Tuesday Talkback: Balancing too much adult involvement with too little

Tuesday-TalkbackThis much we know: A unit where Scouts/Venturers do everything without feedback or coaching from adult leaders is taking the “youth-led” concept too far. And a unit where adult leaders plan trips and lead meetings isn’t taking the concept far enough.

So where’s the line?

That’s what Scouter Michael Dulle wondered in an email to me. He writes:

There is a fine line for a good balance of a boy-led Scout unit vs. a hands-on, adult-led unit. I am totally in favor of the boy-led unit. However, there can be too much boy leadership in a unit, especially when the Scoutmaster abdicates his leadership role.

The troop of which I am member of is closer to a good balance than I’ve seen in other units I have witnessed. How do you create and maintain good, balanced unit leadership?

Great question, Michael. Cub Scouting, where adult leaders must take on an active leadership role, doesn’t deal with this problem, of course. But Michael’s question gets at a real dilemma in Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews.

Share how it works in your troop or crew, and consider these questions when responding in the comments below:

Is your unit youth-led? Ask yourself these questions:
  • Where do adult leaders sit during weekly meetings? When, if ever, do they speak?
  • Who does the majority of trip planning, including making reservations at state parks or figuring out menus?
  • If a Scout or Venturer misses a few meetings, who contacts the youth to check in?
  • Who runs courts of honor and hands out awards to Scouts?
  • During planning meetings, at what point do adults chime in?
  • Describe an adult leader’s role during a weekend camp-out.
  • Who handles advancement tracking and unit finances?
  • Who updates the troop or crew’s Website and Facebook page?

Photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by Calypso Orchid

39 thoughts on “Tuesday Talkback: Balancing too much adult involvement with too little

  1. Thank you for these. My son is about to bridge to a Troop and it’s helpful to know what questions I should be asking.

  2. Youth leadership is an important aspect of the Boy Scouting and Venturing programs, but it is not the only important aspect. The _whole_ program has to go on in order to fulfill BSA’s mission, so you can’t put the unit in a position where the program stops if a youth leader doesn’t know how to do his or her job, or does not do it well. So the adults (and experienced youth leaders) are gap-fillers. They fill the gap between what the youth leaders are trained to do, and what is necessary to carry out a successful unit program.

    An apt comparison is teaching a teenager how to drive. While the training is going on, you keep the car in an area where the new driver can get good practice and build skills, but it is still safe to fail — and the adult has to stay in the passenger seat while the new driver operates the controls. Then they swap seats when it is necessary to go somewhere beyond the new driver’s abilities.

    This also explains why a unit with a continual flow of new members coming in will always be a bit chaotic — that is what you get when everyone is continuously learning and expanding their skills, with a healthy amount of failure. Just imagine a town where almost everyone on the road is a student driver.

    • Just to expand a bit on how adults can develop a youth-led unit. First, you need adults who have the patience to let the EDGE training technique (Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable) do its work. These adults are easy to spot: They have scars on their tongues from biting them when a youth starts to do something incorrectly, and bruises on their ankles from the manacles that prevent them from stepping in whenever they see youth who are a little confused about what they are supposed to be doing. They have the patience to let youth keep trying; the faith to keep encouraging the youth; the restraint to ask questions to help a youth get un-stuck, rather than telling them what they are doing wrong; the discretion to quietly and unobtrusively keep the youth’s efforts from completely running off the track while still allowing some high speed turns and sidetracking; and finally, the courage to let go of the wheel. Second . . . Well, there is no second.

  3. You forgot to ask “Are your scouts allowed to fail” or “Do your scouts fail”. An important process in learning.

    Do leaders save them at the last minute and merely explain what bad might have happened or allow lessons to be learned by letting them experience failure? (Assuming no risk of injury/life)

  4. Where do adult leaders sit during weekly meetings? When, if ever, do they speak?
    The adults sit in the back while the SPL is conducting the meeting. The adults give input only when the SPL needs information.

    Who does the majority of trip planning, including making reservations at state parks or figuring out menus?
    This a combined task when the a patrol is sponsoring a campout the patrol parents only assist the patrol leader and the grub-master when assistance is required.

    If a Scout or Venturer misses a few meetings, who contacts the youth to check in?
    The Scoutmaster.

    Who runs courts of honor and hands out awards to Scouts?
    The SPL, Committee Chair and some scouts the need to complete a communications requirement.

    During planning meetings, at what point do adults chime in?
    The SPL conducts the PLC and the Scoutmaster guides the discussion and planning.

    Describe an adult leader’s role during a weekend camp-out.
    The adults(patrol parents) standby and observe each patrol’s activities. The new first year scouts require some adult assistance and should have the aid of a troop guide.

