It’s summer camp season. If you’re a Scoutmaster, that means you’ll probably spend a lot of time this summer sitting around a campsite somewhere.
Summer camp offers leaders a great chance to relax, but it’s also a great chance to hold Scoutmaster conferences with the Scouts in your troop. Unlike at troop meetings, it’s easy to find blocks of uninterrupted when you can meet with each Scout individually. (And a large campsite typically offers plenty of space to have a private conversation in full view of other Scouts and adults, as Youth Protection Guidelines require.)
Of course, most of your Scouts won’t be ready to advance in rank this summer, but that’s okay. There’s a common misconception that the Scoutmaster conference must be the last requirement signed off before the board of review. That’s simply not true. You can hold Scoutmaster conferences at any time, and they don’t even have to be tied to rank advancement. (For example, a Scout who isn’t advancing could benefit from a conference.)
In The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, I suggest that Scoutmaster conferences have five purposes:
- To make sure the Scout is ready for his next rank—not in terms of retesting or reviewing but simply checking that he’s completed each requirement and that the requirements have been signed off in his book. For the higher ranks, I also like to write in what leadership positions he held and what service projects he completed.
- To sign off on Scout spirit and participation requirements. Many Scoutmasters reserve the right to sign off on these two requirements as part of the Scoutmaster conference.
- To build rapport. Find out how he’s doing in school, what his family is like, and what his hobbies are.
- To explore problems. The Scoutmaster conference is a good opportunity to discuss behavior and attendance problems, as well as any problems the Scout sees in the troop (e.g., boring meetings, hazing by older Scouts). You need to keep the conversation positive, however.
- To set goals. Scoutmaster conferences used to be called personal growth agreement conferences, and they were supposed to include the formal setting of some sort of goal that the Scout would work toward before his next rank. Try this in your Scoutmaster conferences—but be sure to check on the Scout’s progress the next time around.
You can accomplish these purposes back home, of course, but at this time of year the best place is probably at camp.
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 https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.