Tuesday Talkback: Getting more Scouts to attend Order of the Arrow events

Tuesday-TalkbackThe Order of the Arrow is not a secret society, but in some troops it might as well be.

These troops go through the first steps of getting Scouts elected into Scouting’s national honor society and through their Ordeal.

But after that, these new Arrowmen become ghosts, never seen at a lodge meeting, dance event, section conclave, National Order of the Arrow Conference or any other OA function.

Too bad, because Order of the Arrow members have tons of fun and experience the brotherhood of cheerful service that can enhance the Scouting experience, especially for older boys who may feel like they’ve seen all Scouting has to offer at the troop level.

So here’s the Tuesday Talkback topic for today: How would you characterize the level of OA participation in your troop? How can you, as a Scouter, increase your Scouts’ involvement in the Order of the Arrow?

You know what to do: Leave your responses in the comments section below.

What other Scouters said

Read ideas from when this topic was posed in a past issue of Scouting magazine.

Other Tuesday Talkbacks

Conversations from previous weeks are still ongoing. Join them now.

Photo from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by stevejb68


  1. Our troop doesn’t do O/a activities and we don’t get contact from our council either. We just found out the council has monthly meetings. I think they should have an O/A blast for local members. We feel like our son has missed out on events since his June ordeal.

    • David, It almost sounds like your unit is fairly new. I believe that most councils, if not all, have a monthly ‘Roundtable” meeting. Here is where ideas and upcoming events are promoted, and at Roundtable our OA chapter has a moment to make announcements of events happening soon and in the near future. Our district has email BLAST that tells all to all leaders. Our lodge and chapter each send out newsletters talking about upcoming events with all the details. Yes, there is or should be more to OA than just Ordeals. Chapter campouts, Lodge Conclaves, Blue & Gold Dances, Bridging ceremonies, fun happening at both meeting and weekend. But never put the priority over your own unit. If an outing interferes with a troops outing, the unit should win. This is how to develop a unit/POA relationship.

  2. I feel that sometimes it is a popularity contest. Kids get in because all their friends vote for them. Then those scouts who actually want to give cheerful service but aren’t one of the “cool” kids don’t get in. If there was a better way to elect scouts I think you would see a great increase in scout attendance in OA events. Just my two cents…please don’t bash me for it. 😉

    • I agree we had 10 boys eligible for call out all made it put one he missed by one vote, that one boy felt like his family let him down. They are a Troop and a Family he said how could someone not vote for family? It’s tough on the boys and really after all is said and done the only thing the OA wants is more Boys in the OA so they all get in one day.

      • I’ve counciled a lot of boys who were not elected (repeatedly), and in each case, there was something to their “unpopularity.” We have elections at summer camp, and all the boys, especially the young ones, can learn how a boy acts when the leader’s back is turned. Too much swearing, sexual inuendo, practical jokes, meanness, or unhelpfulness, and a boy quickly loses his largest voting block (usually the first or second year scouts).

        In the following year, if such a boy shows that behavior again, I don’t have to bother with much of any discipline, except to quietly say when others aren’t listening, “and you wonder why?” Behavior starts to change after a very small number of incidents.

    • Jennifer, you may have a valid point there. Eligible, enthusiastic scouts may not be getting voted in by their fellow troop members, while more popular boys who think they want to join, or at worst case just want it for their scouting “resume” get voted in. Of course once in, those who don’t really belong get found out by their fellow OA brothers (one hopes), but this does nothing for the eligibles who are not voted for who never get the chance to show their worthiness.

      Unfortunately, a basic premise of the OA is that it is youth run, so we adults cannot and should not interfere except in cases of regulations and safety. Down side is that the consequences can be negative for the OA Chapter and Lodge so impacted.

      • And yet this is all part of the learning for life. Sometimes our youth make mistakes and hopefully we, as adults, can use the experience to help them learn a lesson.

    • You know what I too have had this feeling for some time. I wonder if there is something that can be changed or if there is a way to help the scouts to understand what they are electing these scouts for.

      • The SM has the ability the tell the boys what they should be voting on. The emphasis should be on cheerful service and who can represent the troop in that service. The Lodge representative should also be emphasizing and talking about the important traits that should belong to all arrowmen. If this is falling short ask the Lodge Adviser or the election committee adviser for more help. If the district has its own OA Chapter ask the Chapter adviser for help.

