Memorials and Eagle Courts of Honor


I’ve told this story before, but I think it’s fitting to repeat as we move into the Memorial Day weekend.

Many new Eagle Scouts have lost loved ones who played a role in their Scouting journey, and it’s entirely appropriate to memorialize those people in some way. How to do that, how to strike just the right tone, can be challenging.

Several years back, an Eagle mom named Debbie Borden told me about her son Tim’s court of honor—a great example of how to honor a lost loved one.

Tim’s grandfather had been active in their troop for more than 50 years and was an important part of Tim’s Scouting years. Sadly, he passed away before he could see Tim become an Eagle Scout, but his presence was felt at Tim’s court of honor.

Tim often wore his grandfather’s red patch jacket to Scout functions. At his court of honor, Tim hung the jacket next to the chair where he sat. As he received his Eagle Scout badge from his brother Brian (himself an Eagle Scout), Tim held the sleeve of his grandfather’s jacket—a simple, poignant tribute to the tangible and intangible gifts his grandfather had left him.

Debbie told me, “As a mother, watching my son accept his brother as an Eagle Scout was the proudest day of my life. I could have not been prouder of my two Eagle Scouts on that day.”

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

Re-congratulate Your Eagle Scouts


I received a Facebook message this week from one of my long-ago Eagle Scouts. Patrick told me that the day before had marked 15 years since he and five fellow Scouts received their Eagle Scout badges (in what was my favorite court of honor to plan and participate in). He was looking for the group photo from that day so he could post it on Facebook, and I was happy to oblige.

Thinking about that brief exchange reminded me that I’m not very good at remembering anniversaries–I remember my own wedding anniversary, of course, but not the dates of other important events. Had you asked me two weeks ago when that six-Scout court of honor had occurred, I couldn’t have told you the date–and I would have had to do some mental math to come up with the year.

But I am good at using Microsoft Outlook. And it occurred to me this week that Outlook like other calendar programs offer Scoutmasters a great way to remember important anniversaries. Wouldn’t it be neat, for example, to put a tickler on your calendar to mark the one-year anniversary of each new Eagle Scout in your troop (or the one-year anniversary of when each Scout turns 18 or goes off to college). Rather than let that day go by unnoticed, that tickler would give you the chance to drop each Scout a note to check in and to remind him of the promises he made when he repeated the Eagle Scout Promise or the Scout Oath.

We never stop being parents to our children–even when they’re old enough to have children of their own. And the best Scoutmasters never stop being Scoutmasters–even when their Scouts grow up and sew on their own Scoutmaster patches.

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

A Sweet Treat for Your Next Court of Honor


A couple of years ago the BSA retired the Cub Scout Promise and the Law of the Pack in favor of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. At the time, there was plenty of hueing and crying about the change. What nobody anticipated was the positive effect this development could have on Eagle courts of honor.

Take a look at the picture above, and you’ll understand what I mean. It shows a bag of custom-wrapped Hershey’s Nuggets candy bars, each showing a point of the Scout Law–the perfect thing to set out at your next court of honor reception. I’m sure there are some Boy Scout leaders who could come up with this idea, but I’ve found that creativity is a recessive gene in Boy Scout leaders and a dominant one in Cub Scouters. (I’ll leave it to some Scouting geneticist to explain how a dominant gene can suddenly become recessive!)

I came across this great idea on the Cub Scout Ideas blog, where you can learn more about it. In essence, you’ll need to click over to Etsy to download the $5 template set, which I think even I could use successfully. Of course, you could create your own wrappers without much trouble, but $5 seems a low price to pay for having someone else handle the measuring and design work required.

What crafty ideas have you come across for Eagle courts of honor? I’d love to hear from you; post your ideas in the comments section below.

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

Order in the Court (of Honor)


Pinning on the badge. Reading congratulatory letters. Doing that old-standby candle ceremony. Announcing the reception. Telling about the honoree’s Eagle project. You have lots of things to cover in the court of honor, but how should you decide—as Abbott and Costello might have said—who goes first and what goes second?

In The Eagle Court of Honor Book, I’ve developed a standard ceremony outline, a skeletal structure on which you can build any sort of Eagle court of honor. Like the standard outline for troop meetings, my outline helps ensure that everything that needs to happen, happens—and in the right order.

