Are We Selling Our Scouts Short?


When I was in journalism school, one of the first lessons I learned (if I didn’t know it already) was the importance of novelty in news. As the old saying goes, it’s not news when a dog bites a man, but it is news when a man bites a dog.

I thought about that truism when I read a recent Bryan on Scouting blog post about Order of the Arrow members helping to restore a Scout camp in Puerto Rico that was damaged by Hurricane Maria. A hundred Scouts from the mainland and 50 Scouts from the island worked so quickly that the camp was forced to more projects for them during the week–a nice problem to have!

As it relates to the Order of the Arrow, this was definitely a dog-bites-man story. The project, dubbed Arrowcorp Puerto Rico, was just one more example of the brotherhood of cheerful service living up to its name.

But as it relates to Boy Scouting as a whole, I wonder if it was more of a man-bites-dog story. Too often, I fear, troops planning service projects don’t really stretch themselves, while Life Scouts planning Eagle Scout service projects don’t do the sorts of transformative service projects that they’ll be proud of a decade from now. Perhaps that’s because we’re all too busy these days. Perhaps that’s because we get tunnel vision when we’re looking for project ideas. Perhaps that’s because adult leaders underestimate their Scouts.

If you’re not sure what your Scouts are capable of, consider the fact that more than a million people, many of them teens, participated in March for Our Lives rallies about gun violence in March 2018. However you feel about gun control, that’s an impressive number.

The teens involved in those rallies participated because the cause meant something to them. So did the Arrowmen who gave up their spring break to restore a Scout camp in Puerto Rico.

What means something to your Scouts? What would motivate them to earn headlines with their community service?

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

Grandparent Pins at Eagle Courts of Honor


In case you missed it, one of the newest recognition item for Eagle courts of honor is the Eagle Scout Grandparent Pin. Priced at $6.99, the pin is an affordable way for a new Eagle Scout to recognize key adults in his life, much like the Eagle Scout Mentor Pin does for Scout leaders.

So how do you incorporate these pins into a court of honor? Here’s one option:.Go through the standard presentation process, as I describe in The Eagle Court of Honor Book), where the mom pins on the medal, the Scout pins on the mother’s pin, etc., then say something like this: “We all know it takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a very special village to raise a young man like our honoree. Among (Name)’s treasured companions on his Scouting journey—and really on his whole life’s journey—have been his grandparents, (Names). At this time, he will present them with grandparent pins.”

The grandparents can then come forward to receive their pins and a heartfelt hug. You should also mention those grandparents who aren’t able to be at the court of honor because of either death or distance.

One thing to keep in mind is that audience attention tends to wane once the Scout has received his badge. That’s why I recommend keeping the presentation part of the ceremony pretty brief. While it could work to have the honoree say a word about each grandparent (and each mentor), that can get unwieldy. What’s more, his words of thanks might come easier in a more private moment after the court of honor.

For more ideas, check out my new ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download.

Scouts with Disabilities–How to Stay out of the Headlines


Boy Scouting has been in the news this week, but not for something good. The father of a Scouting with Down syndrome has sued the BSA for blocking his son from becoming an Eagle Scout. I don’t know the details of the situation, but you can read the BSA’s official response at

The unfortunate thing about this whole situation is that Scouting has almost since its founding welcomed young people with disabilities. The Kentucky School for the Blind had a Scout troop way back in 1911–they’re shown above on a hike–and just last year three blind triplets in Virginia became Eagle Scouts.

Those three Scouts and many others with both physical and mental disabilities became Eagle Scouts because the BSA has detailed procedures in place for adjusting requirements and/or allowing membership beyond the age of 18. These procedures are outlined in the Guide to Advancement, which I referred to in a Scouting magazine article earlier this year.

Again, I don’t know what happened in the Utah situation that’s been in the news, but I have a hunch as to why things like this happen. Simply put, unfamiliarity breeds confusion. When you don’t do something regularly, whether that’s filling out an income-tax form or helping a Scout with disabilities work toward the Eagle rank, you’re bound to get confused and maybe make mistakes. (Conversely, when you do something regularly–like when you’re a CPA completing dozens of tax returns–the work becomes second nature.)

So the next time you have a Scout who needs special accommodations along the trail to Eagle, take the time to read the resources the BSA has provided, including those mentioned above and those on the BSA website. And if you’re still confused, send an email to for help. Lots of people have been down the same road and would be happy to lend a hand.