    • Jennifer,

      As a Lodge Advisor and veteran of many Unit elections my response to the “popularity” claim is always this; the Scoutmaster is ultimately responsible to approve those running for election. He knows the boys the best. If a youth is too immature or hasn’t shown that they practice Scouting values, then they cannot be recommended as a Candidate. We rely upon on the Unit to vet each potential candidate.

      However, too many Scoutmasters do not want to confront little Johnny’s mom and explain why they were not presented for election. They abdicate their responsibility and hope it all sorts it out during the election. And usually it does not, Scouts who aren’t ready are elected and those deserving can be missed. Then everyone screams “popularity” and “that’s why we don’t have the OA visit”.

      A proper election starts at home with the Unit making the right choices.

    • Same here. OA is a popularity contest. It helps if the scouts attends the same school and have the same friends who will vote for them into the OA. If you have a few who attend a different school or who just transferred here from a move… it doesn’t matter if they have model behavior or not. They aren’t popular with the “in” scout crowd.

      I have not been impressed with some of the behavior of some of the OA scouts that I have met and seen. They meet during our Round Tables and they run some events. So, I have been unimpressed with OA. We have wonderful Boy Scouts who never make it into OA and I have been more impressed with them than the OA scouts so far that I have met.

      Some military/foreign service families’ children move a lot. I don’t know any of them making it into OA at their temporary units here and there. Not a nice way to greet a child whose parent is deployed abroad… not vote them into the OA club. These military children are always cool in my book… and cooler than any of the OA scouts that I have met.

      I’m glad that 4H partners with the military and creates a nurturing environment for our military connected youth. Our family is not in the military, but I grew up a Navy brat. I have worked overseas and I have seen great support of our military families from organizations such as 4H, Operation Homefront and Fisher House Foundation. I’m glad that 4H is supporting our military families. I am a Troop ASM and 4H volunteer and I love volunteering with 4H.

      Transatlantic Council scouts come stateside from time to time and temporarily join units in the U.S. They don’t always belong to one unit long enough to earn their “popularity” status to be voted into the OA. When I see a worthy scout not voted into OA, I tell them about 4H.

    • It really depends on how it is presented Jennifer. It is discussed seriously with the boys weeks before the election, and reiterated that the election is for those young men that have qualified. We emphasize that if the wlected boys should be active members, should be cheerful, and are outdoor leaders. Your local OA Chapter can provide OA members to talk about the importance of the election and run it for your troop. If it is done presented properly, there is less popularity contest in the voting.

  3. Are “You Tougher Than a Boy Scout” could be on going and a OA event. You don’t need all the cameras and hoopla. Just 4 man scout teams and Troop Resources, and your on your way to fun and adventure. Service projects, dance teams, etc. Every four years at the Jambo you could have the finals.

      • This is where you step in as a Leader and ask some questions. Do you know who your Lodge Officers are…do you have their contacts…do you have a Youth OA Representative in your Troop ?
        Please remember Scouting ( the Troop and OA ) is to be ran by Youth and YOU are in place to Advise. We too have communication problems, your District has OA Officers, have your Senior Patrol Leader contact Council Office for those contacts and take action to get involved, Elect a Troop Rep. Perhaps look at Council online Calender. Nobody’s perfect, frustration is okay, getting mad or giving up is not. Unlike our Nation that gives a man 4 years as Elected Chief to get it right, these YOUTH usually only have 1. Make it better…You get involved too. Example: Have been OA Member going on 12 years and still have to ask/look online to see what’s going on.

      • Agree with Q. The Venturers are trying to start their own “OA” called “Corps of Discovery” becuase of the repeated back-handedness of the OA policy. This isn’t any better of a solution, as it furthers the distance between Scout Troops and Venturing Crews.

        The real solution is to fix the bad policy instead of letting things fester. If Venturing is really “Scouting’s Next Step,” let’s stop doing the stupid devicive things that are causing our program to shrink and welcome them in.

        The youth don’t like the politcs, they don’t like the animoscity and so many have moved with their feet that we must listen.

