I’m not sure what our exact numbers are, but it seems like we have between 40 to 45 boys and probably 35ish registered adult leaders. I get that this is not the typical profile for most Troops, but it does make it a lot easier to run a Troop of this size. Let’s face it, running any Troop is a lot of hard work and I can’t imagine running a Troop like this with only a handful of adult leaders. Instead, we are usually able to spread the work out so everyone is able to share the load.
One thing is to let the parents in on some of the fun stuff. What’s the fun stuff in Scouting? Camping, of course! In our Troop, any parent, male or female is welcome to come along with their son on any campout—all year ’round. All we ask is that they register as an adult leader, take Youth Protection Training and then abide by all the YPT rules.
This ensures that we have enough drivers for our campouts and also gives us enough leaders to ensure two-deep leadership if we decide to split the boys up into multiple activities—say, if some Scouts want to go hiking, others want to fish, and one kid isn’t feeling well and wants to hang back at camp. If you have six adults along, you are fully covered. And it’s nice for the parents to enjoy some extra time with their son and the other Scouts.
I think that’s because when the parents put a little skin in the game, it makes the boys more likely to stick with the program and succeed.
Then, once parents have been on a campout or two, we start talking to them about taking on some responsibilities within the Troop. Maybe we need some help with merit badges, a fundraiser, or we might have an open position on our Adult Committee. We look for what might be a good fit for their job skills, talents or personality and interests. And we understand if they are too busy to take us up on the offer.
It also seems to be a big help to the boys. I’ve noticed that when the parents are involved in the Troop, the boys tend to do much better than the boys whose parents just drop them off and go. I think that’s because when the parents put a little skin in the game, it makes the boys more likely to stick with the program and succeed.
We recently held a volunteer event at the end of a Court of Honor. We put out a list of vacant or soon-to-be -vacant positions and put out a broad appeal for help. We picked up about 6 new volunteers that night.
I think one important thing in encouraging parents to participate is to not try to force them into a particular mold. Maybe a parent travels a lot and can’t attend a lot of events. That’s OK, just encourage them to participate when they are in town. If the Dad has to work a lot, see if the Mom wants to help out. That’s how I got started in Scouting. Some parents are on the shy side and aren’t comfortable with dealing with a big group of people. That’s perfectly fine—we can find things for them to do to help prepare food, or work on a web page, or take some photos. I’m not especially outdoorsy, so the Troop has been very understanding about letting me bring a camping trailer, or stay in a cabin when I go on campouts, and I enjoy it much more than I ever would have expected (Previously, I’d been camping exactly TWICE in my entire life!).
Being proactive about communication is important—it isn’t often that a parent will just spontaneously volunteer. Even if you just send out a big email asking for help, many people are just a little too shy to speak up or they think someone else is more qualified to do it. But a personal invitation is somehow different. I find many people are willing to step up if you just take a moment to have a conversation with them and genuinely ask for their help. Then people are usually more than willing to get involved. If not, they will usually give you a good reason why not and often will offer to help in some other way. As in, I can’t invest the time to take a Committee position, but I could help on a campout or I could teach a merit badge.
We do a big spaghetti dinner every year for the whole Troop and I’ve put it together the last two or three years. Tip: We actually use it as a bribe to get the parents to do their recharter paperwork—hey, it WORKS! I’d trade a Part B medical form for a plate of delicious spaghetti any day.
But it’s a boatload of work to put that dinner together for like 80 people in about 90 minutes. There is no way I could do that by myself (and I’m a horrible cook!), so I look at it as a way to recruit Moms who usually aren’t very involved in other things. I usually pick out about four or five ladies and just make that simple ask—who can bring garlic bread, who wants to bring a salad, whose got a killer recipe for sauce? And every year, they step right up and we do it as a team together.
What can you do to help build parent participation in your Troop?
Author: Adrian | AdriansCrazyLife.com. Adrian is a blogger who is passionate about helping parents with parenting tips, managing their finances, and organizing their homes. She has a full-time job in the financial industry and is part of the leadership of Troop 411 at Hilltop United Methodist Church in Sandy, UT.