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

Eagle Courts of Honor: Patches Before Pomp


In an online forum for Eagle Scouts, someone posted a common question: If a Scout wants to delay his Eagle Scout court of honor for several months (in this case, because his brother is on military deployment), is it okay to for him to go ahead and start wearing his Eagle Scout pocket emblem?

My answer: It’s not just okay. It’s advisable.

The first reason is that the BSA advancement program is built on immediate recognition. As soon as is practical, a Scout should receive the awards he’s earned. In the case of the Eagle Scout rank, he ought to receive his patch as soon as the troop gets official notification of his advancement and his medal at his court of honor.

The second reason might be even more important: It makes the photos make sense. Here’s what I mean: At every Eagle court of honor, someone ought to shoot a nice, formal portrait of the honoree in uniform, something he, his family, and his eventual descendants may well treasure for generations to come. And it makes little sense for that portrait to show a Life patch and an Eagle medal.

But, wait, there’s one more reason! Many Scouts reach Eagle pretty close to their 18th birthdays. (In 2017, the average age was 17 years, 2 months, and 15 days.) If they don’t receive their patches immediately, many will never get to wear them, having to “settle” for the Eagle Scout knot adults were instead.

So give that new Eagle Scout his patch–and maybe a needle and thread. After all, anybody who’s capable of reaching Scouting’s highest rank ought to be able to sew on at least one patch!

For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both and

Critical Changes to Youth Protection Training


This weekend, people across America will be moving their clocks ahead an hour (or not and thus showing up late for church on Sunday!). At the same time, and perhaps more importantly, the BSA is moving the calendar ahead on Youth Protection Training.

As the BSA announced this week, every registered adult leader must take the new version of Youth Protection Training by October 1 of this year–even if they just did their training a month or two ago. The reason is that the training, which is now available on the BSA website, has been overhauled to broaden the coverage and incorporate videos from abuse-prevention experts and abuse victims.

But there’s another important change that may catch troop leaders off-guard. Beginning June 1, any adult who spends 72 hours or more on a unit outing must be registered, which means he or she must have completed Youth Protection Training and must have passed a criminal background check. And the 72 hours need not be continuous. For example, a dad who spends most of summer camp with your troop but goes home for a couple of days of meetings would still need to be registered, trained and background-checked. (When originally announced this policy only applied to Boy Scout troops, but it now applies across the board.)

Here are the key points from an email the BSA sent out this week:

  • As of January 1, 2018, no new leader can be registered without first completing youth protection training.
  • As of January 1, 2018, no council, regional, or national leader will be allowed to renew their registration if they are not current on their Youth Protection Training.
  • As of September 1, 2017, no unit may re-charter without all leaders being current on their Youth Protection Training. Registrars no longer have the ability to approve charters without full compliance.
  • Effective June 1, 2018, adults accompanying a Scouting unit who are present at the activity for 72 total hours or more must be registered as a leader, including completion of a criminal background check and Youth Protection Training. The 72 hours need not be consecutive.

There’s nothing we as Scouters do that’s more important than keeping our members safe. While these changes may complicate your job in the short term, in the long term they will undoubtedly pay off by creating a safer environment for every Scout.

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

Battling Weekly Amnesia


I recently read a detective novel where the main suspect–who, of course, was not guilty–couldn’t remember anything about the time of the murder. And that meant he couldn’t defend himself until the detective shook him out of his amnesiatic state.

Amnesia is one of those strange medical conditions that seemingly only crops up in novels and strange-but-true magazine stories. But when I was Scoutmaster, I witnessed it every single week.You see, the members of our patrol leaders’ council (from the senior patrol leader on down) would promise to do things before each Thursday’s meeting and would somehow forget their promises untilt they showed up at the Scout house. Even adult leaders occasionally showed symptoms.

Fortunately, I came up with an effective method for battling this baffling ailment. Each Tuesday, my senior patrol leader had a simple assignment: to call me to discuss the agenda for that week’s troop meeting. In 15 minutes or so, we would review what the PLC had planned, and we would each hang up knowing what we needed to get done in the next two days. That usually meant he would make several more phone calls to make sure other Scouts were ready to go come Thursday night.

There are lots of ways to connect the dots between a PLC meeting and subsequent troop meetings. It’s definitely a good idea, for example, to briefly convene the PLC after each meeting to discuss the plan for the next week. But having a midweek conversation like my SPL and I did is also important. Otherwise, your youth (and adult) leaders may succumb to weekly amnesia and arrive at the next troop meeting totally unprepared for what they’re supposed to do.

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