        • Not sure if creating a pathway to OA via venturing crew would solve much. Good venturers are some of the busiest people I know, so I’m not sure they’d be able to spare time for lodge life.

          However, I do think that Lodge Chiefs and Venturing Officer Association presidents would do well to work closely together. They are both trying to do similar jobs for different constituencies.

  4. As a long-time OA adviser, what I have discovered is that some troop leaders see OA as stealing their senior youth away from them. Not only to hold chapter and lodge leadership positions, but just to take them away from a troop activity like a campout or the like. These are the adult leaders that decline to even have an OA election in their unit….which when I was Chapter Adviser, was about 20% of the troops. What they don’t realize is that they simply take opportunities away from their boys by “pooh pooh’ing” OA. Most of our senior lodge youth leadership, past and present, will tell you that their involvement in OA was really the icing on their Scouting cake.

    • I belong to a troop and lodge where the friction you speak of is alive and strong. There are plenty of political reasons for the disconnect that are not the point of this article. However, there is a fault to be found in the way that OA is perceived that can be traced to the behavior of the OA Lodge. The behavior is the near constant focus on serving the chapter and the summer camp facility. Every event and every request is focused on improving the stats of the chapter or providing service to the summer camp. Both the chapter and summer camp need help and so those industrious boys seeking further challenges will naturally gravitate toward the service. This does two things; first, it burns the boys out on OA and Scouting because the requests never stop and the expectations never seem to be satisifed and second, it takes the youth leadership away from the troop because the OA events are either scheduled during troop functions or take so much time that the scout must pay attention to school/family/band/sports instead of doing “another” scout activity.

      I don’t like presenting problems without also presenting a solution so my solution is to make sure that the entire OA organization (National to Chapter) remember who it is they were elected to serve. In the ceremony, each candidate bis reminded that “those that chose you, need you.” What is quickly assumed is that the OA chose them to be Arrowmen. The truth is that their peers in the troop chose them and they need their help. With the size, strength, and calibur of the youth in OA, there should never be a reason that a troop needs a merit badge instructor or a senior youth leader for other troop functions. There should be youth volunteers coordinating the annual 50 mile hike in the summer and skit trip in the winter. Arrowmen should be conducting the troop leadership training and be the reliable “go-to” young men that Scoutmasters can call upon when their younger troop needs some youth structure. In short, once the youth becomes an Arrowman, he should be more visible in the troop and the council instead of being whisked away to the Lodge where appreciating their service to the council is restricted to those that are already in the order. Seeing those Arrowmen as leaders and experts at troop events (often and wearing the sashes) will be the only recruiting tool OA would ever need.

    • I was one of the first OA members in my troop and while I was lodge chief and even section Chief I still was able to attend scout meetings and help the younger scouts aspire to leadership roles out side of the troop level. At least that is what some of the parents of the younger scouts has since told me. They said that being a leader at the council and area level really gave the boys something to look up to. It inspired them to do bigger and better things, one of which joined a venture crew and is now the Council VOA President!

  5. I still struggle to understand the purpose of the OA. I was a member but never got involved beyond taking Brotherhood because all the events involved was getting together to eat. There was rarely any service and it has always seemed like a distraction from other scouting activities rather than a scouting honor society.

  6. While I intially hated the idea of allowing video and public viewing of OA events…I agree it has helped remove some of the stigma associated with OA. Bottom line is…if we want OA to be a true Honor Society, we have to accept some people won’t get in, or may take a few years. I can remember the year our troop only elected one scout. The next year, 5 were elected. Those of us not voted in the first year were upset, but we still wanted in.
    Yes, OA is a bit of a popularity contest….I think it’s been that way for 20+ years.
    I agree we need better publicity on what we do, and we need leaders to accept…if we’re going to remain an Honor Society, we have to remain slightly exclusive. But…there have always been the patch chasers who just wanted the flap, and never really wanted to be invovled in OA. How do we weed them out? Remove the patch for anyone not Brotherhood? (worked when I was a youth) Allow OA Sash to be worn at ALL Court of Honor? (my troop did this…and it helped inspire the younger scouts)

