Last week we discussed some of the ways we can overcome the hesitation that Scouts and families may have at joining a troop. After as much as five years in Cub Scouts, preparing to become Boy Scouts, most boys will be looking forward to joining the adventure, and their parents will be coming with them.
The next challenge for new Scouts joining your troop is keeping them engaged and involved. Most troops have a plan in place to assimilate crossovers but if you have relatively large numbers joining all at once, or if your troop is large, it’s easy for them to get lost in the crowd. Certainly the patrol method, when properly applied, takes care of this, but it can still be confusing.
Something we don’t often think about is how our troop appears to new members. While the Scout experience is intended to be a continuous progression, there’s still some disruption as the adult leaders they’ve been with over several years are replaced or added to by others. The program is on a different level and getting used to older boys being in charge can be a challenge as well. For adults, the role changes substantially and the transition can be more disruptive than for the boys. This point was brought out at our troop committee meeting earlier this month by one of our committee members whose son joined the troop about a year ago. He said that his son was made to feel welcome by the friendship that a particular older Scout when he first visited a troop outing, and continued to show after he joined.
It’s not just the boys who need to feel welcome and accepted. The parents also need to fit in with the troop’s other adults. Our new committee member’s comments made me think back to when my older son joined the troop and we went on the first campout. The other members of the “Moose Patrol” introduced themselves, offered me a cup of coffee, and helped me feel welcome. They talked about the troop’s history and some of the great outings the boys had been on. We discussed our sons and how the Scouting experience had been beneficial in so many ways. I was impressed not only by the friendship shown by the other adults but by the respect the Scouts showed us – certainly different than the stereotype about young men’s behavior that’s all too common.
At the boy level, the patrol leaders should be reminding the members of their patrols to show kindness and brotherhood to those just joining. The nature of boys is to be competitive, but a reminder of the values of the Scout Law should help them understand how to treat the new Scouts.
Adults can engage the new adults as well. Introduce yourself (or re-introduce yourself if you know them from Cub Scouting) and describe what you do in the troop. Ask about their experiences in Cub Scouts and what their expectations are as they join the troop. Help them to understand the new role they’ll experience as adults. Guide them as they go through the process of registering their son and explain the way the program works. Introduce them to other adults, particularly the committee members they’ll need to know right away, such as the treasurer, membership coordinator and parent coordinator. Keep an eye out for interest on their part, and suggest that they might want to help with something. Don’t forget to talk about the fun you’ve had and the experience of watching your son grow in maturity, skill and leadership through Scouting.
If you’ve been involved in Scouting for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly come to appreciate how it’s like being part of a family. We all share common values as well as a desire for our sons to have positive experiences. Those joining the troop have similar hopes and dreams. Give them a warm welcome to their new family and show them the support you had when you joined.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net