Awhile back, a friend shared with me an article entitled “In Search of Friendly Youth Groups.” I think some of its lessons apply equally well to Scouting.
The article quoted the results of a survey that asked this question: “If you were choosing a church, how important would the following things be?” Despite the emphasis in many youth programs on glitz and great programming, the lowest rated response was “A fast-paced, high-tech, entertaining ministry approach” at 21 percent. Not much better, at 36 percent, was “Quality relationships with adults.”
So what were the top answers? “A welcoming atmosphere where you can be yourself” at 73 percent and “Quality relationships with teenagers” at 70 percent. (Respondents could choose more than one response.)
In Scouting, we focus a lot of time on planning fast-paced, high-adventure, entertaining programs, and one of our methods in adult association. Those aspects of Scouting are vitally important, but if we don’t create an environment where new Scouts feel at home and form relationships, we will have failed.
The youth group article went on to say that many kids want to be friendly to visitors, but they just don’t know how. The author suggested offering friendliness training to students so they know what to say after the initial hello. One mnemonic advice he described is S.A.L.T.:
- School: Where do you go to school?
- Activities: Are you involved in band, sports, school clubs, etc.?
- Leisure: What do you do in your spare time?
- Take: Take the visitor to meet other people (ideally people who go to the same school or participate in the same activities or leisure-time pursuits).
Those three questions and that one action can make a huge difference in helping a visitor feel at home.
This winter, second-year Webelos Scouts around the country are searching for friendly Scout troops. Will they find one at your meeting place? Is your troop worth its S.A.L.T.?