Article submitted by David Nelson of the Great Alaska Council

Fall recruitment is one the most exciting times of the year for Scouting. Setting forth to deliver the promises of outdoor adventure, positive family interactions, and strong character development instills a sense of hope and renewal each year. One of the challenges that is surfacing more and more is that there is a misalignment between the number of Packs serving available schools. In some districts, Packs serve whichever school is most convenient, while others employ limits based on geography alone. A strategic conversation with your unit leaders on the appropriate number of schools a Pack should serve can be done in three simple steps. Doing so will uncover new opportunities for growth within existing packs and will help identify new Pack prospects.  

Step One: Develop a Plan to Right-Size Existing Packs

Each month I create time in my schedule to take an in-depth look into the membership of all the Packs that make up my district. I delve into the total membership and then into individual dens. Doing this shows me a few things: the Pack growth potential, the effectiveness of each Pack’s recruitment endeavors, and the Pack’s ability to retain members on an annual basis. Once this analysis is complete, I hold a conversation with unit leaders (people who are committed to the growth of the Pack) and ask what things we can do to ensure that they have full dens for all ages. If they are a small Pack, I recommend that they should limit themselves to serving only two schools. Packs that are significantly larger could consider long-term plans to ensure that every youth has a chance for meaningful recognition. Leaders have told me that their upper threshold is around 80 Scouts and that a conversation about intentionally branching off into a new Pack has helped them to expand into more communities.

Step Two: Find or Develop an Effective Planning Tool

A tool that is easily accessible for me and the membership growth volunteers I work with is essential. I am particularly skilled in cartography; two months before the start of the school year I began map making. I first began with a printout map of the district with every elementary school (public and private) visibly marked. From there I added all my Cub Scout Packs and connected them with their traditional schools. I found great benefit in my map this year—the perspective was valuable. Through this process, I discovered one Pack in my district was serving a school that was 30 miles away from where they meet! I was able to show unit leaders that distance between a school and meeting locations limits a Pack. The visual representation helps me to share the powerful narrative of why parents would prefer good Scouting programs that are more conveniently located in their own neighborhoods.

Step Three: Develop and Strengthen Connections

Connections are crucial to everything we do. Recruiting, Friends of Scouting, and community involvement all depend on our ability to connect with passionate people in our districts. I like to ask unit leaders about a Pack’s connection to schools and about what I can do to help them make the connection stronger.

My volunteers and I have discussed that strong connections include regularly going to PTA meetings, being familiar with the school’s administration, knowing the key parents who lead other events like carnivals, fundraisers, and community service events. If a Pack is serving five schools, it is not likely that they are able to consistently accomplish these things. Packs with school connections provide the best service to families in a community. My role as a Scouting professional is to uncover the great opportunity to develop these connections and facilitate them among my unit leaders.

This approach has helped me to strengthen relationships with my existing units. Direct conversations about our roles in the volunteer/professional partnership serve as the building blocks to successful membership growth. When we develop and implement a plan to ensure that the very best version of Scouting is delivered to every youth in a Pack, we see amazing results.  This begins with ensuring that each Pack understands and subscribes to its capacity and potential.

Scouting Wire would like to thank David for submitting this article

Article submitted by Gene Butler, Growth Coach of the Central Region.

Religious emblems programs have been part of Scouting’s “Duty to God” for many years and support the Declaration of Religious Principle. Although the religious emblems have always been recognized in terms of “program or advancement,” they have been overlooked in terms of “membership” and should be used by local councils to strengthen charter partner relationships, increase membership and manpower, improve retention, and enhance program. Simply put, religious emblems and faith-based relationships reinforce the values found in the Scout Oath and Law. 

The religious emblems programs are created by the various religious groups and faith traditions who partner with the BSA to encourage youth to grow stronger in their faith. The BSA has approved these programs and allows the recognition to be worn on the official uniform, but each religious organization and faith tradition—not the Boy Scouts of America—develops and administers its own curriculum and emblems. 