    Who handles advancement tracking and unit finances?
    These are adult positions.

    Who updates the troop or crew’s Website and Facebook page?
    Our troop does not have a Facebook page. The Website is updated by the adult webmaster.

  5. Where do adult leaders sit during weekly meetings? In another room, adjacent to the the main meeting room. Out of sight, but within earshot. And the youth leaders know they are the only ones allowed in the room, as are only Scoutmasters are allowed in the meeting room. Invitation only

    When, if ever, do they speak? Only when the SPL asks me to (me being the SM)

    Who does the majority of trip planning, including making reservations at state parks or figuring out menus? Joint effort. Ideas are thrown out by the PLC, calendar dates and little “gotchas” are brought to the attention of the SPL, buy the SM or ASM (off to the side)

    If a Scout or Venturer misses a few meetings, who contacts the youth to check in? Patrol leader and/or SPL

    Who runs courts of honor and hands out awards to Scouts? SPL and ASPLs. Planning is coordinated with PLC, SM and Adv Chair.

    During planning meetings, at what point do adults chime in? Only when there may be a “gotcha” day. Example, planning a “yay, school is out” event only to find out that school was extended by a day because of snow.

    Describe an adult leader’s role during a weekend camp-out. Eat, sleep and help when asked by the PLC. And drive. Maybe, be a part of the cooking competition, or make a dessert for the winning patrol.

    Who handles advancement tracking and unit finances? Adults, on both accounts. Advancement is only signed by the adults, but Scouts are allowed to test and use the EDGE method for advancement. Too many hands signing books got to be a pain, so, for now, that’s been relegated to only the Scoutmasters, until we can get a firmer grasp.

    Who updates the troop or crew’s Website and Facebook page? I do (adult, SM). I do this to make sure that youth protection is adhered to. Having the most solid IT background in the troop, I update the webpage constantly, but the FB page is updated by a small group of adults and Scouts.

  6. I am a Webelos I Den leader in a well organized pack. Everyone has a job and things seem to run smoothly. When the boys from the Troop come to visit our Pack, they seem incredibly disorganized. This is surprising since a lot of the adults involved with the Troop came from our Pack! Recently a boy from the Troop came to our Pack meeting to tell us that the Troop was going to have a fundraiser, a spaghetti feed the next weekend. He knew the day, but not what time, and not what the cost was. He said they hadn’t told him that. Needless to say their fundraiser didn’t go very well, and a lot of that was probably due to a lack of planning and organization!

    • To me if there are a lot of adults involved and the unit is still incredibly disorganized it could indicate one of the following:
      1) Too many cooks in the kitchen: Yes getting as many parents involved as you can is necessary but just because your a committee member or a parent doesn’t necessarily give you the right to interact on a regular basis with the youth unless it is a health and safety issue.
      2) Too much adult control: Basically the adults don’t trust the boys enough to carry out their responsibilities for their particular position. Many SM’s say yes my unit is boy lead but the truth is that a fair amount of they are only boy lead at a very superficial level.
      3) Poor communication: Most units are good at communicating with adults but when it comes to youth leaders sharing important information with other youth there seems to be a break down. Remember for something to stick in any person’s mind it must be repeated at least 3 different in several different forms.

      Just because something doesn’t go very well in Scouting doesn’t mean the event or activity was a failure or a disappointment. We are here to teach responsibility and leadership. Unfortunately that means people have to get their hands dirty and try things for themselves. Experience is the best teacher.

  7. Our troop goes back and forth on all of these. There’s usually an adult willing to do some busy work, and if it keeps them from interrupting the boys, we let them go ahead. I’m a little bit more strict with the crew, allowing them the chance to fail. (That is, a poorly planned event might not to happen. Or, if safety becomes lax, we might back away from a targeted activity.) But I’ll cover for them a good bit in terms coordination and paperwork.

    But the thing that youth need adults to help them with: reflection. What went well? What not so well? What could we do differently? They are often very intimidated by criticism — both giving it and getting it. Scouting is an intimate situation where we adults should be modelling both graciously.

    If you see a unit doing this. You probably have a winner. Even if the youth are reminding the SM/Advisor of his/her foibles (perhaps months or years in the past), that might mean that there’s a level of trust there resulting from a nurturing environment.

    • Reflection is essential to leadership development. I pretty always try to carry out a review or reflection at the end of every unit meeting as when the information is fresh in the Scouts mind it is easier to have a meaningful discussion. Though one point to remember is that a reflection is not a blame game and if it turns into a blame game nothing useful will come of the reflection. Best reflection method I’ve seen that is super quick is the “Roses and Thorns” model.

