Scouting Aims, Methods, and Balance



The Boy Scout program seeks to develop character, citizenship, and personal fitness—the three aims of Scouting. To do so, it relies on eight methods: advancement, association with adults, ideals, leadership development, outdoor programs, patrols, personal growth, and the uniform. As Scout leaders, we must remember that the aims are our goals; the methods are just how we get there.

To understand the difference, imagine the situation of a football coach. In simplest terms, a coach’s aim is to win football games. To achieve that aim, he calls a variety of plays, some that require passing, some throwing, and some kicking. In the end, though, it doesn’t matter how good his players are at passing, throwing, and kicking if they don’t get the ball into the end zone.

It’s the same way in Scouting. It doesn’t matter how many Eagle Scout badges you hand out or how many consecutive months your troop has gone camping if you aren’t instilling the values of character, citizenship, and fitness in your Scouts.

The problem is that some Scouters confuse the methods with the aims—focusing so much on camping, for example, that they forget to work on character or citizenship. That’s like a football coach saying in a post-game press conference, “Sure, we lost by 49 points, but we sure did pass the ball well!”

We can draw another lesson from the football analogy, and that is balance. The most successful football teams are those that can both run and throw the ball and whose offense and defense are equally strong. Few teams make it to a bowl game on the strength of their passing game alone.

In Scouting, it’s easy to focus too much on going camping or building strong patrols or having a boy-run troop. Those things are all important, of course, but you should give each of the methods sufficient attention. No one method is more important than the others.

Are you looking for more tips on how to manage a troop, maintain your sanity, and make a difference? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook today!


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