Religious emblems signify the work one completes learning about their faith tradition and its customs. These programs are graduated programs that teach youth or serve as ministry through curriculum developed by leaders and educators in their own faith. Most traditions have multiple emblems for each Scouting program that align with requirements for Duty to God Adventures, Scout Spirit, and the Venturing TRUST Award. Similar to other advancement within BSA programs, when youth earn the emblem of their faith, they advance more frequently and are registered longer. Likewise, faith-based units traditionally are more sustainable. By providing an instant and visible connection between Scouting and a faith community, the religious emblems programs can help councils reach diverse groups and specific geographic areas or communities not already being served by Scouting.

Congregations benefit from this program, as well. The religious emblems programs can help a congregation embrace Scouting not as an outside group that meets in its building, but as an integral part of their education or ministry with youth and community outreach. Local congregations will not only be providing religious instruction through the religious emblems programs, but they will also be strengthening the spiritual component of the Scouting program. Furthermore, Scouting’s annual recruitment efforts regularly bring young people and families through the doors of the congregation. Past BSA studies have shown that 17% of all Scouts have their first exposure to faith through Scouting programs chartered to a congregation. 

According to the Search Institute, Scouting and Religious Community are two of the 40 Developmental Assets for positive youth development. Both organizations share concern about the same areas of education and ministry: increased participation by families and youth, outreach, and leader development. Understanding that the BSA does not create religious emblems is the key to leveraging religious emblem programs and allows councils to initiate dialogue with local congregations about one of their own resources designed to serve their youth.

Five ways to encourage a faith base organizations to embrace Scouting:

  1. Ask a religious leader that doesn’t have a Scouting program to consider working with youth of their religion with the Religious Program of their faith.
  2. Consider a “Ten Commandment Hike” as a public relations event to promote Duty to God and A Scout is Reverent.
  3. Together We Organize event of the same faith-based organization.
  4. Scout Sunday promotion. Working with the Council Religious Relationship Committee to promote and identify Scouting activities in the respective faith-based organization.
  5. Volunteer Recognition. An opportunity for the religious leader to acknowledge their scout leaders who are working with youth in their organization.

Scouting Wire would like to thank Gene for submitting this article.

Congratulations to Jeff Schwab as Scout executive of the De Soto Area Council in El Dorado, Arkansas, effective December 1, 2019.

Jeff began his Scouting career as a district executive at the Southeast Missouri Council in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He moved on to become the field director of the Gamehaven Council in Rochester, Minnesota, and then Scout executive of the Allohak Council in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He was later promoted to Scout executive of the Georgia-Carolina Council in Augusta, Georgia. In 2017, Jeff joined the National Council staff as a Program Development Specialist on the World Scout Jamboree team.

Jeff is an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow who enjoys golf, scuba diving, travel and baseball.

Jeff and his wife, LaVonne, have one Eagle Scout son named Justin.

In the comments below, please help us send Jeff  our well wishes as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the De Soto Area Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

Please join us as we congratulate Matt Klutzaritz, who will serve as Scout executive of the Pine Tree Council in Portland, Maine, effective January 1, 2020.

Matt began his Scouting career as an exploring executive at the Minsi Trails Council in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He moved on to become a district executive, district director, Scoutreach director, field director, and director of field service of the council before being selected to serve as Scout executive of the Northeast Iowa Council in Dubuque, Iowa.

Matt enjoys music and sports.

Matt and his wife, Carolyn, have two children: Mark (19) and Jamie (16).

In the comments below, please help us welcome Matt to his new role in the BSA as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the Pine Tree Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

Please join us as we congratulate Jeff Brasher, who will serve as Scout executive of the Norwela Council in Shreveport, Louisiana, effective November 15, 2019.

Jeff began his Scouting career as a district executive at the Tukabatchee Area Council in Montgomery, Alabama. He moved on to become the senior district executive and later field director of the Istrouma Area Council in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was promoted to field director, program director, and then director of support services of the Greater Alabama Council in Birmingham, Alabama, before being selected to serve as Scout executive of the Northwest Georgia Council in Rome, Georgia.

