If your Cub Scout pack is typical, you’ll not only be recruiting Scouts this fall – you’ll also be recruiting adult leaders. Den Leaders are the ones that packs usually need the most, and they’re the most important because they deliver the program.
Your prospective den leaders will undoubtedly be full of questions, since many will come to you with either no Scouting background or perhaps have experienced Scouting as a youth member many years ago. I found this list of questions a new den leader might typically ask, courtesy of the Chief Seattle Council. I’ve added answers you could give, but you should also consider your individual situation in your pack and council and be prepared to answer them for your prospective leaders.
How much time does being a Den Leader take?
You’ve probably heard the classic answer – it’s only an hour a week – but the true answer is closer to “it depends”. The hour a week estimate isn’t too far off the mark, though. Aside from the time you’d spend with your son doing Scout stuff, you will probably spend about an hour meeting with your assistant den leader or other parents, planning activities and gathering materials. One week out of the month, that hour will be spent with your pack committee as you help plan the pack program. In addition, you’ll want to invest some time in getting the most out of that one hour a week, including taking the Boy Scouts of America’s training courses (all done online in the comfort of your pajamas) and attending the monthly district Roundtable gathering where you’ll network with fellow den leaders and your district volunteer and professional staff (but please wear your uniform!).
How long do I hold the position?
Veteran leaders will be inclined to say that you’ll probably be hooked on being a Scouter for life, but in reality your position appointment is for one year at a time. Although most packs run on a school year calendar, your BSA registration typically runs from roughly January to December, depending on when your pack renews its annual charter. If you’re enjoying being a den leader, your pack will undoubtedly want you back next year, but if you find it’s just not for you. you’re free to say “no”.
Who do I contact for supplies? How do I pay for supplies?
It depends on what kind of supplies. Things like handbooks, uniforms and basic insignia are purchased by the parents, while rank advancement badges, adventure belt loops and participation patches are normally obtained and paid for by the pack. These items and many more can be obtained from your local council’s Scout Shop.
The supplies you’ll use during your den meetings – anything from paper, glue and scissors to rocket kits and plant seeds, as well as refreshments if you go that route, are things you’ll need to arrange for. You can either buy them yourself, or ask one of your den’s parents to pick them up. (The parents who show up and who volunteer to help are good candidates to be your assistant den leaders.) If your pack doesn’t provide the funds, you’ll want to either collect den dues from each boy or ask parents for a few dollars to defray the cost.
What if the boys are not having fun? What do I do if the kids are not listening?
If there’s one thing that Cub Scouting is all about, it’s fun! The program is designed to provide boys with fun activities with a meaningful purpose, and when run by the book, they should have a good time. If they’re not having fun, it’s probably because you’re not. Take yourself back to when you were a kid and you’ll get a better idea of what’s fun to them.
Keep in mind, too, that Scouting isn’t school and it’s not like regimented activities like a sports team. Fun is the name of the game and as long as it’s fun, the boys will actively participate. Sometimes, things will start to fall apart – we’ve all experienced it – and that’s the time to shift gears. Have another activity planned that you can switch to. Play a game, or call everyone around for a song or to practice a skit that you can perform at the pack meeting. Or if you’re at your wits’ end, hand the meeting off to your assistant. A change of pace or scenery is all they usually need.
What if I cannot make a meeting?
It happens to all of us – we’re called out of town on business, have to work late or get stuck in traffic, or others in our family have needs that we must attend to. Having an assistant den leader who can step in means that the boys never have to miss a den meeting because you’re not available. And with proper advance planning, your assistant can take over without missing a beat.
Who do I contact for help?
Probably the best thing about being a Scout leader is that you are not in this alone! Your pack’s other den leaders walked in your shoes last year or the year before. They’ll be glad to help you over the rough spots. One of your Cubmaster’s primary responsibilities is to support the den leaders as well. I mentioned Roundtable earlier – here, you’ll meet with other den leaders with the same questions as you have, and friendly, experienced Roundtable staff members who had so much fun being Cub Scout leaders that they cheerfully volunteer their time and talents just so you’ll be successful too!
Besides these human resources, your Scout Shop has an assortment of books and items to help you plan your den meetings with the boys in mind. Your pack may have a library you can use. And there’s always the Internet, full of official and unofficial resources that can help inspire you to help your Cub Scouts have fun and get the most out of Scouting.
Embarking on your first time as a den leader can be a bit scary, but once you’ve gotten into the swing of things, that one hour a week will fly by and you’ll be paid in priceless currency – the smiles and laughter of your son and his friends!
Are there other questions you’ve come across? Any ideas of your own for new den leaders? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts!