We had a successful University of Scouting training event in our field-service council¹ yesterday. Every other year, two of our field-service councils conduct a University of Scouting. Attendance was up, by my observation, and there was much good solid information passed along to and shared among the Scouters who attended.
My class was Strictly for Troop Committee Chairs and indeed it was almost entirely committee chairs among the dozen or so who attended. We had a lively discussion centered around the topics the people in the class most wanted to talk about. There were two main threads: getting parent engagement for a small committee of a new troop, and getting the committee to step back from planning the troop program.
On the first topic, the group offered the following suggestions:
- Get to know each parent’s interests, explain the need for each one to serve in a role supporting the troop, and offer them a choice of jobs that match their abilities and time
- Hold regular monthly committee meetings at a time and place that works best for the committee
- Stick to an agenda and a time frame (one of the keys to effective meetings)
- Don’t leave out the fun! Have a gathering where you’re not talking strictly about Scouting
The second topic brought out a few ideas too:
- The committee chair needs to understand that program planning is the role and responsibility of the Scouts, guided by the Scoutmaster.
- The committee has to realize that Boy Scouts isn’t structured the same as Cub Scouts, where adults planned and carried out the program. The troop committee supports the program planned by the Scouts, with guidance from the Scoutmaster.
- The Scoutmaster needs to take a strong role in teaching and mentoring the patrol leaders’ council in planning their program, and to ask for support from the committee.
- Training was recommended for the committee. Every committee member should take Troop Committee Challenge (it’s even better when conducted in person as a committee), and the Scoutmaster should certainly take Scoutmaster Position-Specific and Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills training.
It was a lively and productive hour with lots of class interaction. Hopefully it was a much better experience for the class than sitting and listening to an instructor talk the whole time. As for me, I got a sense of how other committee chairs have figured out how to manage their committees, and I got to meet another of my readers as well!
Thanks to those who attended not just my class but the entire event. If you have an opportunity to attend a University of Scouting in your area, take advantage of it by all means. It’s likely to be the best way to spend a Scouting day all year.
¹Here in Michigan, we’ve consolidated nine former stand-alone councils into one mega-council, the Michigan Crossroads Council, that spans the lower peninsula of Michigan. It’s subdivided into four field-service councils which provide services similar to what each council provided before.