For the next few days, we will post the introduction from the guide, which includes a guide to annual program planning and the annual planning conference as well as monthly planning. After a series of articles covering the introduction, we will show you some examples of Program Features and how you can implement them in your LDS troop, team, or crew. Here’s to your best Scouting year ever!
Introducing the New Program Features: Now for Troops, Teams, and Crews
As the Boy Scouts of America’s mission statement says, Scouting exists “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.” There is nothing in the mission statement about meetings, outings, and other activities. However, it would be impossible to achieve our mission without dynamic, relevant programming, which also requires effective program planning. The goal of Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews is to make that planning a little easier for you, the unit leader.
These three volumes of program features bring together 48 features in three volumes for use by Boy Scout troops, Varsity Scout teams, and Venturing crews. That’s four full years of suggested programming. While your unit may not use the material here exactly as presented, it offers a launching point for you and your youth members to plan exciting programs that will keep members coming back, facilitate advancement and personal growth, and help you achieve Scouting’s mission.
Annual Program Planning
in Scouting, Planning is a two-phase process.
- Long-term planning results in an annual calendar and a set of unit goals for the year.
- Short-term planning yields detailed plans for one month’s meetings and outings—and sometimes a little more.
The Annual Planning Conference
Long-term planning happens at the annual planning conference, typically held in late spring or early summer, as soon as possible after school, community, and council calendars have been published. A month or two before the planning conference, the committee chair, unit leader, and senior patrol leader, team captain, or crew president should perform the following steps.
Step 1— Gather the necessary information
- Key school dates, like holidays, homecoming, and exams
- Community event dates, including those the unit might want to participate in and dates you should avoid
- The chartered organization’s key dates, again considering opportunities to collaborate as well as potential scheduling conflicts
- Personal dates, such as family vacations, that may affect the unit’s activities
- Key district and council dates
- Data collected from the troop resource survey or activity interest survey
- Last year’s annual plan, if you have one
- Unit priorities and goals
- Advancement records for each member
- A general outline of next year’s program
Step 2—Discuss the planning process with your top youth leader, explaining the importance of this process and his or her role in it. Discuss options for programs and activities and the unit’s goals. Share a draft outline for next year’s program, and ask for the youth leader’s input and thoughts. Be flexible at this point. You should both review the program planning conference guide, available online for troops and crews, to be on the same page with the agenda and to work ahead.
What sorts of unit goals should the draft plan include? Here are some possibilities.
- Attend summer camp.
- Have an outdoor adventure at least once a month.
- Strengthen relations with the chartered organization by planning a service project to benefit the organization and by increasing the unit’s presence, such as on Scout Sunday or Scout Sabbath.
- Earn the National Camping Award and a gold Journey to Excellence rating.
- Conduct a fundraiser to help pay for unit expenses such as new tents and other camping gear.
- (For troops) Have each patrol earn the National Honor Patrol Award at least once.
Step 3—Have the top youth leader share the draft plan with other youth leaders, who then share it with other members to get their input and ideas. Besides reviewing the draft plan, members could evaluate the current year’s plan. A useful tool is the “start, stop, continue” method, which is based on three simple questions:
- What should we start doing that we are not currently doing?
- What should we stop doing that is not working?
- What should we continue doing that is working well and helping us succeed?
It’s useful for members to have copies of the current year’s calendar available for review, as well as the draft plan. They shouldn’t limit themselves to those materials, however. They might, for example, see a need to focus more (or less) on advancement during meetings or to build more opportunities into the calendar for patrol outings or social events—priorities that may not have been considered.
Step 4—Invite the following people to attend the conference to maximize the efficiency of planning:
- The unit’s youth leaders
- Unit committee members and other adult leaders
- The chartered organization representative
- The unit commissioner (optional)
- Anyone else who might be helpful, such as parents
Keep in mind that these people will play very different roles at the conference:
- Active roles—elected youth leaders (and all members in Venturing)
- Supportive roles—unit leader, assistant unit leaders, and any other adults
To keep the planning conference as purposeful as possible, invite only those adults who actively and regularly engage in unit activities and decision making.
Author: Utah National Parks Council | Information from the introduction to the new Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews: A Guide to Program Planning