Commissioner’s Blog #8

“Eight Things That Should Happen at Every Great Scout Meeting”

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John A. Hovanesian, MD

October 2, 2013

Scouting’s greatest experiences usually happen in the outdoors, on camping trips and hikes, day outings and multi-day excursions.  Meetings, though, are an essential part of our program as well, helping us prepare for those outdoor experiences, teach scouting skills, and recognize achievement.  Any well-run scouting meeting should also inspire and teach life lessons.  Here are the eight elements of an effective scout meeting:

1.  Before the Meeting.  Have the entire meeting well thought out and each “cast member” prepared with his or her role.  Arrive with enough time to set up so that the early-arriving scouts can begin the gathering activity on time.  Don’t run the meeting entirely your self. Rather, share leadership with youth leaders and parents. This keeps it fresh and everyone’s participation enthusiastic.

  • 2.  Gathering Activity.  Really a pre-meeting “appetizer”, the gathering activity is something that scouts can join whether they have arrived early or not, that immediately draws them in, is easy to join even after the activity has already started (for later arrivers), and that ideally somehow ties in to the theme of the meeting.  Examples of great gathering activities can be found at these websites. Boy Scout Gathering Activities and Cub Scout Gathering Activities 

3. Opening.  With everyone assembled, in uniform and at attention, a ceremony that celebrates our country or Scouting is always in order.  Try to break free of just parading in the flags and saying the Pledge of Allegiance.  A poem, story, or song can really set the mood for the meeting beautifully.  The opening should bring people together, quiets down the tone, and mentally prepares participants for what is to come.  This site has some great ideas. 

4.  Program.  Program can be the learning of a scout skill, a demonstration from someone in or outside the pack or troop, a game or activity, but it generally accomplishes the purpose of teaching a scouting skill or lesson and it should be broad enough to apply to all the age groups in a meeting.  Alternatively, it can be broken into several subgroups, each appropriate to its audience.  Here’s a document, originally drafted in 1953, with lots of clever ideas that are still current.  Don’t look for anything about video games there, though. 

5.  Recognition.  Advancement is crucial to the success of scouts in our program, and publicly recognizing their achievements legitimizes their efforts and motivates the entire group to advance.  This should be handled quickly, but with appropriate attention to those deserving credit.

6.  Cub Master or Scout Master’s Minute.  This is an opportunity for the unit leader to tell a quick, literally one-minute story, with or without simple props, to illustrate the lesson of the meeting.   Many leaders like to stick close to the monthly program themes for cub scouts, but you might deviate from this pattern to illustrate a story in the news, a particular event that happened in the unit, or anything that inspires the audience.  Though brief, the Minute has big emotional impact for many meeting participants and is a universal favorite if done well.  Here’s a site that gives great ideas.

7.  Closing.  A song, poem, story, or simply reciting the scout oath or law again reminds participants of our purpose and puts a nice end cap on the evening.  Examples of closing ceremonies can be found here.

8.  After the Meeting.  Review with your key leaders how things went,  and make notes, mental or written, for next time you run a similar program.  Make sure everyone participates in the clean-up before leaving.

There are many variations on how to run a scouting meeting.  Some do recognition before program, others break the program into Advancement and Game for a little bit of learning and a little bit of physical activity.  Please comment below with your thoughts on making the most of scout meetings.