    • When I was first elected [’81] it was vastly more exclusive; I believe we were allowed 1 youth for every 25 in the Troop, it took a total of 3 years after I joined before I was elected.
      But Sash-N-Dash was unheard of then, the pride of belonging to such a Society kept everyone as active as possible.
      HOWEVER… My Lodge was seen at EVERY Council/District Event; they came to us for help and we always were happy to help.
      Generally speaking, if they needed 10, we made sure that at least 20 were available; ALWAYS in class “A”s with a clean sash, or in their regalia [depending on the event.]
      Another thing we used to do was have a kiosk at local fairs [or other community events]… not to sign-up anyone, but to gain interest in who we were.
      As well as being involved in Parades and such… We put our faces out before everyone possible and let it be known who we were, BUT we also maintained what was then considered the “secrecy” of our ceremonies and traditions.

      • Well, they may not have used the term, but I was one of those Sash-N-Dashers! Distance from meetings, time for activities, and extra $, were the main factors that inhibited my participation.

  7. The Order of the Arrow has been a great experience for me. With that said you get as much out of it as you put into it. There are great opportunities such as NLS, OA High Adventure, NOAC, OA Staff at Jamborees, Indian Summer (when there is one) and Conclaves. There are also opportunities for leadership on the Chapter and Lodge levels. I went to the NOAC in 2012, OA Trail Crew at Philmont and to the 2013 National Jamboree on OA Staff, and had a blast. I was able to take these experiences back to my Troop, Crew, Chapter and Lodge and share with other Arrowmen.

  8. My Troop is just over a year old, so we don’t have a youth presence as of yet.
    I have 3 who are now 1st Class Scouts [made it too late for last year’s cycle] and will have their first opportunity this year to be elected into the O/A.
    Luckily, I am the Chapter Adviser for my local Chapter and have been a member of the O/A since ’81.
    However, we [as a chapter AND Lodge are still seeing the “Sash & Dash” among new and older members.
    I will confess that I’m not sure how to prevent this from happening as our Chapter and Lodge are VERY active; not only with doing Service, but also with having fun activities.
    Our Lodge has;
    A) 2 Induction Weekends per year [heavy-duty service weekends at camp], and
    B) 2 Fellowship weekends per year [usually some light training, but MOSTLY fun-stuff.]

    In addition to these events, Our chapter has;
    A) 2 Fellowship weekends per year [ALWAYS fun weekends.]
    a. We generally offer [for example];
    i. Archery
    ii. Canoeing
    iii. Fishing
    iv. Frisby tag
    v. Capture the Flag
    vi. Campfires
    vii. GREAT food, etc

    Our Chapter [one of the smallest in the Lodge] has roughly 200 members; but we tend to see the same 6-8 youth at the meetings [which are held monthly {by calendar plan}], but that’s not even 5%.
    The only month in 2014 we don’t have at least 2 events is July, which is primarily because that is when the bulk of our local Scouts go to summer camp.
    As far as popularity contests are concerned, I’ve noticed this is a heavy undercurrent of the theme for the youth [and adults] these days; I have visited several of the Troops in my area to discuss adult membership and nominations while the youth are holding their elections.
    I have seen Star and Life Scouts [SPLs and ASPLs] who are passed-over in favor of a 1st Class who is recently new to a Troop.
    I DO find it odd that these youth are worthy to be the Scouts “elected Leader”, but not worthy for the Order; but it is NOT our place to question the decisions of the youth….
    ALL we can do [meaning the Election Team] is explain the election rules and process… what the youth do is beyond our control.

    If ANYONE has ANY idea of how to get the fire lit again, I am ALL ears and would VERY much like to hear your opinions.
    Just remember that Chapters don’t have funds and everything is pretty-much an out-of-pocket expense.

    • I enjoyed reading you comments. I have been in the process of getting our chapter restarted. Nice to hear your ideas and experiences.

  9. Our chapter had a bit of a bad rep, (though the last year or two seems to have gotten better), due to the leadership; it was seen an exclusive club that was run by boys mainly from just a couple of troops in our district as were the adult leaders. They have gotten some new blood but my son was nominated twice over the years and declined because of the boys involved. He simply didn’t want to be associated with them.

    Having an involved/ active OA Rep in the troop has helped with some of the attitude though. I think most people (boys and parents), didn’t really know what it was about because we didn’t have anyone in the troop involved for so long.