  8. This is an age-old Scouting question, and, IMHO, the key determining factor that separates the great BS programs from the so-so run ones, and those that miss the mark entirely. The dilemma is simple: are they (the boys) capable of handling all the complexities of a well run BS program on their own. To most, the answer is a resounding NO, or at least, not entirely. And this is were the challenge comes in. The younger the boys you are dealing with, the less “life experience”, focus (maturity), and skill sets they have to deal with these complexities. One school of thought says: “its just easier to do it for them so they enjoy a great program”. The other says: “let them learn by doing, and failing if necessary, for they will eventually learn”. To me, the correct answer lies somewhere between these opposite philosophies.

    Why do we invest so much of ourselves into this program? To make sure the boys (our sons) have a great experience, or to build character, instill values, and help them learn life skills and how to make ethical choices in life? The latter I hope you find yourself answering! If this be the case, then it is incumbent upon us to let them manage what they are capable of doing and coach & mentor them to grow those capabilities. The fact is, a great BS program, especially in a larger troop, is a very complicated task to pull off. A lot of people, often behind the scenes, apply a lot of knowledge and time to make it all work. What does a young man know about the details of scheduling a HA trip, the complexities of advancement, or managing an account worth several thousands of dollars? What does he know about all the “rules of the road” (G2SS, SSD, SA, COS, etc.), youth protection, the finer points of fund raising, or even program planning, communications, and effective time management? I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. However, with the guidance of a concerned and patient SM (and ASMs), he can learn… In many ways, this is our most important job: to teach, to challenge…and then to let go. With this type of guidance, the boys will eventually be able to assume a fair amount of the responsibilities for their own program, at least from the decision making side of things. And they can be taught how to work closely with others to fill in those areas they know little about (support functions). Therein lies the secret to a great program and great satisfaction for all the time and troubles invested therein. As a longtime scouter and proud father of an Eagle son, I’d be interested in your perspective as well: “Scoutingislife@cfl.rr.com”

    • BS already stands for one thing in our culture and it’s not “boy scouts.” I’ll never understand anyone who tries to use it for boy scouts. Just write “scouting.”
      An adult-led program is a BS program 😉

  9. •Where do adult leaders sit during weekly meetings? When, if ever, do they speak?
    Troop – PLC sitting AT TABLE, SM&ASM’s sitting near wall around PLC.
    Crew – All sitting AT TABLE (Crew’s focus on new driver’s, not student driver’s)
    Speaking in 1. If against BSA policy – immediately; 2. If not against BSA policy only when acknowledged by SPL OR President. We supply both with an agenda “form” so all pertinent questions will be considered, cutting down on the need for extra adult talking.

    •Who does the majority of trip planning, including making reservations at state parks or figuring out menus?
    Troop – PLC and Patrols*
    Crew – All*
    *Reservations are made by those over 21 due to most facilities needing an “Adult” contact.

    •If a Scout or Venturer misses a few meetings, who contacts the youth to check in?
    Troop – Patrol Leader, ASPL or SPL.
    Crew – All youth (they are a close group)
    •Who runs courts of honor and hands out awards to Scouts?
    Troop – PLC asks for volunteers (Patrols) to plan & MC the Court of Honor.
    Crew – BECAUSE they are based on recognition via awards, the Crew Advisor publicly and with pomp & circumstance (it’s a blast) announces/signs-off requirements.

    •During planning meetings, at what point do adults chime in?
    See question 1: Speaking

    •Describe an adult leader’s role during a weekend camp-out.
    Troop – the adult patrol (Coffee Klatsch Patrol) is treated as a Troop patrol. We often lose competitions (usually due to poor skills and team storming, we get NO practice as an actual patrol. This serves as an excellent model of HOW TO BE an ineffective patrol!)

    •Who handles advancement tracking and unit finances?
    Troop – Advancement: PL’s, ASPL, SPL, ASM’s/SM then Committee Advancement Chair.
    – Finances: currently done by Treasurer, working on engaging Patrol Scribe & Scouts (tracking their Scout “account”)
    Crew – Advancement: See question 4.
    – Finances: Vice President of Finance and Crew member over 18 by NYS law for check writing. Adult backup, but only because the youth member attends college 2 hours away.

    •Who updates the troop or crew’s Website and Facebook page?
    Troop – Webmaster(youth).
    Crew – Vice President of Administration.

  10. I have an additional question. In our small troop we have went more toward the boy led troop. We have the boys work on advancement and badges in one room and the adults are in a different room. The problem we are having now are some of the younger boys disrupting the meetings and nothing is getting done. How do we fix this lack of respect and get the boys more organizedand back on task. The youth leaders are very discouraged. Do we pull those boys out or how would we handle this. Thanks.

    • Did the Scouts chose to work on the advancement? Is it age appropriate for ALL Scouts or over the younger scouts “heads”? Are they using the E.D.G.E. method with a LARGE portion focusing on Guide and Enable? Are they using games to review the previous learning? These are questions to ask your PLC which will help THEM resolve the problem WHILE allowing them to continue leading THEIR Troop.

      • That’s a good indication you should stop working on badges during the meeting. Work on skills. First aid drills (timed against a clock), building catapults, polishing gear/mending tents, backpacking shakedowns are all commendable activities. When the younger ones think they are ready they can ask to be tested on those skills.

        SPOILER ALERT: you might find your scouts taking a little longer than a year to make first class.

    • My advice is that you pull the younger “offenders” off for a descrete sidebar and ask about the meetings. Note that your observation has been that there is some disruption and could they be more supportive of the group. Works 80% for me. If not then it’s time to add consequences.

    • The purpose of the Troop meeting isn’t advancement and badges. A Troop meeting has several purposes, look in the SM Handbook for details but here is a super quick summary:
      1) Pre-Opening: A gathering activity, meeting setup SPL meets with SM for last minute changes to the meeting.
      2) Opening: The start of the meeting. Don’t do just Flags, Scout Oath, and Scout Law, mix it up, there are many things to do during the meeting.
      3) Patrol Corners: About 15 minutes for the Patrol to discuss Patrol specific issues. Patrol corners for the most part won’t meet the needs of all Patrol business. Patrol Meetings outside the Troop Meeting are essential.
      4) Skills Instruction: Work on developing a skill or learning new information. Is NOT time for advancement specific tasks or skills.
      5) Inter Patrol Activity: Some sort of game or competition that puts Patrol against Patrol. If you only have 1 Patrol divide the Troop as you see appropriate.
      6) Closing: Review announcements, SM Minute, prayer, if appropriate for your unit.

  11. The younger boys are not trained to participate appropriately in the program, the youth leaders don’t have the training and experience to handle them, and the adults aren’t present to give on-the-job training to either group. The adults have to train the youth leaders to handle the young guys; and until the youth leaders are able to do that, the adults have to train the young guys to not disrupt the program. Of course, you also have to consider whether you are setting yourself up for failure by offering a program that is boring for the younger boys.

  12. There is one aspect of the Troop that I feel needs to have primary adult leadership on: recruiting, i.e. webelos-to-scout transition. Certainly, the Boy Scouts themselves will work with the adults on this, but recruitment just isn’t in a boy’s nature or radar. The troop has to work with packs with visits, camping, cross-overs etc. and unless you have either a very mature SPL or Boy Scout, this kind of level of planning and pack/troop interaction probably isn’t going to happen.

    I think either a Committee Member in conjunction with a ASM should make preparations and plan activities with the pack. Once those plans are made, then Boy Scouts can lead them like camping, provisional patrol guides, cross-over ceremonies. etc. But it will probably be an adult who does the top-tier planning when it comes to recruitment.

    • Webelos to Scout Transition IMHO is always better run by a youth leader with an adult adviser. Best adult adviser is the ASM for new Scouts/New Scout patrol. Committee works with the ASM not directly with the youth. Develop and implement a Den Chief program as that seems to help with retention.

    • Really???


      Sorry mikey, the best recruiters are the boys who are thrilled with the Program.

      The boys, if YOU let them, will plan and sell the program they want, probably get some friends to join in.

      That is how my troop went from 8 to 38 in the last 24 months.

      It isn’t my program but the boys, they run it as they see fit.

  13. Where do adult leaders sit during weekly meetings? When, if ever, do they speak?
    Adult leaders stand at the back and side of the room. I (SM) will sometimes be at the front standing behing the SPL and ASPLs. Adults rarely speak to everyone. Sometimes an adult will make an announcement, or add a clarification to something the Scouts are saying.

    Who does the majority of trip planning, including making reservations at state parks or figuring out menus?
    Reservations, Tour Plans, etc. are done by adults. Activity planning, menus, seat assignments, etc. are done by Scouts.

    If a Scout or Venturer misses a few meetings, who contacts the youth to check in?
    His patrol leader.

    Who runs courts of honor and hands out awards to Scouts?
    Court of Honor is run by 2 Scouts (different each one) who are working on Communication mb. They are mentored by a committee member through the planning, script writing, volunteer selection, etc. They along with the SPL do most of the program. I as SM actually hand out the awards, and shake the hand of each Scout who is receiving ranks.

    During planning meetings, at what point do adults chime in?
    We will provide ideas, ask prompting questions to get them to think about practicality or safety of their plans.

    Describe an adult leader’s role during a weekend camp-out.
    Driving, safety oversight. Sometimes teaching, depending on the activities chosen by the Scouts.

