Adults in the Order of the Arrow

As we’ve been discussing, the Order of the Arrow is an organization for youth members in Boy Scouting. Its governance and activities are all conducted by members under 21, and because they are the top tier of Scouts, they do it very well, with a sense of commitment to the principles of the Order as well as a big share of fun.

There is an adult presence in the OA as well. As in all other areas of Scouting, it takes adults to make things happen. Some are more direct roles in program planning and execution, while others are a back-seat advisory role. The role of the adult in the OA falls into the latter category.

How adults come into the Order of the Arrow doesn’t make a big difference in their level of involvement. Adults can be nominated by their troop committee for consideration by the Lodge adult selection committee to become a candidate. If approved, they must go through the same steps as youth members, including an Ordeal experience (with the difference being that adults are placed in their own clan) but otherwise must fulfill the same camping requirements as a youth member would. Naturally, adults are not required to be of First Class rank, since ranks are for youth members, not adults. Of course, if an adult became an Arrowman as a Scout when he was a youth, he is still an Arrowman and only needs to be current on his Boy Scouts of America registration and lodge membership status. He needn’t be nominated, selected or repeat the Ordeal as an adult.

A troop can nominate adults in any given year if one or more youth members are also elected from the troop. One adult can be nominated for every three or fewer youth that are elected. In addition, the Scoutmaster can be nominated if he is not already an Arrowman and has been registered as Scoutmaster for at least twelve months. This is a recent change brought about by the hope that the Scoutmaster would have a greater commitment to the Scouts’ OA participation if he were himself an Arrowman.

And unlike youth members, who are selected by their Scout peers on the basis of their Scout spirit, affinity for camping and general helpfulness, adults are selected, not as a recognition or “because it’s his turn”, but because they have the capacity and willingness to be of service to the OA in addition to being of good character and setting a good example of Scout spirit.

Once an adult becomes active in the Order of the Arrow, he (or she – women can become members if nominated as adults) takes on a similar role to adults in a troop. It’s one where the adults facilitate the youth members to plan and run their own program of activities through training, advising and assisting youth, either collectively or individually. This role is very different than the leadership role an Arrowman would have experienced as a youth, so it’s important that the adult OA member know and understand the differences.

Most adult Arrowmen are in a role other than a chapter or lodge adviser or assistant. For those not in an advisory role, primary responsibility is in your registered position – Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmaster, or committee chair or member. Your additional visibility as a member of the OA can serve to inspire youth. You can set the tone through your conduct and positive example. An assistant Scoutmaster could be a coach or adviser toward the Scout who serves as the Order of the Arrow Troop Representative. You can provide assistance in more tangible ways, too, such as by providing transportation to and from OA meetings and conclaves, encouraging youth members toward Brotherhood and being active, and by offering assistance to the other adults in the lodge.

Advisers hold primary responsibility toward the OA, and so their involvement is more direct. Typically, an adult adviser or assistant will work with a youth officer, training and counseling him in the performance of his duties, and by providing assistance where needed – not in running the program, but by helping the youth leaders get access to the resources they need, and to get past roadblocks that may stand in the way of success.

All adults enjoy a sense of camaraderie and satisfaction in seeing the youth plan and conduct a successful chapter and lodge program. In so doing, the youth gain valuable leadership experience, enjoy the outdoors and have the satisfaction of doing good things for Scouting and for Scouts.

This concludes our series on the Order of the Arrow. I hope it has shed some light on the OA and helped to dispel some of the misconceptions that are commonly held. If you would like more information or have questions about any aspect of the Order, get in touch with your chapter or lodge adviser, or visit the OA’s national website, oa-bsa.org.


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