Jeff is an Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow and Professional Circle Award recipient.

Jeff and his wife, Auburn, enjoy kayaking, hiking, cooking, reading, and attending Auburn University football games.

In the comments below, please help us welcome Jeff to his new role in the BSA as he joins in partnership with the volunteers and staff of the Norwela Council to deliver quality Scouting experiences to the young people of the communities they serve.

Article submitted by Warren Wenner, Chair for the BSA National Special Needs Committee.

One of the most frequently asked questions the BSA National Special Needs and Disabilities Committee receives from district executives, leaders, and parents is: where do I go for help with advancement for my Scout with special needs? Well, the best answer may be right down the street at the Scout’s school. In fact, meeting with the Scout’s special education or reading specialist teacher at school could be the best answer.

These teachers work daily with students who have disabilities and know the challenges and needs of these individuals. Most Scouts who are in a special education program may have an ‘IEP,’ or Individualized Education Program. The IEP is a written document that is developed for each school child who is eligible for special education. It is created through a team effort and reviewed at least once a year. Parents have input into their child’s plan, and Scouting can be a part of that plan. Many school districts see the importance of what is being learned in classrooms that can be applied to the Scouting program and vice versa.

Provided with a general understanding of the current program in which a Scout is enrolled, a special education or reading specialist teacher may be helpful in planning what that Scout can achieve and the pace at which that Scout can accomplish the work. These teachers may also be able to help a unit committee break down the steps needed for the Scout to achieve the next rank or award.

Once lines of communication have been opened, Scout leaders may find that, in many cases, special education teachers have been doing advancement-related activities in their own classroom. For example, the Cooking Merit Badge. Many high school special education students are learning life skills, and learning to cook is one of those skills. Students have to learn about a healthy diet, menu planning, how to go shopping and eventually cook a meal. The same skills special education teachers are teaching in the classrooms are being taught in Scouting, which can reinforce the IEP for the Scout. Hand-in-hand, the unit committee working with special education teachers on a Scout’s IEP will enhance the Scout’s ability to learn and succeed in school, as well as the troop.

Similarly, Scouts who have physical disabilities may be working at school with their physical education teachers on adapted physical education skills. These teachers may also help the unit learn the limits of what the Scout can do when it comes to the physical activities of many requirements. For example, physical activities such as swimming, personal fitness, or hiking may have certain challenges. This teacher might be able to set limits and goals that a Scout can reach in a reasonable amount of time that could help the Scout complete the requirement(s).

Finally, don’t forget to ask the parents for advice and help. They know their child the best. Elisabeth Shelby, who has a PhD in Special Education and is a member of the National Special Needs and Disabilities Committee mentions, “I used to say that the parents know their child, and educators know techniques.” Parents, unit committee members, and educators should combine these two ingredients to enhance a Scout’s ability to achieve the highest possible level of learning success at home, at school, in Scouting— and beyond.

Scouting is a fantastic program for youth of all capabilities! If you’d like to learn more about growing your district by promoting Scouting to youth with special needs, attend a special membership conference held next January at the Florida Sea Base. Learn more here. Have any tips to add? Share in the comments below. 

Scouting Wire would like to thank Warren for submitting this story.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019 14:46

How to Start a Sea Scout Ship in Two Months

Josh Gilliland, PR Chair for the Sea Scout Support Committee at the Pacific Skyline Council.

Article submitted by Josh Gilliland, PR Chair for the Sea Scout Support Committee at the Pacific Skyline Council.

Sea Scouts is a High Adventure program for older youth and is one means of rapidly increasing council membership by retaining Scouts ages 13-15 and expanding Scouting to youth in high schools. We need your help to grow membership!

The following are best practices learned from starting Sea Scout Ships in councils without existing Sea Scout Ships or volunteers. Many district executives may have little experience with Sea Scouts. Below is a “how to” checklist for launching a new Ship, including finding a charter partner, recruiting volunteers, and holding an open house.

