In a couple all-too-short months, it’ll be fall, and Cub Scout packs will be holding Boy Talks and Join Scouting nights, re-registering boys for another year of fun and accepting new ones into the fold. Fun lies ahead, and we don’t want them to miss out on any of it.
Boy Scout troops usually accept new members in the winter or spring when Cub Scouts cross over. Months of preparation go into planning joint activities, going to den meetings and having the Arrow of Light Scouts visit our troops. The two meet at crossover, where the new Boy Scouts take the leap into their next adventure.
Looking at the way we do things, it’s as if we open our doors twice a year: once in the fall for the Cub Scouts, and once in the winter for Boy Scouts.
But step back – it really isn’t that way.
Our doors are always open. We welcome new Scouts any time of the year, in any program. There are no tryouts and no “open enrollment period.” If a boy wants to join the adventure of Scouting, we should never say no.
Of course, this might present a few glitches. Not fitting into the program flow means that a new Cub Scout might not advance at the same time his den mates might. A new Boy Scout might not make it to summer camp or planned outings right away.
But that’s okay.
The program is designed, first and foremost, to provide boys with fun, adventure, and values. The mission of the Boy Scouts doesn’t include that every boy should join or advance at the same time. The methods that each program uses interlock, but they are all methods – a means to an end. Who is to say that a boy who doesn’t quite fulfill the requirements for rank still doesn’t have fun, or experience personal growth through associating with his peers and helping others?
One of our jobs as Scouters is to make sure each boy has the opportunity to be a Scout, and to provide the direction and support that’s needed to help them succeed. And that means not turning away any boy who wants to join in the fun whenever he decides to.
You do need to do your best to assimilate him into the program as smoothly as possible, and that means helping him with the first step – Bobcat for a new Cub Scout, and the Scout rank for a new Boy Scout. Since the other Scouts will have most likely already cleared this hurdle, someone will have to help him learn the joining requirements, possibly independently from the rest of his den or patrol. This means the den leader, patrol leader or another individual (youth or adult) could work with him to explain and teach the requirements with the aim of helping him earn the rank in the first week or two. It isn’t much fun for a new member to struggle to become one of the group for weeks on end, so don’t let him get left behind.
On the administrative side, you’ll need to get him registered right away too. He’s not eligible for advancement (which should happen quickly) if he isn’t registered. You might be tempted to hold his application and submit it with the new Scouts’ applications in the fall or at recharter time. Don’t! You’ll be making things harder for him and for your council in doing so. If you just can’t make it to the council service center to turn in the application, call your unit commissioner to find out if there’s another way to submit it, or for someone to pick it up and deliver it for you. As a commissioner, I’ve relayed several new applications (youth and adult), advancement reports and other essential forms to the council office on behalf of my units, and any commissioner would do the same if it means that a boy starts to get the most out of Scouting sooner.
If you operate with the mindset that boys are welcome to join our team anytime – even in midseason – you’ll have a more vibrant unit, happier boys and better results when recruiting season comes around again.
Image: Crowley District Scouts (UK)