It doesn’t happen very often, but on rare occasion a troop’s committee withers away as Scouts leave or age out and their parents, who served on the committee, also depart without being replaced. Sometimes, others just take on the added responsibilities rather than recruiting a replacement, until the burden gets too great and they themselves step down. When you’re wearing not just one hat but a stack of them, it’s not easy to take off just one or two.
A question arrived a few weeks ago from a Scoutmaster who said that his troop committee had essentially disbanded. The committee chair left abruptly a year or so ago, and with nobody to call meetings or coordinate responsibilities, the committee ceased to function. Over the past year, the Scoutmaster has had to pick up the pieces and perform the essential committee functions himself in addition to the job he should be doing – training and guiding the Scouts
What to do when the committee basically isn’t there any more?
Some committee functions are essential, of course, and need to be done by the committee and nobody else. For instance, if Scouts are to advance, they must meet with a board of review made up of three committee members. The Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmasters and non-registered parents can’t do it. And other functions, such as reporting advancement, renewing the troop charter and managing equipment and travel, need to be done by adults. In this particular troop, as in many troops, the function of the troop committee (and even that it exists) isn’t well known to the parents.
For a Scoutmaster without support, the first step to reëstablishing the committee could be to have an informal get together with a few of the troop’s more active adults or those who know most of the other parents. Have a blank organization chart and a roster. Go over the names, and see if anyone stands out as possible candidates that you can ask to fill the jobs. If someone is a banker, accountant or is good with finance, they’re a natural to be treasurer. Someone who comes to meetings regularly could be the committee chair, especially if they have management experience. And if anyone’s an Eagle Scout, they’d be the first ones I would approach. Start by trying to find a committee chair, because you’ll need that person to help find others to serve. (The job of the committee chair is to give away all the other jobs!)
Then, approach the individuals identified and ask them to get involved. Have ready explanations for the specific duties and a realistic estimate of the time commitment. Explain that there is training and support and that you’ll help them to get the troop committee back on its feet. I’ve found that it’s better to ask people to do specific jobs with a defined scope, rather than to just volunteer in general.
Depending on your success identifying candidates, another approach would be to have a parent meeting. It should be kept relatively short (30 minutes or so), held in conjunction with another event that the parents would normally attend, such as a court of honor. Call it a “parent information session” or something neutral – don’t hint at it being a committee organizing meeting.
The meeting should briefly illustrate the two halves of the troop – the Scout half, and the parent support half – and that, unlike Cub Scouting, where most parents usually come from, the committee roles don’t require constant program and activity planning but rather provide the support that the Scouts need to carry out their plans. Include an explanation of the committee structure and that each position has a specific responsibility, making it easier to limit one’s scope of involvement so they don’t get overwhelmed.
Don’t lean too heavily but don’t let anyone get away easily either, especially someone you feel would be valuable to the committee. Don’t take an initial “no” for an answer, but don’t be a pest. It might take two or three invitations for some before they say “yes”. They might have thought it over in the meantime and come to realize the missed opportunity. (Don’t have high expectations that you’l be stampeded with volunteers; one-on-one invitations still work better than putting out a general call.)
Be sure to have adult applications on hand. Try to get them to complete the application on the spot, even if they haven’t established a My.Scouting account and completed Youth Protection Training yet. (Show them how to do this.)
Once you have volunteers, be sure they complete troop committee training online so they’ll know something about their jobs. And don’t forget to introduce them to the families at your next court of honor or troop event.
A troop committee that has fallen into disrepair is certainly one that’s in need of commissioner service, so be sure to contact your unit commissioner for guidance through the process. If you have an active commissioner staff in your district, they may already know about your situation. (If you don’t know who your unit commissioner is, ask your district executive at the council office.) Your commissioner should also be at your parent meeting to answer any questions and offer support where it’s needed.
You should also make sure that the chartered organization is aware of the situation, for it is their responsibility to select and approve adult leadership, and that extends to the committee as well. Your chartered organization representative should be part of the process, and may even be able to help identify potential candidates. There is no requirement that adult volunteers must be the parents of Scouts.
A troop needs a committee in order to function and provide support to the Scoutmaster and the Scouts. Try not to let it weaken or fall apart, but if it does, take strong steps to reboot it.