Years ago, as a new Scoutmaster, I needed a commissioner to get me through the first few weeks of the job, but there wasn’t one. I had been asked to serve as a Scoutmaster for my parent’s congregation—we had just gotten married and my parents were living out of state, so we stayed in their home. Little did I know what I had taken on.
Just prior to our wedding, I had taken Wood Badge training, so you’d think becoming a Scoutmaster would not be a problem. But there it was, the whole “elephant” of program planning, campouts, patrol leaders council, roundtable, troop committee meeting, junior leader training, and worst of all troop meeting the very next week!
If you are a new Scoutmaster and feeling overwhelmed, here are some tips and resources to get you through your first few months of meetings and planning. If you are a Scout Ambassador helping a new leader, let this post guide you through the process.
Right after you say yes to being asked to serve as Scoutmaster, you should register with the BSA, that way you will start getting Scouting Magazine and your local district and council can connect with you to help you out. Then get to get a quick overview of the program with Scouts BSA – Scoutmaster Training designed for Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster and Youth Protection Training.
This is intended to be taken by troop leaders immediately following the acceptance of their new role. Log in to MyScouting to take this course online
Now it’s time to get that first troop meeting planned. Too bad I didn’t have the tools we have now!
So let me share this great little treasure tucked away in chapter five of the last edition of the Scoutmasters Handbook. It is in a section called: The New Troop’s First Month.
Scoutmasters of newly established troops can use the Troop Leader Guidebook, Volume 1 as an introduction to the Scouts BSA program. However, all leaders, no matter their experience will find this resource helpful.
And Volume 2 provides additional information for successful troop operations. Both volumes are for use by new and experienced Scout leaders alike.
The first Month of Meetings
The troop meeting plans for the first four meetings we present here follow the “Seven Step Troop Meeting Plan” used by more experienced troops. However, take into account the fact that members and leaders of a new troop might be unfamiliar with the basics of Scouting.
Scoutmasters of new troops will find that they must play the leading role in organizing and running the first meetings. Before long, though, they should be able to begin turning over leadership responsibilities to members of the new troop’s patrol leaders’ council.
The initial meetings of a new troop should be carefully planned to provide boys with a lot of fun, some learning, and the beginnings of an organizational structure. The tips found in the Guidebook are just as valuable for a new troop as for one that has been in existence for years.
Getting trough that first week is a pretty remarkable accomplishment, but before you rest too long you need to get more help.
- Call your commissioner now if they haven’t already called you. Ask the commissioner to come by to chat. They will know when the next training course is and when and where roundtable will be held.
- Also call your committee chair to see when their next meeting is. If you have no committee, it’s time to confront the parents of your Scouts; someone from each household should be on this committee and one of them should be chosen to chair the group.
Okay now it’s time to get some of those other adults to help to run this second troop meeting
Take a good look at these tools:
Troop Program Resources
Troop Program Resources is designed help troops as a planning tool. It provide resources that contribute to making parts of the troop meeting more meaningful, engaging, and fun and it supports Program Features for Troops, and Crews: A Guide to Program Planning—Volume 1–3 available at your local Scout Shop or online here:
Program Features for Troops and Crews, Vols. 1, 2, 3
These volumes bring together 48 features to help make program planning easier adult and youth leaders. The mix of topics—outdoor, sports, health and safety, citizenship and personal development, STEM, and arts and hobbies—provides the kind of variety, adventure, challenges, and opportunities for advancement units can use to keep members coming back.
Roundtable and Leader Specific Traing
Try to get to roundtable and/or position specific training before much more time goes by. Also you need to plan elections for your youth leaders. So let’s get to week three:
This week you should hold a Patrol Leader’s Council and review the program features listed above. With 48 themes there are a great selection to get them excited. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what keeps Scouts in the program. They like to have fun, do really cool, challenging stuff, go places, and learn things, even though they might not want to admit it. That is what we call program, and it doesn’t just happen by chance. It takes planning and preparations, starting with your patrol leaders’ council.
This week get them to start leading the meeting, because you and the other adults are going to be busy with this week’s hike.
At the end of the month take your troop in a hike just for fun; remember that is why they joined. In the weeks to follow you will need to hold a Program Planning Conference with your junior leaders. The steps are explained in the link. Once this is complete, you can let go and let the Scouts lead the program.
I can tell you there was nothing in my past more satisfying than my tenure as Scoutmaster, but sometimes you need some guidance. I have listed a few other helps here:
Resources to help you after that first critical month
These tools will make it easier to create newsletters, revise calendars, keep youth members and families informed, and help youth members manage the troop more effectively and efficiently.
Boys’ Life Resources
Boys’ Life produces a number of useful resources such as a planning calendar, planning charts, and other program helps.
Troop Annual Program Planning Conference Guide
Use this PowerPoint presentation to help guide your troop through its annual program planning conference.
Troop Calendar Template
This template allows you to fill in dates and events important to your unit and the annual program plan. It can be saved, revised as needed, and printed or emailed, making it easy to update and share. When you first know about an addition or change to troop activities, add that to the calendar so it will always be up to date and ready to print or share.
Troop Meeting Plan
This template provides the framework for conducting efficient, well-run troop meetings.
Troop Budget Planning
These fillable electronic forms help make troop budgeting straightforward.
Planning Your Troop’s Annual Program Budget
Troop Operating Budget Worksheet, available in PDF and Excel formats.
Guides to Unit Money-Earning Projects
Troop Resources Survey Use this survey to help get adults involved with your unit even more engaged.
The Boy Scouts of America provides a wide variety of training for volunteers and youth members. From Youth Protection training (required for every adult no matter what position is served) to courses offered at Philmont Training Center.
Author: Darryl Alder | Retired Scouter and Scout Ambassador