One of my current projects is working on the BSA’s new Program Planning Features, which will replace the old Troop Program Features and will offer 48 updated themes to Boy Scout troops, Varsity Scout teams, and Venturing crews. In spending a lot of time looking at meeting outlines, I’ve been thinking about an old friend: the preopening.
Now, I haven’t done a comprehensive survey, but I have a feeling that the preopening–that 15 or so minutes before a troop meeting’s opening ceremony–is more or less dead in most troops. It seems like Scouts and leaders slip in the door at 6:58 (or 7:03) for a 7 o’clock meeting and move right into the meat of the meeting.
That’s a shame, because the preopening serves a couple of important functions:
- It gives rank-and-file Scouts a preview of the meeting and whets their appetite to learn more. For example, if the month’s theme is hiking, you could set up a display of hiking boots and trek poles, give out samples of trail mix, or let early arrivers explore topo maps of Philmont Scout Ranch, the Appalachian Trail, or the troop’s favorite hiking destinations.
- It gives youth and adult leaders a chance to huddle about plans for the evening and fill any last-minute gaps. For example, if the Scout who was supposed to plan the game forgot to bring required supplies, it’s better to find out before the meeting than at the moment the game is supposed to start.
The preopening is also a good time for advancement checks, Scoutmaster conferences, and games that work well with varying numbers of players. Just be sure you’re doing something that gets Scouts and adults there early and gets them ready for a productive meeting.
How do you use preopenings (if you use them at all)? Post your ideas in the comments section below.