    Who handles advancement tracking and unit finances?
    These are committee positions.

    Who updates the troop or crew’s Website and Facebook page?
    Scout webmaster and historian do a lot, but adult webmaster do some of the big or urgent updates.

  14. Semi-painful issue here for me — I served 1991-1995 as Scoutmaster before moving away. I returned to scouting in my old district and council when my oldest son became a Tiger Cub in 2011. My pack is “independent” with no troop at our Chartering Organization. The first year I was with the Pack, our Arrow Of Light Den had already locked in to a troop because the Den Leader and his older sons were already members. The next year, my old troop had a real shot at recruiting our large Webelos den — it came down to them, or to a newer troop that was run by one of my former assistants.

    For a year, the Webelos Den leader had been talking about how great my old troop was (they had provided him a Den Chief and loaned equipment) — but when it came time to visit troops, the old troop fell flat. They had a very ambitious plan put together, of sort of a troop “open house” with presentations by various junior leaders. Sounds wonderful, but it turned out that they had never rehearsed, and some of the presenters found out they were speaking to a group of adults a mere 15 minutes before the meeting started. There was a lot of “downtime” for our Webelos, a lot of time with parents being told “Give us a minute” as the SPL frantically tried to round up his people to do their demonstrations.

    The newer troop, lead by one of my former assistants, hit the ball out of the park. They ran a normal troop meeting, where the Scoutmaster formally greeted the SPL and “gave him permission” to run the meeting (“Mr. Senior Patrol Leader, proceed with the troop meeting” and then came to speak to the Cub parents. The troop’s junior leadership crisply carried out their normally assigned duties, and the SPL and Troop Guide each came over and gave a brief talk to our parents, explaining their roles as Junior Leaders and how they would relate to the incoming Webelos.

    At one point during the meeting, one of the patrols of this troop got a bit out of hand, and an Assistant Scoutmaster walked over and had a word with the PL, before sitting down behind the patrol.

    Our adults were convinced, and more to the point, the Webelos were convinced. They voted unanimously to join the newer troop. The next two years worth of Webelos didn’t even bother to visit my old troop.

    I’m told things have improved, and the Bear Den in my pack now is talking about my old troop. (They’ve sent us a Den Chief again, and the Bear Den Leader — my son’s den leader — is also a long-time Assistant Scoutmaster of my old troop).

    It sure shows as a warning of what happens when the adult leadership merely serves as the heaviest people in the room, instead of genuinely advising and assisting the junior leadership.

  15. In our Venturing Crew (15 year old unit) the meeting is opened with everyone in a general flag & oath ceremony; then the adults retire to another room or location whilst the young adults work out the activity for the month and balance their schedules. Often an adult team is asked to join them to help clarify points around the GTSS, a transportation issue or to check the adults schedules; or to be the “over 21 year old” to make reservations. All the details for menu planning, camping arrangements, and equipment are left to the young adults.

    Afterwards, the Crew President and another young adult make a report to the Crew Advisor and the AA – Program on what was decided and the meeting is concluded.

    Since we work with high school and college aged young adults; they all know that failure is an option. Since our inception we have always allowed failure as a teaching tool.

    Since their age is a “social lot”, everyone knows who is going to be at the meeting and why they are missing … for Venturing, not such a big thing as in Boy Scout programs.

    All the functions (see a Venturing Crew organization chart) are mirrored with the young adults taking on finances, medical, advancement, communications (email and social media), etc. with their adult mentor (stress the term “mentor”, not one who bails them out).

    Looking back it was good to be in a Scout Troop for 20+ years and serve as a Scoutmaster, but the 15 years in Venturing (and now 5 in Sea Scouts) is more fun than the law should allow !!

  16. I don’t see this as a fine line, it looks like a wide strip to me. These questions must be aimed at the 18-21 year old Boy Scouts.

    My troop is full of 10 to 12 year olds, so where do I stand during a meeting? Up front with the 13 year old SPL. This shows the younger boys that the SPL has my full support and I expect them to give him their full attention even though he is probably their friend outside of scouts and could easily ignore him. Also, how do you get a 12 year old to teach wilderness survival skills to other scouts when they have barely used basic camping skills?? You don’t. That falls to the adult leaders.

    The boys come up with the menus for campouts and often complain about not having any S’mores (wasn’t on the menu). The adults decide on where and when outings will occur and who will make the reservations because, let’s face it, how many scouts in a particular unit drive ?? If the parents aren’t on board with the schedule, it doesn’t happen.
    The Advancement Chair or Committee Chair should be running the board of reviews. The SPL should be the only youth in attendance if ever.
    With the Youth leadership changing hands every 6 months, I don’t have a kid in charge long enough to run a Campout, but I do try to save my instruction for the Youth Leaders and not the individual scouts.

