Last month I stepped down as our troop’s committee chair, a role I’ve held for over seven years. After selecting my replacement, I made the announcement in front of the committee at our monthly meeting, and informed our troop families a couple weeks later at our quarterly court of honor.
I was tempted to take the floor and announce loudly “I quit!” and walk off, but the announcement by itself would have sent the wrong message. In fact, I am quitting the role, but for many reasons unrelated to the job itself. Serving as committee chair has been a privilege and a pleasure. I’ve been largely free of sticky controversy or troublesome situations, and any that arose were handled cleanly and diplomatically. I’ve been blessed to have tremendous support from a great group of talented parents who gladly volunteered for committee or direct leader positions. It’s time to move on, because I don’t have sons in the troop any more, I’m needed elsewhere in Scouting, and it’s time for someone else to experience the growth that I have and to leave their legacy.
But the sentiment “I quit!” certainly could apply to any committee chair, especially at the beginning of his or her tenure. This job is like none other, in that it requires multiple talents and skills such as managing volunteers, knowing and interpreting the BSA’s rules and procedures, and being at least acquainted with financial procedures, camping equipment, outdoor ethics and advancement, all while keeping the “main aim in view” – service to our youth. It requires that we quit in a number of ways:
“I quit” being just a Scout parent.
Scout Parents are important. They can help their sons prosper in the troop. They can lend a hand when it’s needed or requested. They can help other boys by driving to campouts or assisting with fundraising. But a volunteer needs to step up above and beyond being an involved parent – he or she needs to commit personal time and resources to help the troop in a larger role, a role of leadership and responsibility. The weight of the troop rests largely on the committee chair’s shoulders – but an active and involved committee, and lots of helpful Scout Parents, can ease that burden significantly. And the work that goes into supporting a high-functioning troop benefits the volunteer because it benefits his or her own Scout too.
“I quit” thinking that I can do everything.
The key leaders in a troop – the Scoutmaster and committee chair – may have the greatest responsibilities, but it’s not up to them to do the heavy lifting. As I mentioned above, the committee chair’s job is to make sure all the committee jobs are covered by other volunteers. The committee chair shouldn’t be devoting his or her time to tasks like advancement, equipment or finance, but should recruit others to take on those jobs. Likewise, the Scoutmaster has well-defined responsibilities, such as holding conferences with Scouts and mentoring and training the troop youth leadership, but many of the other roles related to program oversight – such as coordinating summer camp or helping with recruiting – can and should be handled by assistant Scoutmasters. Key leaders need to be aware of what’s going on around them but need to find the best people for those jobs and to realize they’re not the best for most of them.
“I quit” thinking that I know better than the BSA.
Scouting has been around in the United States for over a hundred years. In that time, the Boy Scouts of America has been pretty consistent in the way things operate. There have been many changes, but the main aim is true. The oath and law have changed a bit in that time, and so have the methods, but they stand as very well defined through the various training and publications like the Scout and Scoutmaster handbooks and the Troop Committee Guidebook. It is of utmost importance that we follow these practices, or we will find ourselves departing from the true aim, and we won’t really be doing Boy Scouting any more. The committee chair needs to know the way Scouting is supposed to be, to interpret it to the troop, and to make sure that it’s followed.
“I quit” thinking that I don’t need training.
Along those same lines, it’s essential to recognize the importance of training and to insist that those responsible for the proper functioning of the troop are trained. This starts with the committee chair and Scoutmaster. It should go without saying that these key leaders must be basic trained for their positions – and some councils are requiring training as a condition of registration. In a broader and deeper sense, all direct leaders and committee members should expect to take training, and all should be encouraged to seek and participate in supplemental training such as Safe Swim Defense, Health & Safety, Climb On Safely and the others. Higher levels of training including Wood Badge, Wilderness First Aid, High Adventure (Powderhorn) and cold-weather (Okpik) courses will benefit both the trainee and the troop that they serve.
“I quit” thinking that I’m the boss.
The basis of leadership is service. Leaders exist not to tell others what to do but to help others perform at their highest and best function. Key leaders in a troop undertake this unique and pivotal role, and in so doing, we show the youth how to lead by our own example. Once you adopt the mindset that you are there to help others do their best, the rest will fall into place. Your mission becomes clearer and you naturally find answers to most any situation that crops up.
Being successful in a role like committee chair requires that we set old thinking aside, adopt new management and leadership methods and skills, and devote ourselves to the welfare of the youth and adults that we serve. Quit your old persona and thinking, become a leader in perhaps a new sense, and you’ll find your evolving role isn’t as overwhelming or frightening as you may have feared, but a lot of fun as well!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net