Coming to Terms With Terms of Office

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In case you’ve missed it, the United States is in the midst of a presidential campaign. Whether you love him or hate him, President Obama’s time in office will end next January 20, thanks to the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which limits any president to two four-year terms.

Things aren’t spelled out that clearly in Scouting, but maybe they should be.

Think about it. When you became Scoutmaster (or whatever position you hold), how many months, years, or decades did you agree to serve? Or did your contract include a “till death do we part” clause? Other than dying, is your only way out to recruit your own replacement? What will happen to the troop if both the Scoutmaster and the committee chair step down at the same time?

It’s important that you consider questions like these if you care about your troop’s long-term health—and your own. Unlike Cub Scouting, where leaders tend to sign on for a year at a time and move up to Boy Scouting with their sons, Boy Scout leaders often serve open-ended terms. As a result, we often stay in a position long after we stop being effective or stop having fun.

Some troops address this issue with strict term limits. For example, the Scoutmaster and committee chair would serve three years at a time (with their terms staggered so they don’t leave at the same time). Other troops have official terms of just a year—typically ending during the summer—but allow a leader to stay in a position if he or she wishes to and the troop committee agrees.

There’s no right answer to handling terms of office, but there is one wrong answer: not dealing with the issue at all.

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One thought on “Coming to Terms With Terms of Office

  1. The Scouter’s Key needs three years of service, so I took that as a hint for a good tenure. I think I was in the job for four years. I started after only a half-year as an ASM, so it took a while to learn the job. Luckily, I had awesome SPLs.

    I consider the Scout leader knots as a set of minimum objectives for Scouters.

    Scouter’s Key: “Complete at least three years of registered tenure as a Scoutmaster within a five-year period.”

    http://www.scouting.org/filestore/training/pdf/511-054_WB.pdf

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