Frequently Asked Questions
General Scouting Questions
What do boys do as Boy Scouts?
The Boy Scout Of America Program is a 100 year old, professionally crafted, program of education and character development. By using the "Outdoor Method" (camping, fishing, rock climbing, etc) boys work together to do "the things boys like to do". In the process, they learn the value of teamwork, honesty, communication, mutual respect, and more as they work towards their goal and overcome any obstacles they encounter.
By employing the Methods of Scouting, we reinforce the AIMS of Scouting, which are reflected in our Oath and Law. The goal is to see that they become permanent fixtures in the character of each Boy Scout as we teach them to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrift, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.
What do you mean by "Boy Led"?
A Boy Scout troop leads itself. Adults are present to guide and ensure safety & compliance exists, but it is the YOUTH who make key decisions.
The Scouting program using The Patrol Method means the Troop members ELECT their own leaders; individual Patrol Leaders and a Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) who takes on "ownership" and hold the actual leadership position within the Troop. The SPL appoints an assistant scout (Assistant Senior Patrol Leader - ASPL) and various other leadership positions.
While serving as Senior Leaders, the SPL and ASPL cease to be members of their respective patrols and function as peers with the adult leadership. The SPL and ASP execute Program decisions, lead the meetings, plan agendas, pick camping destinations, and LEAD BY EXAMPLE when executing the agenda that the boys themselves created and agreed to follow.
Patrol Leaders are responsible for the well being and actions of their individual patrol and will REPRESENT their patrol in the Patrol Leaders Council (PLC).
At the PLC meeting (chaired by the SPL and monitored by the Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster), Patrol Leaders plan future trips and troop meetings. Through a model of Representative Government, they CHOOSE the trips and activities THEY want to do, and appoint other scouts to serve as skill instructors, or lead games or other activities. Adult leadership keeps them on track with suggestions and advice, but the decisions are ultimately left to THE BOYS.
Once the future meetings/camping trips are planned, the SPL and Scoutmaster present the PLC's plans to the Troop Committee for review. The agenda is checked for issues such as necessary fund raising, unique equipment/skills, camp ground reservations, and is given an over-all inspection to confirm that trips are aligned with the purpose of the Scouting Program. If the plans are approved, and the weekly meetings are lead by the boys (as designed) unless the skill instruction needed is currently beyond the skill set of the Scouts, or relates to merit badge requirements, then adults will render assistance.
ADULTS are a RESOURCE for guidance and ensuring that things are done the "BSA way" for safety, youth development and general direction setting.
"Boy Leadership" really means the Troop is doing the things the BOYS THEMSELVES want to do, and in doing so, will develop the leadership, communication, problem resolution, and organizational skills that underscore why Scouts excel in all other areas of their lives.
Wouldn't it "run smoother" with adults in charge?
Yup... it probably would. But why would we want that?
This is BOY SCOUTS... not "fathers getting away for the weekend" Scouts... nor is it "WEBELOS 3" where adults are in the leadership role as in the Cub Scout program.
This is where boys LEARN and DEVELOP their leadership skills so they can become capable young men. We DON'T EXPECT them to be the most efficient and organized leaders (and neither should you).
This is their learning ground. Here is where we want the "mistakes" to happen, so they can learn from them. This is how we TEACH leadership skills instead of getting adults to "step in" because we could be "more efficient".
Remember... the program is NOT DESIGNED to run perfectly.
They may elect their "best friend" instead of the "most qualified"... and they will experience the consequences of casting a "careless vote". They may elect the Class Clown instead of the Class President... and NEED to "suffer" through a few months of a weaker or chaotic Program.
Remember, NOTHING happens here by accident. Trust us. Trust the 100 year old program. Have faith. Keep your boy coming ESPECIALLY if he comes home with a few "complaints" on how things are being done. Ask him what he would do differently or what he did to try to correct what appears to be a "screwed up" situation. HERE is where the Program really shows its value.
NOW you know... "bigger things" are happening here than meets the eye. :-)
What is the purpose of a "patrol"?
