Den leaders make plans for outings, activities and rank achievement work. The coming weeks and even the entire year are scheduled with the boys in mind, so everyone can have maximum fun and earn their ranks while they’re at it.
Packs plan overnighters, special events at pack meetings, a banquet and Pinewood Derby race. Things every boy can have fun doing.
Then we wonder why attendance is so low.
The line from the classic movie Cool Hand Luke is one of the all-time most memorable lines from the movies. The prison warden tries to get through to Luke on the chain gang in the sense that Luke just doesn’t get what the Captain is trying to tell him. But the phrase has been used in many other contexts since.
A friend of mine has a son in first grade, and this year he and his son joined one of the packs here in town. It was a homecoming of sorts for my friend, as he had attended the same school and belonged to the same pack when he was a boy. He was looking forward to seeing his son have the same fun that he did, as many of us do.
But he found frustration with trying to keep up with the myriad activities in his pack and den. He mentioned to me the other day that they had missed an activity they thought was coming up, only to check with the den leader to find that the activity had already passed.
The best-laid plans are of no value unless everyone knows about them.
Your parents, especially parents new to Cub Scouting, may not be that familiar with your pack organization yet. I recall when I was new to it and had to keep pack and den, and the leaders of each, straight in my head. There’s an outing next week – but who is in charge and who do I tell we’re coming and who collects the money and where do we meet again? It can be very confusing, even for parents who have been with you for a couple years.
This is why it’s vitally important to proactively communicate with your parents. Sure, you can make announcements at pack meetings and even hand out a calendar, but in many cases that’s not sufficient. Verbal announcements aren’t really much good – they take away from program time, there is too much to remember, too much commotion (usually) and they’re soon forgotten amid the rush to get home and ready for school the next day and off to bed. Anything that needs to be remembered needs to be written, and yes, good old paper still works best. Hand out a flyer for each event or do a pack newsletter each month. You can e-mail too, but many e-mails don’t get read, get lost in the inbox or get deleted.
One of the best ways to communicate is still person to person and the best person to do that is the den leader. Keep your parents up to date on what’s going on in the den (meetings, outings, due dates) and the pack – even if the pack leadership is doing the same. Take a moment to speak to each parent – either in a group or individually. Make sure you know they’re listening. It can just be something said to reinforce what’s in the written newsletter or flyers, but try to make that personal contact and offer an opportunity for a dialog. Someone will undoubtedly have a question, and it’s probably about something that others have thought of too but didn’t ask.
In my friend’s case, the den leader could have improved communications with a flyer or handout for the event at the previous den meeting, and called the parents who couldn’t attend to update them. Maybe even a reminder phone call a day or two beforehand. This is especially important for our newer parents who don’t know their way around Cub Scouting just yet. Yes, it could cause you to go over your “one hour a week”, but it’s for the boys! And if it’s too much for you to do, how about asking your assistant den leader, committee chair or assistant Cubmaster to do it?
You put a lot of effort in to making sure you have a fun program planned. If nobody knows about it, it’s at risk of failure if you have a failure to communicate!