First look: Troop Leader Guidebooks, set to replace Scoutmaster Handbook

scoutmaster-handbookUpdate, July 23, 2015: Volume 1 is available now at ScoutStuff.org and your local Scout Shop. Read about Vol. 1 here.


If you judge the Scoutmaster Handbook by its cover, you might assume it’s solely meant for, well, Scoutmasters.

Assistant Scoutmasters, it seemed, were to look elsewhere for Scouting wisdom.

That’s about to change. Later this year, the two-volume Troop Leader Guidebook will debut, replacing the Scoutmaster Handbook and offering helpful checklists, quick tips and fresh ideas for both new troop leaders and veteran Scouters.

Scouting magazine contributor Mark Ray wrote Volume 1, while Bob Birkby, author of the latest Boy Scout Handbook, penned Volume 2.

You can see the covers of the new Troop Leader Guidebooks after the jump. I’ve also got a sneak peek at what’s inside the books and what makes them better tools for Scoutmasters and assistant Scoutmasters. 

Vol. 1: For new troop leaders

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Mark Ray’s Vol. 1 focuses primarily on the needs of the new or relatively inexperienced Boy Scout leader.

These Scouters will have been volunteers for up to three years, are likely assistant Scoutmasters and probably recently crossed over from serving as a Webelos leader or parent.

As such, Volume 1 assumes little or no prior knowledge of the Boy Scout program on the part of the reader. It presents a somewhat simplified picture of Boy Scouting that focuses on the short term — getting through this week’s troop meeting, this month’s outing and this year’s planning conference — rather than the long term, such as planning for growth, establishing a troop vision, and measuring personal and troop success.

In other words, it leaves advanced topics to Volume 2.

Given that its readers are mostly newcomers, this volume’s tone is similar to that used in a book for new parents. It reassures readers that everything is really going to be okay. Really.

Vol. 2: Advanced guidance for veteran Scouters

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Bob Birkby’s Volume 2 assumes its readers are ready for the next level.

Here you’ll find info like high-adventure planning, working with Scouts with disabilities, conflict resolution, visioning and more.

This volume is for more-seasoned leaders who need fresh ideas. It’s an advanced guidebook that will help leaders take their troop’s program and operations to a higher level. It will also help leaders keep an established program fresh and exciting so that troops don’t fall into the trap of doing the same things year after year.

Look at it this way: Volume 1 replaces the current Scoutmaster Handbook, while Volume 2 offers advanced guidance that’s been missing from several editions of the Scoutmaster Handbook.

Behind the scenes

“By the way,” Mark tells me, “we changed the name because surveys indicated that many assistant Scoutmasters thought the Scoutmaster Handbook wasn’t for them!”

But more than just a new name, the Troop Leader Guidebook represents a new approach to serving all troop leaders. And it happened, as it should, with the input of Scouters like you.

“We held focus groups in the spring of 2012 in the D.C. area (Northeast and Southern Regions), the St. Louis area (Central Region), and the Bay Area (Western Region) to get input on the current handbook and what Scouters wanted to see in the new handbooks,” Mark says.