Den Chiefs are a unique role in scouting. They are Boy Scouts who go back to serve a Cub Scout Den. A Den Chief has his feet in both the Boy Scout world and the Cub Scout world.
The Den Chief learns leadership and responsibility. The Den learns about scouting from a scout. The Den Leader gets “professional” help. Maybe it would be better to call it “experienced” help.
The role of a Den Chief is hard. The Den Chief is not often given as much responsibility has he believes he can handle. Yet, leading Cub Scouts is harder than leading Boy Scouts. Leading a Den requires teaching many skills that the Den Chief thinks everybody already knows.
Having a Den Chief in a Den for the first time can be confusing for a new adult Den Leader, too. The Den Leader may just be figuring out the role. Then to be responsible for figuring out how to use a Den Chief can make it harder.
As usual, the BSA has a Den Chief Handbook. Many times the role of Den Chief is not used or performed well because neither the Den Chief or the Den Leader has read the handbook.
The Den Chief takes the job because he needs a Position of Responsibility to earn his Star, Life, or Eagle ranks. Den Chief counts.
The Den Leader offers the job because they feel overwhelmed for lack of parent assistance or lack of knowledgeable assistants. The Den Chief helps to smooth those bumps in the road.
When a Den Leader is looking for a Den Chief, it is important to seek out a mature Boy Scout. It would be better to find a Den Chief with more than a year’s experience as a Boy Scout. He has seen leadership for 12 months.
Good questions to ask a Den Chief prospect are:
- How many campouts have you been on?
- What do see as good leadership on those campouts?
- What did you see that was poor leadership on those campouts?
- What responsibilities did you have on campouts? (Remember Den Chief may be their first leadership role with a title. They should have had responsibilities in their small group or Patrol (6-8 boys) such as grub master, quartermaster, scribe, latrine duty, KP, etc., that the scout does not think of leadership. They are temporary roles of responsibility. Ask about those.)
- How will you deal with scheduling conflicts and making sure your duties as Den Chief are done?
Talk to the Den Chief’s Scoutmaster about the expectations you have. Ask the Scoutmaster how those expectations will be measured in the Troop so that you can give the Den Chief the same story.
Just remember to treat this like a job hiring. Not all Den Chiefs are a perfect personality fit for you. Choose a Den Chief; don’t just take whatever is given to you.
Then in Den meetings give the Den Chief real responsibilities. Stay close in the first few meetings. As he proves successful, move farther and father away. Let him own the job. This is where his value to you will shine.
In scouts, adult train the youth leader to lead, youth leaders then train the younger youth.
The benefits to you of the Den Chief helps in the Cub Scouts seeing an older boy taking an interest in them. They may think the activity is dumb. They cannot complain it is “for babies” because the Scout is there doing it with them. The Den Chief is modeling the behavior you seek from the Cub Scouts. The Cub Scouts find it easier to mimic the behavior. You say less and are more effective.
What is not to like about this?