Not Your Father’s Scouting Program


In the lead-up to the recent addition of girls to what is now Scouts BSA, I often wondered about what unexpected outcomes the change might bring. Among those I saw early on were a grassroots groundswell of volunteer interest in starting new units (for boys and girls alike), tons of positive media exposure, and (it appears) big improvements in uniforming options for females.

One outcome I didn’t necessarily expect was how readily male Scouts would welcome females into the program. For example, the official Scouting magazine blog recently highlighted a troop whose patrol leaders’ council voted to donate $1,000 to their linked troop for girls and described how the young men leading the Order of the Arrow’s Tamegonit Lodge worked hard to ensure that young women could join the OA the very same weekend they could join troops. (The young women in question were Venturers, which is how they qualified.)

That second story reminds me of an important truth we adult leaders often fail to grasp–perhaps especially if we’re decades removed from our time as Scouts. To paraphrase an old Oldsmobile slogan, this is not your father’s Scouting program. Scouting today is different in large and small ways from the program of past generations, and when we fail to recognize the differences we fail to serve current Scouts well.

A case in point that has nothing to do with girls: When I was Scoutmaster, I did everything I could to get my Scouts to sing like my troop mates and I used to do. They never bought in to my vision, and I wasted a lot of energy that could have been better used in other ways. (Ditto for getting them to wear neckerchiefs.)

Today’s Scouting program is not better or worse than the program I enjoyed; it’s just different. That’s why we adults in Scouts BSA troops need to get out of the driver’s seat and leave the driving to our youth leaders–even if they’d rather not drive an Oldsmobile.

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

The Element of Surprise at Eagle Courts of Honor


If you’ve read The Eagle Court of Honor Book (and I hope you have!), you know that I really emphasize planning pretty much every minute of the ceremony. I even talk about giving presenters copies of the script with their lines highlighted for easy reference.

I’m not here to recant that advice. However, I do think it’s important to allow for, and even plan, some surprises for the honoree. That’s why I don’t recommend giving the honoree a script that includes (for example) the Eagle Scout charge that his mentor is going to present.

But the surprises could be even bigger–and could bring new levels of meaning to the event. Imagine, for example, a Scout whose Eagle project benefited an inner-city elementary school. Wouldn’t it be cool if those kids made thank you cards for the Scout? Or if they shot a tribute video? Or if they showed up unannounced and crashed the party? Adding something like that to the court of honor would demonstrate the impact that the honoree has far more than a wordy description of his project.

I thought about this idea of surprises when I was watching Super Bowl LIII. The game was certainly no surprising–it was really more of a snooze-fest–but one of the commercials hinted at the possibilities. If you haven’t seen it, the commercial featured Anthony Lynn, the coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, giving a pep talk to a group of first responders at a fire station. What he didn’t realize–spoiler alert!–was that the people he was talking to were actually some of the people who’d saved his life when he was hit by a drunk driver back in 2005. Not surprisingly, both he and some of the first responders become emotional during their brief reunion.

I’m not saying you should set up something that dramatic at your next court of honor. But I do hope that example inspires you to do something unexpected to make the event more meaningful for both the honoree and the audience.

What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”