A significant part of the Scouting experience is to get plenty of HANDS ON activity. From knot tying, to cooking on a fire and stove, to learning how to use a pocket knife or axe... Scouts "DO".
In order to make sure everyone gets a chance to DO, boys are divided into smaller groups within the Troop so that everyone gets ample opportunity to participate. This is part of what the BSA calls, "The Patrol Method".
Within a patrol-sized group, boys do not get "lost among the crowd" or feel as though their opinions (and votes) don't matter. Each plays a critical and important role in the Patrol's success.
The definition of the "Patrol Method" from the National Council's website...
Patrols are the building blocks of a Boy Scout troop. A patrol is a small group of boys who are similar in age, development, and interests. Working together as a team, patrol members share the responsibility for the patrol's success. They gain confidence by serving in positions of patrol leadership. All patrol members enjoy the friendship, sense of belonging, and achievements of the patrol and of each of its members.
Does my son have to come every week?
We certainly won't send the "Scout Police" out to find you if you don't show up, but you miss out on a big part of the BSA Program if you don't attend regularly.
Scouting is NOT just playtime, or "Billy's weekend fun" away from his kid sister. Scouting is a carefully crafted character-development program. Each boy is a member of a PATROL, and as such, is part of a smaller group (as compared to the whole Troop of boys) where he is given AMPLE opportunity to play an active and valuable "hands on" role in the patrol's success.
A boy who shows up sporadically DEPRIVES himself of the chance to make key decisions within his patrol; choose trip ideas and destinations, make menu selections, divy out workload, and build close friendships. Every meeting includes a period of valuable skill instruction and fun inter-patrol competitions that relate to the upcoming camping trip. If a boys misses a meeting, he will find himself less prepared for the upcoming weekend in the outdoors. The troop meetings are where we "learn", but the camping trip is where we reinforce the skills by putting them into practical use.
Scouts should make every effort to attend meetings on a regular basis. Those who don't are missing out on the full experience of their limited Scouting years, and are causing their patrol members to do the same.
Can I be a Scout Leader?
All are welcome to contribute as much as they would like as a uniformed leader or Committee Member.
As a Committee Member, you should be willing to attend the monthly Committee Meeting (1st Sunday of each month, 5 PM) and get involved in as much or as little upcoming activities as you wish.
NOTE: ALL leaders MUST complete a BSA Adult Application, which requires you to provide your Social Security Number. A background check will be done by the Simon Kenton Council. WE (Troop) will NOT know of the particular details of anyone's record, but will simply be told "yes or no" regarding your eligibility. If you do not provide your SSN, you will not be accepted as a leader. This is National BSA policy and not the policy of Troop 392.
Ranks and Requirements
Can I keep working closely with my son?
If you mean "work with your son" like you did in Cub Scouts, the answer is NO. There is little 1-on-1 work as a Boy Scout.
Make no mistake... You are welcome, but Boy Scouting is a new phase of his personal development.
"Dads & Lads" was the Cub Scout model. Your presence helped to guide him, keep him under control, and reinforce the importance of "family", but as a Boy Scout, he needs to focus more on himself, and on working with peers.
He's becoming a young man and needs to start interacting with other adults like the Scout Master, Assistant Scoutmasters, and various Merit Badge Counselors. He also needs to become comfortable with working without adults hovering over him as he works with his patrol.
Can I "sign off" on my son's requirements?
Golly Toto... we're not in Cub Scouts any more.
This is one of our most common questions, and the answer is "no" (and should have been "no" when he was a WEBELOS Scout as well.)
In Boy Scouts, it's not enough that a Scout "did it once before" or was "there the night we talked about bla bla bla.." A Scout must SHOW PROFICIENCY and UNDERSTANDING of the rank requirements in the presence of a registered adult leader. ONLY THEN can he get "signed off" on the requirements in the back of his Handbook. This can be done by a uniformed adult, or a Scout who has been entrusted with the job of skill instruction.
