Youth Leadership: Knowing When to Say When


It’s probably the most daunting, and potentially divisive, question adults in youth-led Scouts BSA troops have to ask themselves: When do we interfere with the job our youth leaders are doing?

Ask 100 veteran leaders this question, and you’ll probably get 100 different answers. That’s because–aside from issues of health and safety–it can be really hard to tell whether your interference will be helpful or harmful.

A Scouter I taught with at the Philmont Training Center several years ago had a great approach. Adults in his troop used the mnemonic device CFD to ask themselves–and each other–whether adult involvement was warranted in any given situation:

  • Confusion
  • Frustration
  • Danger

Danger is obvious, of course, but confusion and frustration hint at the gray area where adults dither over whether to get involved. But if you think about a time you’ve taught a child of any age any skill that’s a stretch for them, you’ll realize that confusion and frustration often lead to dysfunction, not accomplishment.

My friend said the adult leaders in his troop had all bought into the CFD concept. In fact, if they saw a leader beginning to overstep his boundaries, they would quietly ask “CFD?” as a gentle reminder.

Another good question is “Good chaos?” There’s no doubt that Scout-led troops tend to be chaotic, especially in the early days of transitioning from adult-led. If that chaos is productive, you should let it continue. If not, it’s time to briefly get off the sidelines and onto the playing field.

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

Collect Them All and Win!


Contest Image

Would you like to win a free copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book or The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook? Read on to learn how.

A few months ago, I stumbled across a fun book (at least for English majors like me) called The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal. As the name indicates, the book traces the history of our language through 100 representative words. Number 35 on the list is “gaggle,” as in “a gaggle of geese.” In the entry for that word, Crystal explains that such colorful collective nouns date to the 15th century. The 1486 book The Book of St. Albans contains about 200 of them, including “an unkindness of ravens” and “a prudence of vicars.”

Crystal points out that the game of creating collective nouns continues to this day. He mentions, for example, “an absence of waiters,” “a rash of dermatologists,” and “a clutch of car mechanics.”

Crystal’s book got me to thinking about Scouting. We have terms for lots of groups: Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, Venturing crews, etc. But we could always use more! Hence the contest.

Here’s how the contest works: Invent your own Scouting-related collective noun and post it in the comments section for this post (or email me at I’ll pick the top 10 and publish them here–and you’ll win a free book for your trouble.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • An aroma of Philmont hikers
  • A procrastination of Eagle Scout candidates
  • A cobbler of Dutch oven chefs

New Jersey Scouts help rescue NBC journalist Ann Curry


Bryan on Scouting

ann-curry-photo Scouts learn first-aid skills in Scouting without ever knowing when they’ll need to use them. Or on whom.

Last month a group of New Jersey Boy Scouts helped rescue the NBC journalist Ann Curry after she had broken her ankle while hiking.

On April 5, 2014, Scouts from Troop and Crew 368 out of Berkeley Heights, N.J., were on a Philmont training hike through Harriman State Park in New York.

That’s when, as Scouter Rick Jurgens told me this morning, they came across Curry. Only they didn’t know it was the Emmy-winning journalist right away.

“We were hiking along, and we came to a trail intersection,” Jurgens said, “and a lady was sitting on the ground with her one leg out. We didn’t think anything of it, but one of the guys asked if everything is OK. She said, ‘No, not really. I think I broke my ankle.’ She told us to keep going, but the guys refused.”


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Elves, Heroes, and Eagle Scouts




It’s World Cancer Day, and I’m remembering one of the most inspiring stories I’ve been able to share with readers. Ten years ago this fall, Life Scout Derek Slinger was battling cancer and rushing to finish his Eagle Scout service project before his 18th birthday. Just when his dream of becoming an Eagle Scout seemed to be slipping out of reach, a team of friends, family, elves, and cartoonists came together to create a Christmas miracle.

You can read the whole article here (text only) and here (with graphics).

Derek passed away on August 31, 2006 after a three-year battle with osteosarcoma. It’s time to stand strong against cancer.