    Basically we have a youth and adult lead troop, with the adults doing the big stuff and the boys learning how to do everything else.

  17. Adult leaders in my troop sit in the back of the room and mingle amongst themselves. If a Scout needs an adult, they know where to go.

    The majority of trip planning depends on the outing. As in other cases I’ve read here, the adults decide where and when most outings will be, so parents are on board to volunteer. In some cases this is good. One summer we went to Gettysburg to hike the battlefield, and since none of the Scouts had ever been, the adults picked the treks. On the flip side, this is the single biggest gripe abut my unit’s operation. Each year, the Scoutmaster decides which camp and which week the troop goes. If you’re on board, great. If not, you don’t go with the troop.

    If a Scout misses a few meetings, no one checks in on them. We just assume they were busy. A lot of our Scouts are on varying sports teams, employed, and in other extra-curricular activities. We don’t employ a Chaplain or a Chaplain Aide.

    A Scout who needs requirements for Communications MB runs the Courts of Honor. Usually, the Advancement Coordinator hands the Scouts their badges at the Court of Honor, but it depends on what that particular MC wants to do. I’ve seen the MC give the advancements, but I’ve also seen the Scoutmaster and Committee Chairman do it.

    At planning meetings, the Scouts (our troop doesn’t effectively use the PLC) plan and then the SM will adjust after as he sees fit.

    The adults are on the campout to drive and supervise. They do little else. In a rare instance they may discipline or teach, but it’s a stretch to think of a time when our adults did this.

    Rank advancement goes in the Scribe’s minutes, but general advancement and finances are handled respectively by the Advancement Coordinator and Treasurer. The Scoutmaster keeps the blue cards because he needs to initial them before the Scout begins his studies.

    Our unit doesn’t have a Facebook page, but our website is maintained by our youth Webmaster with the consultation and support of an Assistant Scoutmaster.

  18. It isn’t just WHEN adults step in, but HOW. If adults are directive or even hint that they have a better plan, many youth leaders will defer to them. Adults who “close gaps” on their own initiative, often inadvertently deprive youth leaders of the experience of learning to lead.

    As adults, we need to be mentors. Mentoring is no longer leading by example–it’s leading by inquiry. Let the youth lead; if you see gaps, ask questions that will cause them to discover the gaps. If they don’t proceed to fill them, ask how they plan to fill the gaps.

    Youth-led does not mean “youth-done”–let them know it’s okay to “elegate” (task an adult, the same way they would another Scout or Venturer), especially when the task calls for adult skills or contacts, such as arranging carpools, phone calls that need to be made during school hours, etc. They should expect to hold you and other adults accountable for your assigned tasks, the same way they would anyone else. But THEY provide the direction–and if they don’t, you ask for direction the same way a Scout would/should. You model the role-appropriate behavior (and help guide their thinking when they need it)–but you don’t step in and usurp their leadership.

    Youth-led is a partnership between Scouts/Venturers and adults, with the youth leading.

  19. Where do adult leaders sit during weekly meetings?
    The Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster are in the room, typically not sitting. Depends on the activity, but the ASMs and SM are looking for teachable moments and training opportunities. The SM is watching the SPL.
    The parents are in another room or part of the meeting hall. They are not involved in the meeting at all.
    When, if ever, do they speak? They speak when asked or when the situation warrants. The SM does the SM Minute at the end of the meeting right before Vespers.
    Who does the majority of trip planning, including making reservations at state parks or figuring out menus? The Patrol Leaders Council does the planning, the Troop committee does the resourcing and the Patrol leaders along with their patrols do the meal planning. Adult leaders attending the camp out are on their own for food.
    If a Scout or Venturer misses a few meetings, who contacts the youth to check in? The Patrol leader.
    Who runs courts of honor and hands out awards to Scouts? The SPL and SM.
    During planning meetings, at what point do adults chime in? When there is a teachable moment or when asked. The only adult at the PLC planning meetings is the Scoutmaster.
    Describe an adult leader’s role during a weekend camp-out. Teach, Coach, Train and Mentor.. but not leader.
    Who handles advancement tracking and unit finances? The Troop Secretary and Treasurer (adults). The ASMs to include the JASM and Scoutmaster handle the Advancement in the book.. the Secretary handles the Troopmaster stuff.
    Who updates the troop or crew’s Website and Facebook page? The Troop webmaster for the website (along with advisor) The Scoutmaster on Facebook.. but I don’t know why.. I dislike Facebook.
    We have a nice balance of Youth Leadership and Adult mentoring. There is not one Adult Patch in a Boy Scout Troop that says LEADER.. something to think about.