How do Scouts earn Merit Badges?
The day a boy signs his BSA application, he is eligible to start working on Merit Badges.
Completing a Merit Badge involves 4 people... The Scout, the Scoutmaster, the Merit Badge Councilor (MBC), and the troop's Advancement Chair.
Scout chooses a badge (or badges) that he'd like to work on (alone or with another Scout).
He informs the Scoutmaster of his intention to work on a badge, and is issued a "blue card" and given the contact information for a registered Merit Badge Councilor (MBC). A MBC can be ANY registered MBC in any Council. He is not obligated to work with councilors in his home unit or Council. CONTRARY TO URBAN MYTH, the Scoutmaster can NOT deny any Scout the opportunity to work on any badge, nor can he delay the badge being awarded once the MBC signs the "blue card" showing that it is complete. Judgment as to whether a Scout successfully completed the badge requirements rests solely with the MBC.
The Scout(s) contacts the MBC and make arrangements to meet as often as necessary to complete the badge requirements (following Youth Protection guidelines at all times). Upon the first meeting, the Scout presents the MBC with the blue card, which the councilor keeps so that he can update completion dates and keep track of the Scout's progress
Upon completion, the MBC will sign all 3 segments of the blue card, and return it back to the Scout who in turn, presents it to the Scoutmaster for final signature indicating final recognition that all work is complete. Again, the Scoutmaster does NOT have the authority to deny, "retest", or delay the formal completion of any MB work.
The Scoutmaster will pass the signed segments along to the troop's Advancement Chairperson who will record the work on the Troop and Council levels, and ensure the Scout is presented with his badge on the next possible opportunity.
The Scout will be given 1 segment of his blue card which he must keep so that it can be produced when applying for his Eagle Rank. The Troop should also retain a segment for their records.
What if my son is not advancing?
Advancement in Scouting is STRICTLY the responsibility of each individual Scout.
Through his Patrol Leader, he should voice his desire for trip destinations, activities, and opportunities to complete the various rank requirements and attend trips that HE finds exciting and thrilling.
HE is responsible for informing the Scoutmaster (in advance) of his choice to begin working on a Merit Badge; the completion of which is up to HIM and his Merit Badge Counselor (MBC). Through INDEPENDENT work he will work with his MBC to complete Merit Badge requirements at his own pace.
At meetings and on camping trips, AMPLE opportunity is made to complete work and FREQUENT reminders are made to encourage boys to "step up" to make the most of their opportunities.
Periodically, all boys will attend a Board of Review (BOR). Boys advancing to their next rank MUST attend the BOR as a requirement, but the Advancement Chair is also responsible for scheduling periodic BORs for boys who are NOT advancing to inquire as to the reason they are not progressing, or finding out what is "missing" in the Program.
AT ANY TIME, Scouts (with/without their parents) are free to inquire about advancement to the Scoutmaster or his Assistant Scoutmasters.
The SCOUT is ultimately responsible..... that's what makes the "Eagle" rank so significant and valuable. Attaining "Eagle" tells the world, that this young man is responsible and a leader.
What is a Scoutmaster Conference?
After a Scout completes all the required tasks towards his next badge of rank, the next step is for the Scout to meet with the Scoutmaster for a "Scoutmaster's Conference".
The Scoutmaster's Conference SHOULD NEVER be a re-testing of any of his skills. Certifying his skills is the responsibility of the leader who "signed off" on his Handbook. Rather, the conference is a chance for the Scoutmaster to make sure all requirements are signed off, and then engage in a comfortable, yet detailed, discussion on how the Scout is feeling about the Program and how Scouting is fitting into his life as a whole. (This IS a character building program, if you didn't know.)
The Scoutmaster wants to hear from the Scout exactly what he likes, doesn't like, might want to do different, etc. He wants to know what his ambitions are in Scouting and "life". The ultimate goal is to make sure the Scouting experience is of real benefit to the Scout's development.