  1. Find a charter partner. One strategy is to perform Google searches in the council service area for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, yacht clubs, scuba stores, kayak rental business, America’s Boating Club (formerly the Power Squadron), or any maritime entity.
  2. Contact the prospective charter partner about sponsoring a Sea Scout Ship. Discuss on the phone, web meeting, or do an in-person pitch to the group. The Presentation for Interested Charter Partner can be modified for each prospective sponsor.
  3. Set the date for an informational meeting at the council office or another location for interested volunteers with at least one month to promote it in the community if there are no prospective volunteers. If there are already volunteers, proceed to volunteer training and setting a date for an open house.
  4. The district executive and commissioner should help promote the meeting for interested volunteers to their district. This can be by email, council newsletter, or at the monthly district meeting. The district executive and/or district commissioner ideally will recruit a volunteer to be the Sea Scout commissioner.
  5. Hold a volunteer meeting and present a modified version of the following to find a Skipper, at least two Mates, and two committee members. This Presentation for Interested Volunteers can be modified for the focus of the Ship.
  6. Go over required volunteer trainings: Youth Protection, Sea Scout Basic Leader Training, and other online trainings. Provide the Skipper, Mates, and committee with the New Ship Starter Kit. The district executive or commissioner should be present with adult leader applications. The New Ship Mentor should work with the Skipper and Mates to modify the Three-Month Sample Program Outline to fit their new program after the meeting. The volunteer informational meeting should end with a date set one month out for a Sea Scout Open House.  
  7. Prepare online and print promotional material for Nextdoor, Facebook, and community boards (such as Starbucks). Focus on using one or two large eye-catching images that highlights the focus of the new Ship, such as kayaking, scuba, or sailing. Include the date, location, time, contact info, and headline promoting the open house.
  8. District executives and commissioners need to help promote the open house to districts. Council newsletter should include an announcement on the open house.
  9. Hold an open house. Check on options for Sea Scouts from other cities on helping with the open house.
  10. Open house should have hands-on activities for the interested youth. Options are unlimited; however, consider easier activities, such as knots, learning to put on life jackets, kayaking, boat rides, throwing heaving lines or ring buoys, making Turk’s Heads, Monkey Fist Keychains, and anything that is an activity where youth get on the water. Providing a barbecue lunch is strongly recommended. The district executive or commissioner ideally will be at the open house with membership forms. Open house should end with the date of the first meeting for the New Ship.
  11. New Sea Scouts should brainstorm on a Ship name at their first meeting. It is strongly recommended that the name has an image that would be great for marketing, such as marine animals, mythology, literature, or famous ships from history. The first and most used uniform of any Sea Scout is their Ship T-shirt. Having a strong logo on the back helps build Ship recognition in the community, esprit de corps among the Scouts, and marketing to other youth in the community. 
  12. Have fun! Get on the water for weekly programs with the new Sea Scouts Ship.

Scouting Wire would like to thank Josh for submitting this story.

Article contributed by Wendy Shaw, National Director of Membership Growth.

Aspirational Goal – A girl troop in every district

As of October 23rd, there are nearly 3,000 girl troops across the BSA. That is an awesome number in just 8 months.

The Polaris District of the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council continues to lead the way at 12 girl troops (September month-end).

The list of the top ten districts includes (September month-end):

Council Name

Council Headquarters


District Name

Unit Total

Youth Total

Silicon Valley Monterey Bay

San Jose, CA






Lockport, IL





Pacific Harbors

Tacoma, WA


Rainier District



Las Vegas Area

Las Vegas, NV


Northern Area



Connecticut Yankee

Milford, CT


02 Scatacook



Circle Ten

Dallas, TX


Chisholm Trail



Pacific Harbors

Tacoma, WA


Olympic District



Silicon Valley Monterey Bay

San Jose, CA


Coyote Creek



Verdugo Hills

Glendale, CA





If you’d like a copy of the most recent list of girl troops by district, please contact Wendy Shaw at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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