Around 2010, Boy Scouts of America examined what new packs and troops had in common and what distinguished those healthy ones from packs and troop that died quickly. One conclusion was that there were three people dedicated to the health of the new unit: the chartered organization representative, the unit committee chair, and the unit leader (e.g., Cubmaster or Scoutmaster). These key 3 people consistently worked well together toward a common vision.
BSA subsequently examined all levels of scouting to see how these lessons learned could be applied. BSA rolled out the idea of a Key 3 at every level of scouting.
For a Cub Scout Pack, the Key 3 is identified as the Chartered Org Rep, the Pack Chair, and the Cubmaster. They are what make the Pack function (but, as we used to say until May 31, 2015, “The Cub makes the Pack go.”)
So is there a Key 3 in a Cub Scout Den? According to official BSA literature, I have not seen that official designation yet (but I have not read all the new material cover to cover yet).
But, if we were looking for such a designation, what would be looking for?
In the Pack Key 3, the Chartered Org Rep handles obtaining facilities and communicates with the Chartering Organization (e.g., school, PTO, church, etc.). The Pack Chair handles planning and parents. The Cubmaster handles program delivery to the boys by leading meetings, pack activities, and pack campouts.
Using that model, what parallels are there in a Den to what we see in a Pack?
The Den Mother often feels like she has to provide the room at her house, plan the program, talk to the parents, and deliver the program. Is this the correct answer? Maybe not.
The Den Mother certainly may be responsible for offering the room, if the meeting is at her house. She definitely needs to communicate with the parents. Does she need to plan the program and deliver it?
A Den Chief is a Boy Scout who is fulfilling his rank requirement for Star rank or above by serving in a Cub Scout Den. His job is to serve as the Den Mother’s assistant and mentor to the Cubs and the Denner. For many Boy Scouts, Den Chief is their first role of responsibility. They need coaching. Once coached for a couple meetings, the Den Chief usually knows his job with a Denner and takes over the job of coaching each successive Denner.
The Denner is the temporary senior Cub Scout in the Den. He leads the other boys with advice and guidance of the Den Chief and the Den Mother. Good Dens have the Denner lead discussions about what the Cubs want to plan to do and help deliver that plan. Denners do not have much in leadership experience so they will need constant coaching.
Many Den Leaders do not like using Den Chiefs or Denners because it prevents the operation of a smooth meeting. Our goal in scouting is not to have smooth meetings without drama. It is to teach citizenship and responsibility through experiences. A successful meeting is not necessarily a smooth meeting. A successful Den Meeting has a clear chance for the Den Chief and Denner to talk to the Den Mother for 2-3 minutes before the meeting about the plan. Then before a new task, the Den mother reminds the Den Chief and Denner what to do for their next task in a matter of 15-30 seconds. There is no expectation that either the Den Chief or the Denner will remember from the before-meeting conversation. The reminders go faster, though, because of the before-meeting conversation. At the end of the meeting, before closing ceremony, the Den Mother coaches the Den Chief and Denner to have a Stop-Start-Continue conversation with the entire Den. This may only take a minute or two — short-attention spans and new concepts, you know.
Getting Den Chiefs can be difficult with the Boy Scouts hectic extracurricular schedules. Even so, don’t skimp on working on building your Den Key 3. You will be astounded by the results in a very short time.