How Do You Encourage Adult Involvement?

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Some units struggle for adult volunteers. Some units struggle with adult hyperactivity (different from plentiful adults). Either struggle often reflects poor volunteer management and delegation.

New adult volunteers will always try to make scouting more like other volunteer organization or corporate situations — unless the unit leaders teach scouting philosophy first. How do I know? I have been that adult struggling to find my place in the unit and frustrated with the youth’s mayhem.

When there are too few volunteers or excessively hyperactive adults buzzing around, these are both symptoms of the same problem. The committee chair is not corralling the adults and letting the unit leader (e.g, Cubmaster or Scoutmaster) do the leader’s job.

The committee chair needs to know the scouting philosophy and be teaching the adults, “Don’t just do something! Stand there!”

We have the luxury of brand new Troop Leader Guidebooks having been issued in two volumes (ok, volume 2 is due later in July 2016; close enough). These volumes replace the Scoutmaster Handbook. These Guidebooks are meant for all leaders in a troop.

These guidebooks do a wonderful job teaching how an adult should participate in scouting at the boy scout level. Offering these guidebooks early to new troop parents allows them to see the program clearly, early. They can learn the power of standing and watching a scout struggle to light a fire. The new parent can learn the power of that silent adult presence in encouraging the scout to keep trying.

Once the new parent sees the philosophy of scouting they are easier to lead to the clearer common goal.

Now an adult who is tasked with teaching the scouts how to purify water on the hike can be directed to a ScoutmasterCG article and told to “help the scouts.” The adult is now better able to see, that does not sit the scouts in a classroom for a lecture. It means find a scout who can lead the class and the adult can sit in the back of the room as a resource. For a novice adult, this likely means reading the article, pulling out the equipment, experimenting with it, seeking coaching from the scoutmaster, putting the equipment away, then inviting the scouts in to learn the skills. Now the adult is ready to teach by sitting still.

How does the adult know when to intervene? The author of the new Scout Leader Guidebooks Mark Ray as a guest on ScoutmasterCG Podcast 317  (at the 37:00 minute mark) tells of a troop that has a catch-phrase for knowing when to intervene”CFD.” That stands for “Confused, Frustrated, Dangerous.” The Scoutmaster can just walk by and say to the hyperactive adult, “CFD,” and walk away. The hyperactive adult then knows that this situation did not constitute confusion, frustration, or danger, so the adult should be silently or courteously present but not interfere. In many situations, the adult should walk away silently.

So now our new adult who is assigned the role of helping with water purification can know when his role is most valuable. The teaching scout is in charge until CFD-boundaries are needed. The adult becomes a calming force to cut down confusion and frustration. The adult imposes limits on dangerous behavior. So scouting is not scouts left in a room by themselves or off in a corner of the campsite without adult interaction. The scouts are trusted players in the game of scouting with quiet coaching from the Scoutmaster Corps.

Many adults who avoid volunteering are afraid of too many demands being placed on them. Teaching them CFD-boundaries early can remove many of their fears about truly volunteering because the load is much lighter than they feared. (Yes, this is true for Cub Scouts, too, it just takes more study and preparation on how to carry it out.)

So the lessons here to recruit more volunteers and make them feel valuable:

  1. Ask them to read the Troop Leader Guidebooks (vol. 1 for all, especially novices; vol. 2 for adults having done some troop campouts already).
  2. Hold the adults accountable to CFD boundaries of involvement.
  3. Oh, and feed them well!

The will learn their place in scouting and enjoy it.