Steppingstones to a Lifetime of Service


One of the cool things I get to do for Eagles’ Call magazine is write about Eagle projects that have won the Adams Award at the national, region, and council levels. Some of the recipients put far more time, money, and effort into their projects than I can imagine having done when I was 16 years old!

I do worry sometimes, however, whether the pursuit of the Adams Award–and of the Eagle Scout Award itself, for that matter–gives some Scouts the mistaken impression that service projects always have to be big and bold. It’s important to remind them (and ourselves) that it’s also valuable to do small, impromptu acts of service that don’t require troop and district approval, fundraising applications, or extensive final reports. In fact, I’d rather see a Scout embark on a lifetime of informal service rather than do one huge Eagle project and then turn his back on the needs of his community for the rest of his life.

As adult leaders, we can play a vital role in inviting Scouts into a lifetime of service. How? By making service as integral a part of our programs as capture the flag and Dutch oven cobblers. Imagine the lesson you would teach if you made sure every campout included a small-scale service project, perhaps one that you don’t even plan ahead.

Let me give you an example. Recently, my wife and I went hiking in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge (which is, by the way, an awesome destination for hiking, backpacking, and rock-climbing). On one of our hikes, we crossed a stream with dry feet thanks to a series of steppingstones someone had thoughtful placed in the water. But we also crossed a stream where there were no steppingstones and our boots got soaked. Had I had a bunch of Scouts with me, I could have pointed out the difference between the two stream crossings and suggested that we take half an hour to place stones at the second crossing. If I’d been on my game, I probably could have even convinced them that the project was their idea!

Think about your last campout. If it didn’t include a service component, what opportunities did you miss? Looking ahead to your next campout, what could you do to leave the place a little better than you found it–and your Scouts a little wiser for the experience?

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at


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