Here’s my seven-part outline, along with a list of things that should happen during each part of the ceremony:

  1. Before the Ceremony (Displays, programs distributed, final preparation)
  2. Opening Period (Call to order, welcoming remarks, introductions and announcements, invocation, opening ceremony, formal convening of the court)
  3. Scouting Segment (A ceremony or presentation about the purpose and meaning of Scouting; e.g., a Scout Law candle ceremony)
  4. Eagle Scout Segment (A ceremony or presentation about the significance and history of the Eagle Scout award; e.g., “Trail to Eagle”)
  5. Presentation of the Eagle Badge (Honoree’s Scouting history, Eagle charge, Eagle Scout Promise, presentation of the Eagle badge, presentation of other awards and gifts, including congratulatory letters)
  6. Closing Period (Closing ceremony, benediction, closing of the court of honor)
  7. After the Ceremony (Reception, clean-up)

If  you think that outline is confining, think again. It can serve as the scaffolding on which to construct a thousand unique courts of honor, just as the basic three-act format is the basis of thousands of plays and movies.

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

Easter Lessons That Can Improve Your Courts of Honor


This past Sunday was Easter Sunday, a day when my church (like most churches across America) saw triple the usual number of worshipers. For the past few years, our church has made a special effort to be welcoming to visitors and to look at the worship experience through their eyes. A big part of that is assuming nothing, including where to find the bathrooms and where to find the hymnals. We post greeters at every entrance to the building, and we create self-contained worship bulletins that don’t require looking anything up in a hymnal.

So what’s the connection with Eagle courts of honor? Many of the guests at a court of honor will be first-time visitors to your troop and your meeting location. They’ll need to know where the ceremony will be held, where the bathrooms are, and what’s expected of them during the ceremony. If former Scouts will be asked to join the recitation of the Scout Oath and Scout Law, print the words in the program. (Yes, they may have forgotten whether courteous comes before kind.) If Eagle Scouts in the audience will be asked to form an “Eagles’ nest” on stage, give them a heads up at the beginning of the ceremony–especially if they’ll be asked to introduce themselves and tell when and where they became Eagle Scouts. (Yes, they may need to do some mental math to come up with the year.)

In short, treat your guests as, well, guests, not just as the usual suspects. If you do, perhaps you’ll see them again before next Christmas!

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

A Plethora of Pins for Eagle Courts of Honor


Once upon a time, the Eagle Scout badge was accompanied in the Eagle Scout Award Kit by a pocket patch and two other items: the mother’s pin and the father’s tie tack, which has now been replaced by the father’s pin–since relatively few dads dress up for Eagle courts of honor, or else show up in uniform. (Note that the tie tack is still available for those who prefer that option.)

Then came the mentor pin, which the new Eagle Scout was encouraged to present to an adult who played an important role in his journey along the trail to Eagle. Of course, many Eagle Scouts can think of at least two men or women deserving of a mentor pin, so the BSA soon made additional mentor pins available.

More recently, BSA Supply has introduced the Eagle Scout Grandparent Pin, designed “to be worn with pride by the grandparents of an Eagle Scout.” Given that many grandparents these days play a key role in their grandsons’ development, that addition only makes sense.

But this plethora of pins begs a question: How and when should they be given out?

To me, that really depends on the Scout and his unique circumstances. What I like to do with mentor pins is have the Scout at the end of his personal statement call up the individuals he wants to recognize, tell why he chose them, and present them with their pins. With the grandparent pins, I would have him present those at the end of the presentation phase (after he’s received his badge and presented his parents’ their pins). The emcee could say something like this: “Johnny is fortunate to have two of his grandparents, Bob Smith and Jane Jones, here today to celebrate with them. At this time, would they could forward to receive grandparent pins.”

The main thing is to remember that the highlight of any Eagle court of honor should be the presentation of the Eagle badge. Calling up four grandparents and half a dozen mentors can detract from that moment and–because of sheer volume–cheapen the meaning of each of those pins.

What’s more, there’s no reason all those pins have to be presented during the court of honor. In fact, it might be more powerful if the Scout were to meet his mentor for coffee and present her with a mentor pin or mail a grandparent pin to his granddad across the country along with a personal note.

In short, the sincerity is more important than the setting.

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

End Your Court of Honor on a High Note


Several years ago, I attended a traveling production of a Broadway musical. The play ended on a high note with thrilling music and a standing ovation.

But then something happened. A single actor stepped forward to announce that the company was collecting donations for some cause or another and that cast members would be stationed at the exits to accept our gifts. In just a few sentences, he completely destroyed the elaborate fantasy world that he and his colleagues had built over the last two hours. The problem wasn’t the cause; it was the timing. And I’m guessing the cast would have raised just as much money if there’d been an announcement in the printed program and/or posters at the exits or if he’d spoken before the show began.

The same thing happens at many Eagle courts of honor. After the presentation of the Eagle badge, which should be the ceremony’s highlight, the master of ceremonies makes additional long-winded presentations or—worse yet—announcements that drag us back into the real world far too soon.

It’s far better to make announcements at the beginning of the ceremony, letting the evening end on a high note. After all, the most important thing people should take away from your event is not that popcorn order forms are due next Thursday.

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