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As the tagline promises, I’ve created this blog as a repository for ideas related to writing, Scouting, and writing on Scouting. I talk about the books I sell at EagleBook.com, my other Scouting-related writing projects, and other items of interest. I hope you find the blog of interest. If you have ideas to share, just post a comment on the About page.

Youth Leadership: Knowing When to Say When

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It’s probably the most daunting, and potentially divisive, question adults in youth-led Scouts BSA troops have to ask themselves: When do we interfere with the job our youth leaders are doing?

Ask 100 veteran leaders this question, and you’ll probably get 100 different answers. That’s because–aside from issues of health and safety–it can be really hard to tell whether your interference will be helpful or harmful.

A Scouter I taught with at the Philmont Training Center several years ago had a great approach. Adults in his troop used the mnemonic device CFD to ask themselves–and each other–whether adult involvement was warranted in any given situation:

  • Confusion
  • Frustration
  • Danger

Danger is obvious, of course, but confusion and frustration hint at the gray area where adults dither over whether to get involved. But if you think about a time you’ve taught a child of any age any skill that’s a stretch for them, you’ll realize that confusion and frustration often lead to dysfunction, not accomplishment.

My friend said the adult leaders in his troop had all bought into the CFD concept. In fact, if they saw a leader beginning to overstep his boundaries, they would quietly ask “CFD?” as a gentle reminder.

Another good question is “Good chaos?” There’s no doubt that Scout-led troops tend to be chaotic, especially in the early days of transitioning from adult-led. If that chaos is productive, you should let it continue. If not, it’s time to briefly get off the sidelines and onto the playing field.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Eagle Courts of Honor: For Crying out Loud

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Several years ago, an Eagle mom asked me a simple question: How do you tactfully suggest that court-of-honor guests leave their babies and small children at home? She was concerned that crying babies or rambunctious toddlers might detract from the dignity of the ceremony but didn’t want to offend any potential guests.

I hadn’t thought about this question before, so I consulted a couple of wedding etiquette resources. The general consensus was that putting any variation of “Leave the kids at home” would be in poor taste and that you should rely on word of mouth instead. If you feel you must say something, however, I think including the following text on your invitations might work: “We’re sorry, but nursery services aren’t available.”

You should also be prepared for those who bring their children anyway. You might have an usher seated in the back who could quietly suggest that a mom with a restless baby retire to the foyer or crying room. You can also include a note in the program asking parents with crying or noisy children to take them out to preserve the dignity of the ceremony.

Just keep in mind that those crying and noisy children may represent the next generation of Scouts!


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

Be a Scouting MythBuster

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It’s recruiting season for packs across the country–and for smart troops that realize many families are looking for new activities as the school year kicks off. And that means it’s time to put on your Scouting MythBusters hat.

What do I mean? Consider the experience of one of my old Eagle Scouts. He recently took his 1st-grade son to a pack signup night—much against the boy’s will. Brandon tried to reason with his son and finally played the dad card by insisting that they at least check the program out. When they went up to meet the Cubmaster, the boy ran away and hid. Brandon eventually found him and discovered what his problem was: he was deathly afraid of having to sleep in a tent by himself. As soon as he heard that wasn’t going to happen in Cub Scouts, he was ready to sign up.

After I posted this story on a Facebook group for Cub Scout volunteers, I heard a couple of similar stories:

  • “We had a boy at our den meeting Monday who came with his sister. He didn’t want to join because he doesn’t like to wear shorts. I assured him he could wear pants. His mom signed him up online on Tuesday.”
  • “We discussed Scouts who became astronauts with my oldest (then a Tiger) son. My 5-year-old thought that he would have to go to space if he became a Scout. Once we cleared that up, he was all about signing up to be a Lion!”

The lesson, I think, is that those of us who’ve been around Scouting a long time assume new families know more than they do. And often they have problems that can be easily overcome if we just figure out what they are.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

One Purpose or Two

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Here’s a question for you: What was the purpose of your last troop activity (or meeting or service project or fundraiser or whatever)? I’ve been thinking about that question recently because of two recent Scouting magazine interviews I did.

In the first interview, a couple of Cub Scout leaders were talking about their recruiting efforts. They said they always try to have two purposes for each activity. For example, their pinewood derbies are open to the public, so the dual purposes are fun for the Scouts and community outreach for the pack.

In the second interview, a troop leader was describing a nine-day high-adventure trip his troop had done that broke down into three distinct phases. He said each phase had a single purpose (aside from getting safely from point A to point B, of course!). With the canoeing phase, for example, the purpose was to make sure each Scout qualified for the Canoeing merit badge. He said having a singular focus helped leaders worry less when other things went wrong (like when the Scouts forgot to pack spaghetti sauce to go with their pasta).

