Barriers to entry

fence_250Have you ever joined something – a club, team or organization – and had to cross a hurdle in order to be a member?

Clubs have membership requirements. Most sports teams have tryouts. You have to meet the job requirements as a step in getting hired.

Scouting has its membership requirement. For Cub Scouts, it’s really simple – be a boy in grades one through five. Boys need only be eleven years old but not yet eighteen to be a Boy Scout. Simple, right?

We also have our joining requirements, but we let new members in the door before they complete, or even start, fulfilling them. I’m talking about Bobcat, of course. It’s called the “joining requirement”, but it’s not a requirement to actually join Scouting. And with the recent overhaul of the Boy Scout program, Scout has become an actual rank, just like Bobcat has been in Cub Scouts.

The difference between our “joining requirements” and most others is that not only can a new member complete the requirements after joining, but he can have fun doing it!

I recently joined an amateur radio club that requires new members to have made radio contact with at least four other members twice within six months, and have those members sponsor or endorse the prospective member. It’s a hurdle, but it was fun to make the required contacts. That’s similar to the way the joining requirements work in Scouting – and it’s fun when done properly! Show the Cub Scout salute, sign and handshake, and recite the oath and law – with help, if needed. Not too difficult, for today’s crop of first graders, and they can be completed in an evening or two. The Scout requirements are more involved and may take longer, but there’s fun involved, and it includes knives and ropes.

As Scouters, our role is to make sure that our Scouts have the opportunity to complete their first set of requirements without them seeming like requirements. That word carries a lot of weight and can be a deterrent, if only psychologically. If we say that they are going to work on requirements it may seem like school, or some other activity where fun lies ahead but you have to do this other stuff first.

Joining a soccer team wouldn’t be much fun for a first-time player if you sat him or her down in a classroom and taught all the rules of the game before there was ever an opportunity to get out and play. A better approach is to get them out on the field right away, show them how to kick the ball and let them kick it around. You can teach the rules as you go.

The same applies for new Scouts, who just want to have fun from the get-go. Make a game of the Oath and Law. Set up a scavenger hunt in your meeting place to find the words of the Law, for example. The “wolf ears” explanation for the Cub Scout sign is memorable. For the Scout requirements, challenge your Instructors and other Scouts to come up with fun ways for your new recruits and crossovers to learn them. The Teaching EDGE requirement for Tenderfoot and Life provides the perfect opportunity.

Scouting is fun! Let’s keep it that way, especially when it comes to getting our newest members going. The more fun there is at the outset, the more likely they are to stay in Scouting and derive the benefits of our values while having fun at the same time.



This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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