  20. This post couldn’t be more timely. Our troop is plunged into caos over this very issue. The scoutmaster claims things are boy led, but NOTHING gets done and he simply shruggs his shoulders and says “boy led”. The scouts have zero idea what right looks like, they have NEVER planned an outdoor event, there is no agenda for meetings, things are made up on the fly and poorly communicated, and the scouts never learn from the mistakes they are allowed to make. What I see time and time again is scouts and parents quitting because of their frustrations. Because our community is so small there are no other options for scouting. Boy led doesn’t mean nobody led. Teach them what right looks like and expect them to do the process scouting has outlined for them. They are required to plan meetings, hold PLC’s, plan for campouts. “Boy led” should not be an excuse for a substandard program.

    • Is your SM trained? If he has been trained, has he intended Wood Badge?

      Sounds to me as the youth leaders don’t feel engaged or trusted by the adult leadership. Yes, the meeting will look like chaos but one thing to remember is that what most adults consider chaos may actually be work being done.

      More or less empower your boys, trust them, train them, have a few go to NYLT, hold the boys accountable (yes if the boys aren’t carrying out their responsibilities, they don’t necessarily deserve to wear the patch), mentor your Scouts, and hold a Junior Leader Training (JLT) in house. JLT is is now called ILST or Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops.

      Your Scoutmaster needs to be mentored, contact your Unit Commissioner or the District Commissioner they can help with this issue. Ultimately speaking if your SM is going to change, then maybe it’s time to start looking for a replacement SM. Yeah that’s a worse case scenario but it may have to be considered.

  21. There are 2 parts here: Where should happen & what happens in my troop. I will try to address both where appropriate:

    •Where do adult leaders sit during weekly meetings? When, if ever, do they speak?
    Committee members sit out in the hallway while Scouts are in the room. SM/ASMs & some other adults sit in the back of the room. SM/ASMs interact primarily with the Scouts only on an as needed basis, mostly through the SPL. Other adults do not intervene unless it is a health/safety issue.

    •Who does the majority of trip planning, including making reservations at state parks or figuring out menus? The Scouts do all the planning. The Camping Chair makes the actual reservation because of the need to have someone over 21 be the POC.

    •If a Scout or Venturer misses a few meetings, who contacts the youth to check in? Our troop wants the PLs to contact their Patrol every week at least once by phone. If the Scout has been missing meetings, the PL would ask why during the phone call.

    •Who runs courts of honor and hands out awards to Scouts? The SPL is in charge of the COH, but the emcee is a Scout working on their Communication MB. PLs hand out rank advancement and MBs to the Scouts in their Patrol. The SPL gives out the awards to the ASPL & anyone not in one of the regular patrols. The ASPL gives the SPL his MBs/awards.

    •During planning meetings, at what point do adults chime in? When Scouts get sidetracked down rabbit holes; when something is not feasible or they forgot something (often using a question such as, isn’t that Mother’s Day weekend?); or something is against BSA policy (we want to go do laser tag).

    •Describe an adult leader’s role during a weekend camp-out. Adults not SM/ASMs are drivers. They set up their own tents, help cook the adult food, and clean up after themselves. The SM/ASMs are involved with the Scouts and the program. They normally step in only for health/safety issues (all adults watch out for this) or something is being taught wrong or against BSA policy. Normally, the SPL and the senior Scouts are the ones teaching the program to the younger Scouts. Sometimes, I see the SM/ASMs doing too much work. This is especially true when it is time to clean up the camp & head home Sunday morning. As long as there is a Scout that is not engaged doing something, no adult should be moving equipment towards the trailer (except the adult patrol stuff). I see too many of our SM/ASMs carrying stuff while Scouts are horsing around.

    •Who handles advancement tracking and unit finances? Our SPL/ASPL/PLs can each sign off on 25% of all rank requirements thru First Class in a Scout’s HB. For higher ranks, it has to be a SM, ASM, or the Advancement Chair. On a regular basis, Scouts turn in their HB to the Advancement Chair to put the current info into Troopmaster. The adult Treasurer handles all the money issues. I would like to see this change, but don’t think it will.

    •Who updates the troop or crew’s Website and Facebook page? This is all adult done in our Troop, but I think that many of the duties should be turned over to the Scouts (Scribe).

    • Agreed about the website and Facebook Page. The Scout needs a mentor and needs to know the BSA policy for unit websites and social media use. They need to agree to follow this policy and follow any other directions given by the mentor. The mentor really should be an ASM but if not the Committee Scribe or PR person would be the most important.

      One thing to mention is that beyond Scribe their is a specific youth leader position called Webmaster that could help maintain and update the site.