I love both of these approaches because they force you to think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. So what was the purpose–or purposes–of the last thing you’re troop did?


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Don’t Fence Your Scouts In

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I recently spent a week serving as conference chair at the Philmont Training Center, which is the home of the BSA’s best training programs and best family vacations. (By the way, you can now enjoy the vacation part of PTC without the training part, thanks to the new Family Adventure Camp offering.)

When I was visiting one of the week’s conferences, I got to hear a presentation from a Philmont wildlife biologist about bears, mountain lions, and other animals that live at the ranch. One bit of trivia: pronghorns, the antelope-like mammals found all over Philmont, are very fast runners but very bad jumpers. Unlike the ranch’s mule deer, they can’t jump fences, so they either duck under a fence’s bottom strand of barbed wire or get stuck where they are. That’s why the U.S. Bureau of Land Management recommends putting the bottom row of wire 16 inches above the ground.

Later in the week, my wife and I drove through a couple of neighboring ranches and saw several small herds of pronghorns trying to get from one side of the road to another. Often, they would have to run half a mile along a fenceline to find a gap they could go through.

I think there’s an important lesson here for us Scout leaders. All too often, we erect fences between where our Scouts are and where they’re trying to get to. Maybe we don’t clearly communicate campout details and deadlines. Maybe we make them jump through hoops to schedule Scoutmaster conferences. Maybe we add requirements that aren’t BSA sanctioned (like full uniforms at boards of review). When we do that, they either run out of their way to find a path forward or they simply run in the other direction toward an activity they perceive is more welcoming.

What fences have you erected in your troop? How could you create more gates and less barricades.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Fun Facts at Eagle Courts of Honor

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A friend of mine is a church music director, and so he attends a lot of weddings. Whenever someone asks what he thought of a particular wedding, he says, “It was beautiful. I cried.” A stock response is often appropriate since weddings can take on a sameness that hides the personality of the happy couple. Unless you know the bride and groom well, you can go home knowing little more about them than you did when you arrived.

The same thing is true of Eagle courts of honor. That’s why I’ve always advocated making each ceremony as personal and unique as possible.

At a recent wedding rehearsal dinner I attended, I saw a new way to do that. On every table were two sheets of paper: one labeled, “What You Didn’t Know About Him,” the other labeled, “What You Didn’t Know About Her.” What followed were seven fun facts about each person: favorite movie, favorite day of the week (and why), what TV show he or she makes the other person watch, etc. It was a great way to add some personality to the festivities.

You could do the same thing at your next court of honor. Interview your honoree to gather some facts about him that won’t find their way into the ceremony: favorite merit badge, coldest campout, hardest merit badge, favorite sport, post-high-school plans, etc. Print them up on cards and spread them around the tables at your reception.

Your guests will enjoy learning a little more about your honoree. And who knows? They may even go home saying, “It was beautiful. I cried. And I learned something.”


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

Just an Organization?

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In my volunteer life, I bounce back and forth between two worlds, Scouting and my church’s youth choir program, and I’m constantly amazed at the differences between the two. Scouting offers many things the church can’t match—an advancement program that gives Scouts a clear pathway, publications like Program Features for Troops and Crews that simplify planning, and the safety policies found in the Guide to Safe Scouting, which not only keep us all safe but save us the trouble of formulating our own rules through trial and error.

But in our strength there is weakness. In many corners of the program, Scouters seem more interested in the rules than the Scouts. We’ve all run into the uniform police, who are intent on pointing out every patch that’s sewn in the wrong spot. And then there are those advancement gurus who want to maintain the purity of the Eagle Scout badge by making the advancement process even harder than it already is.

This love of bureaucracy is something Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell himself encountered. He was quoted as saying, “First I had an idea. Then I saw an ideal. Now we have a movement, and if some of you don’t watch out we shall end up with just an organization.”

Does your troop look more like an organization than a movement? If so, I hope you’ll give some thought to something else B-P said: “Scouting is not a science to be solemnly studied, nor is it a collection of doctrines and texts. Nor again is it a military code for drilling discipline into boys and repressing their individuality and initiative. No – it is a jolly game in the out of doors, where boy-men and boys can go adventuring together as older and younger brother, picking up health and happiness, handicraft and helpfulness.”

Add girls, sisters, and “girl-women” to that quote, and it’s as true today as it was when B-P said it. Or at least it should be.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.