By Darryl Alder
Mar 04, 2015

New Scoutmaster Survival Kit

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 was recently married and moved into my parents’ LDS Ward. Having just gotten back from Wood Badge, 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.

Right after you say yes to being asked to serve as Scoutmaster, you should register with the BSA. Then get a quick overview of the program with Fast Start Orientation Training. This is intended to be taken by pack, troop, team, and crew leaders, as well as unit commissioners and chartered organization representatives immediately following the acceptance of their new role. Log in to MyScouting to take this course online

downloadNow 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 Scoutmasters Handbook in a section called: The New Troop’s First Month. (My handbook might have had something like this, but how to find it when you are confronted with so many multiple tasks, I could not have guessed.)

Scoutmasters of newly established troops can use the following troop meeting plans to get the troop off to a good start. The troop meeting plans for the first four meetings are organized according to the same “Seven Step Troop Meeting Plan” used by more experienced troops, but 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 for Effective Troop Meetings” found in the Scoutmaster’s Handbook are just as valuable for a new troop as for one that has been in existence for years.Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.36.57 PM

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; they should have 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. (If you are in an LDS sponsored unit, your Stake Young Men’s President should know who your commissioner is, if you do not.)
  • 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 househod should be on this committee and one of them should be chosen to chair the group. (If yours is an LDS unit it’s time to beg the Bishopric member for help getting a committee established.)

Okay now it’s time to get some of those other adults to help to run this second troop meeting

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Take a good look at these tools:

Troop Program Features
The 36 monthly program features allow units to plan meetings and events around activities that Scouts will find challenging and exciting. They look a lot like the meetings you have been running so far, but they have a specific theme. (These are being replaced with the new “Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews: A Guide to Program Planning—Volume 1” available at your local Scout Shop or through

Troop Program Resources
This loose-leaf volume provides a number of helpful tools such as Scoutmaster’s Minutes, games, and a variety of sample ceremonies. You will notice, you will need this for the meetings listed above

Try to get to roundtable and/or position specific training before much more time goes by. Also you need to plan elections for your junior leaders. So let’s get to week three:

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This week you should hold a Patrol Leader’s Council and review the program features listed above. With 36 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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 10.12.35 PMAt 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 term 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.

NEW! Troop Annual Program Planning Conference Guide
Use this PowerPoint presentation to help guide your troop through its annual program planning conference.

Troop Calendar Template (2014-2015)
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.

Training Courses
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 | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA



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One thought on “New Scoutmaster Survival Kit

  1. AvatarLeah Overson

    Our Scoutmaster was at our house last night while we went over what we learned at University of Scouting. Reading your blog, I had a bit on insight as to how it would feel to be a new Scoutmaster. Thanks to all of those brave and willing souls who take it on!


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