Look in chapter 21 of the Cub Scout Leader Book and you’ll find a description of the Webelos program including an outline of the Webelos den leader’s responsibilities. It’s really brief: The Webelos den leader plans and carries out a year-round program of activities for the Webelos den.
Look just above this job description and you’ll find what is most likely the most important job of a Webelos leader:
One of the purposes of the Webelos den is to prepare boys for Boy Scouting and to graduate Webelos Scouts into a Boy Scout troop. (Emphasis added)
Of the ten purposes of Cub Scouting, the tenth – Preparation for Boy Scouts – is the most lasting, for it is in Boy Scouts where boys not only experience adventure but learn skills that will serve them their entire lives – leadership, cooperation, communication, responsibility – and the values of citizenship, character and fitness.
But the #1 reason that Webelos Scouts fail to cross over and become involved in Boy Scouts is often the Webelos den leader.
Sure, Cub Scouting is all about age-appropriate fun – for the boys – but it’s structured to move boys upward, as they grow and develop, by instilling progressively more self-reliance, responsibility, leadership and adventure. To have it all crash into a wall when they reach the end of the Webelos program puts to waste the five years that you have spent with the boys.
A 2007 column by Andy the Net Commissioner titled The Bridge to Nowhere gives us more insight into why the Webelos program is structured the way it is, and underscores the important responsibility that the Webelos den leader has to make sure that every boy has an opportunity to continue on into Boy Scouts. Andy reminds us:
The plan for Webelos Scouts is that they become Boy Scouts, in the same way that we expect our kindergarteners to go into 1st grade, 5th graders to start junior high, 8th graders to become high school students.
Don’t assume that you know what your boys intend to do, and don’t let your level of burnout dictate what your son does either. If you, as Webelos den leader, hesitate about even your own son continuing in Scouting at this crucial juncture, the other parents – and even the boys – will pick up on this. You can’t simply say “Johnny isn’t joining a troop, but go on your merry way if you want to.” There’s a reason you are called the den leader … and it’s not only part of your job but your obligation to lead them across into Boy Scouts!
I mentioned burnout; it’s really quite common among Cub parents who have held leadership roles in their pack for several years to feel burned out on Scouting after organizing years of weekly den meetings, monthly pack meetings, field trips and outings, family and den campouts, and ceremonies. You too need to look across that bridge to see what lies ahead for a parent in Boy Scouts. Talk candidly with the Scoutmaster or committee chair of the troops you visit, and they will tell you how the adult role changes substantially, just as the boys’ role does. In our troop, we try to give new parents a “pass” at first, inviting them to join the troop committee but only expecting them to do so after they’ve gotten a feel for how things go, and the understanding that the program planning is the boys’ responsibility, not the adults’. I have seen parents who were very active in the Cub Scout pack simply decide to “hang it up” at the end of Webelos, even when their son was enthusiastic and would have made a great Boy Scout.
To paraphrase a famous slogan: An Arrow of Light Scout is a terrible thing to waste. As Baden-Powell said: The spirit is there inside every boy; it has to be discovered and brought to light. Boy Scouting is where that spirit is discovered. Webelos leader: don’t fail them now!
Photo courtesy of Ann Ward. Used by permission.