at every occassion. What if the Marines used this policy to earn the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. What do you think these guys would look like in combat. When eagle scouts cant tie knots at and eagle board what good are they to the public. Sure knots are not that important to the big picture but its an indicator of what the kid has done over the years. If he is active and on trips and meetings then he should be able to perform his skills yet we are not to retest them. Why, because we are to concerned with little Johnny’s self esteem to teach them that nothing in life is free. BSA had better tighten the program or in a few years you wont have one that has any meaning in the future. With every passing year I lose more respect for your product.

  14. There should be flexability in the meaning of “active” and no fixed quotas beyond paid dues.
    Think about the Scout who is involunatily absent because of illness or hospitalizations, has valid school or religious activity conflicts (but keeps up with troop developements and does not want transfer to another unit), sabath observant (in a secular troop), family issues, prolonged family trip or visiting distant relatives, attending a distant boarding school, local travel issues, … Maybe better to have the local unit make the call for “active”, rather than develope extensive rules or make him become a Lone Scout.
    I agree that there may be a better word than “active”.

  15. What a joke. As long as you pay BSA you can buy your way to an Eagle.

    The term “Active” is usually used in conjunction with “Participation”. As for the excuses, the Eagle used to be earned though hard work. If you can’t earn it, you don’t deserve it. No one says you have to have an Eagle Scout Award. You choose to earn it by participating in the organization and it’s activities.

    As an adult people set priorities, such as going to college, working, or giving of your time to a worth cause. What better way to teach children about setting priorities then letting them choose what’s important, sports, girls, part time job, video games or earning an Eagle Scout. The decisions they make will demostrate their ability to choose wise and worthwhile decisions. I’ve got Scouts that juggle all of the above but they make sure they have time to participate and EARN their Eagle Scout. It means that much to them. When you let those who dial in their “active participation” it cheapens their efforts. Why even both require being active in the troop for X number of months after they achieved the rank of Y. Why use such language at all.

  16. I am happy that there is now a clarification on this word “active”. I am a parent and my son is so very active in SCOUTING as a whole that because he misses a few meetings and outings doesnt mean that he is not active. He misses these meetings because he is staffing events or leadership training cources. He staffs summer camp as a lifequard for three years and now that he is working on his second palm they want to say “you didnt meet the first requirement”. We have to remember that Boy Scouts of America is for the boys!!! Yes we give many free hours of to be at the meetings for the boys but really it should be the joy that rewards us, not making it hard for a boy to stay in the troop. There are some families that cant commit to 100% so okay it doesnt mean punish them for it! This is suppose to be a adventure and exciting program for boys. Gosh.. and we wonder why we cant seem to recruit or keep the boys that we have. Think about it.

  17. Pingback: Ask the Expert: The BSA’s ‘active’ requirement, revisited « Bryan on Scouting

  18. Let’s be honest. It’s very difficult to satisfy all the OTHER requirements of Eagle Scout rank if you’re not active with a capital A. So if you’re worried about someone “buying their way” to the rank by just paying dues, pay closer attention to other requirements that have less vague interpretations and enforce them properly.

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