  22. I think it is also important to realize that the amount of adult involvement can change from year to year as you see significant turnover, either leaving or bridging over from WEBELOS. A huge influx of new scouts or departure of senior scouts to a Venture Program or College will require increased involvement until everyone has bought into the system again, then you can step back and Guide or Enable more. Thinking of it as a continuum back and forth on the EDGE method. You might have to Explan and Demonstrate more at first, but your goal should always be to move into the Guide/Enable end of the spectrum as often as possible.

  23. Where do adult leaders sit during weekly meetings? Our adult leaders usually fall in with the Scouts for opening flags but after opening everyone except the Scoutmaster and ASMs retreat to the back of the room and chat, leaving the Scouts mostly on their own.

    When, if ever, do adults speak? Some announcements are given by adults, others by the SPL, other than that the SPL runs the show.

    Who does the majority of trip planning, including making reservations at state parks or figuring out menus? The boys decide what they want to do and where they want to go, then they leave it to the adults to work out the details such as reservations, but they plan their own menus and such things as tent assignments. We have found when making reservations, the folk at the other end of the phone will usually take an adult much more seriously than they will a squeaky-voiced teenager.

    If a Scout misses a few meetings, who contacts the youth to check in? Their patrol leader or the SPL usually find them at school.

    Who runs courts of honor and hands out awards to Scouts? We strive for the Scouts to run the show as much as possible; they have a basic script but can change it at will; the Advancement Chair and Scoutmaster usually hand out recognitions, sometimes with the assistance of Scouts.

    During planning meetings, at what point do adults chime in? The schedule is usually PLC-prepared before the meeting actually takes place. Adults will ask questions for clarity or make suggestions if the Scouts know what they want to do, but do not know where they want to do it.

    Describe an adult leader’s role during a weekend camp-out. We tell the adults present their job is to have fun, socialize and drink coffee. Some, such as the Scoutmaster and others, will accompany the Scouts to see what they are doing, keep track of them and help where requested.

    Who handles advancement tracking and unit finances? The adults in our troop do the advancement tracking, since the boys tend to have little patience for all the detail work; and finances, especially since the money that flows through the troop is comparable to a small business each year.

    Who updates the troop Website? The troop website is currently a sore spot for us. We have a Webmaster, who has done little more in his term than post pictures of troop events; the adults (myself as one) currently post calendar events, activity information and troop news. Our Secretary, who sees little benefit in having a website anyway, wants the Scouts to have total control. Observation — the Patrol Leaders’ Council and each patrol all currently have their own blank pages to use as they wish; they are all currently empty, hence my own stand on the issue.

    In essence, there is usuaally enough chaos at troop activities and meeting to ensure the youth are in charge; in the words of a fellow Scouter, if it looks like it’s being run by a bunch of 14- year-olds, it probably is — if it looks like it’s being run by a bunch of old farts, it probably is.

  24. Where do adult leaders sit during weekly meetings? When, if ever, do they speak?
    We sit in the back and if someone has a question, we’ll either direct them to the correct person or try to help them ourselves.

    Who handles advancement tracking and unit finances?
    The advancement chair gives to scribe who enters info into the wall chart. So, essentially tracking is done by the youth for themselves. As far as “unit” finances it is the treasurer (committee member).

    Who updates the troop or crew’s Website and Facebook page?
    Adult Webmaster. Same is true of Pack website, however, the Pack doesn’t have a Facebook page.

    I don’t think you can come up with a template, each needs to be judged, by adults whether or not the youth can actually run the program.
    Who does the majority of trip planning, including making reservations at state parks or figuring out menus?
    These are two separate points, don’t try to put them together. The majority of the trip planning is done by the PLC. Menus are planned by the patrol, except leadership who eat with the adults. Generally you need to be 18 or older to register at state/city/national campsites, an adult has to do this.

    If a Scout or Venturer misses a few meetings, who contacts the youth to check in?
    Depending upon what a few means. But generally Scoutmaster or ASM will check. There could be situations that need to be handle by adult (e.g. divorcing parents).

    Who runs courts of honor and hands out awards to Scouts?
    What do you mean by “runs”? Handing out of awards, except tenure pins for adults, is done by SPL. The adult tenure pins done by Committee Chair or Scoutmaster. If “runs” means manage, usually Advancement Chair, if you mean MC, any scout requiring this for merit badge.

    During planning meetings, at what point do adults chime in?
    Generally, at least for the past 3 decades, our youth leadership is aware of what is doable and what isn’t. Maybe I’m fortunate, that we have such capable youth leaders over the years. We speak only if asked.

    Describe an adult leader’s role during a weekend camp-out.
    This is sort of an odd question. It depends on what kind of camp-out. Surely the adult leader’s role is different for hike camps vs. drive up Council camp vs. family camp vs. crossover with Webelos vs. high adventure qualifiers.

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