Once the Scoutmaster is convinced the Scout is ready to move forward towards the next rank, the Scoutmaster will direct the Scout to meet with members of the Committee, where a similar meeting will take place. This is known as a Board of Review.
What is a Board of Review?
After a Scout completes his Scoutmaster Conference, he is to appear for a Board of Review.
Amazingly, its functions just like a job or private high school interview (this is not by accident) where the Scout will basically be addressing 2 specific topics:
How is the Program (including adult leaders) running, and is there anything the Committee should/need to do to make the Program better?
Why does the Scout feel as though he has earned his rank and is ready to move forward to the next rank?
There will be several questions put to the Scout by 3 to 5 Committee members comprising the Board, but ultimately, the 2 questions above are what is being addressed. For example, a Scout will not be asked to tie a square knot, but may be asked "which knot was the hardest, and how did you get yourself to finally learn it?"
Like a job interview, the Scout MUST come properly dressed; wearing the full (clean and presentable) BSA Uniform including Merit Badge sash.
After meeting with the Scout, the Board will debate, and if they are in unanimous agreement, will allow the rank advancement to be recognized.
What's so special about "Eagle Scout"?
Becoming an Eagle Scout is no small achievement. In fact, among adults who have gone on to become astronauts, doctors, politicians, or business leaders, most of them will say that earning their Eagle is clearly among the most important achievements in their lives.
Back to the question... WHY?
Look at it from this angle.... ADVANCEMENT is completely up to the individual Scout. If he has no desire or sense of commitment to advance in rank, that is his choice. IT IS POSSIBLE for a boy to attend EVERY meeting and EVERY camping trip, and never make it through 1/2 of the available ranks if he isn't motivated enough to take the extra step of demonstrating skills or earning merit badges. Statistically speaking, only 2 out of 100 boys in Scouting will push themselves to become Eagle Scouts.
The "Trail to Eagle" is one of persistence, dedication, well-rounded learning experiences by earning 21+ merit badges, strong attendance at meetings and camping trips, and hundreds of hours of community service.... all culminating with the planning and complete execution of his "Eagle Project" before his 18th birthday.
The "Eagle Project" is SO MUCH MORE than "giving something back to the community" (which it is, and let's not minimize the importance of community and charity). It is actually his "final exam" in Scouting.
HE MANAGES HIS EAGLE PROJECT. He will put to use all of the lessons he learned as a Boy Scout; communicating, organizing, recruiting, conceiving an idea, selling the idea, planning the work, assigning work details to those helping him, being the "accountant" that tracks the hours worked and the money spent, etc. In every conceivable way, HE is the "project leader".
THESE are the highly desirable skills and traits that makes "Eagle Scout" stand out on a job resume or college application, and the fact that such skills and moral foundations are learned/mastered before "society" recognizes him as an "adult"... simply amazing!
What is an Individual Scout Account?
The intent of individual scout accounts are to help a scout pay for scouting activities and gear that he would need on those activities. The scout can earn money in his account by participating in various troop fundraisers. For example, if Tommy Tenderfoot earns $100 from popcorn sales, then that money would be set in his Scout Account to be used to help pay for future campouts with the troop.
Can I use my Scout Account money for personal items?
Due to IRS rules governing non-profits, there are strict accounting standards that these accounts must abide by in order to not jeopardize our troop and in turn our charter (St. John’s) non-profit status. The IRS rules state that any money raised as for a nonprofit group, then that group must benefit from the money you raise, not private shareholders or individuals (according to the current the 501(c)(3) IRS definition). Because the money in theses accounts were raised as part of a fundraiser (i.e. popcorn sales, car washes, donations from family and friends, etc.), it must be used to pay for Scouting related activities. If it is not, then that money would be classified as "Private Benefit" to the scout and would cause that money to no longer be subject to the original intent from the fundraiser and would result in the potential of the scout paying income tax on the amount earned along with other implications for our non-profit status. Here is a good article on the official Scouting Blog (https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2014/12/03/individual-scout-accounts/) that goes into a little more details around scout accounts that may help clear things up.