Recently, I was part of the team that ran a Christian retreat for high school students.called Chrysalis. The team included a mixed group of adults and teens, all of whom had completed similar retreats in the past. One thing that really impressed me was that five of the key leaders–including the top two volunteers–were young adults who had attended previous Chrysalis weekends in the local community. These young leaders were all in college or graduate school or maybe in their first jobs, but they were still deeply connected to this program. In fact, one of them is in med school and somehow managed to juggle a schedule last fall that included team meetings and residency interviews with med schools around the country.
In Scouting, we often take it for granted that even our best Scouts will leave the program after high school and not return until they have children who are old enough to be Cub Scouts. That typically means losing them throughout their 20s at a minimum and depriving our current Scouts of mentors who are close enough to them in age to understand the challenges they face, which are totally different from the ones I faced way back in the 1980s.
I realize it’s impractical to convince a former Scout in college to commit to weekly meetings and monthly outings–especially if his college is hundreds of miles away. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to keep your young alumni involved.
You could, for example, have an alumni night each year at summer camp where you share homemade ice cream and swap troop stories from today and yesterday. Or you could schedule an annual activity that is planned and led by alumni. Or you could invite your old Eagle Scouts to Eagle courts of honor and seat them in a “Eagles’ Nest” on stage.Or you could create a troop alumni group on Facebook so former Scouts can stay connected virtually.
We pour too much blood, sweat, and tears into our Scouts to let them disappear when they turn 18. I hope you’ll find ways to retain your alumni to benefit your troop. And if you have success stories to share, post them in the comments section below.
Need more great troop leadership 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.