    From a leader perspective, I do have a hard time with OA because it’s one more thing we have to try to schedule our campouts and activities around if we want our upper-echelon boys to be able to participate in both activities. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out and there are always people who are upset.

  10. Leaders (Adult and Youth) need to be educated on the current policies of the OA.
    The days of electing only those who are popular are gone (if the elections are held properly).
    If the scout is qualified to be elected to the OA , his name is placed on the ballot of those eligible. Unlike, “back in the day”, ALL those listed on the ballot can be elected to the OA.

    The two issues I see that need to be addressed are both part of being educated about the Order.

    1. The youth (and their parents) need to understand the OA.
    What it’s purpose is, what the youth can gain from membership, what they can expect to do, and what is expected of them.
    Events need to be well promoted. Service needs to be recognized.
    The OA is much more than a sash and a patch.
    If done right, this would prevent the proverbial “Sash and Dash” that so many of the youth do.
    It would also dispel rumors, urban legends, and myths about the OA.

    2. The other issue is concerning Adult membership. (inducting Adults into the order, not adults who joined as youth).
    Units/District/Council should NOT use Adult Membership as a reward.
    Adult membership should be for those who can contribute to supporting/promoting the Order.
    There are other ways for thanking adults for supporting scouting or even the OA.
    Those adults who are selected for induction should have to have the same requirements that the youth do (Nights Camping and Ordeal).

    One more thing, it needs to be understood, that the OA is a BOY SCOUT program.
    Therefore the Venturers (nor Crews) are not elected into the order. If a Venturing member was elected into the order while a Boy Scout, they may participate in the OA.
    Venturing should focus on their own program and utilize groups such as the “Corps of Discovery” as their own “Honor” program. National should recognize/promote this for all Venturing crews.

    As for Lodges that are involved in misconduct (Drinking/Drugs, etc.) their Council needs to step up and clean things up.

  11. To answer the question, we have this exact issue in my son’s Troop. As a Vigil Member myself, I understand how the OA can keep older Scouts involved in their Unit.

    The first thing we did is vote for an OA Representative. It is this person’s responsibility to communicate all of the upcoming OA events to the Troop. We have the ‘meeting after the meeting’ one a month. Basically all the OA member meet for 5-10 minutes after one Troop a month to discuss the OA events and upcoming service projects in which the Troop is participating. This could include Eagle Service Projects, Scouting for Food or other recycling we do.

    We are in the process of selecting an Assistant Scoutmaster of the OA. In our Troop, this person is the advisor for the OA Rep and observes the ‘meeting after the meeting’.

    One final thing we do is set the expectation of what an OA member does once he is elected. The OA is first and foremost and a service group and a person elected should fulfill this obligation.

  12. In many ways OA is a popularity event, plus the way our council schedules the elections a fair vote is difficult. The vote is scheduled soon after the WEBS bridge. A couple of years ago we bridged more webs then we had active scouts. As a result the election was controlled by the WEBS. Only one scout was elected into OA. He was in his second year with the troop and a very active scout. The scout was well known by the new scouts because he had been a Den Chief for several and by extension was active with them right after bridging. Other scouts who held leadership positions in the troop and were very active did not get elected. My opinion is the scout who got in was not more deserving then those leaders who did not. One specific scout was much more qualified and should have been elected over this scout.

    The scout that was elected is my son. Though congratulated by everyone he felt guilty for getting and as such his achievement was lessened. He went through the ordeal and then decided not to participate. As he told me ” It really doesn’t mean anything”

  13. Two years ago we had about 10 or 11 boys get elected to the OA. We had no active adults at that time. (And no other active OA members) Only two of us female scouters were even eligible to join. At that time we both declined. As June ordeal passed, the OA in my head kept nagging me. (My oldest son is a “sash-n-dash”) I finally accepted the call and did my ordeal that August. My two main reasons were to keep the boys who recently went through ordeal involved and to help the parents of these boys understand OA and the obligation. Oftentimes if the parents aren’t on board then the boy is not committed to the group. By helping the parents understand the different camp-outs, service opportunities, what it means to get Brotherhood and the monthly meetings, we’ve had great boy participation from our troop. I can also help organize rides to these events since they are not a troop activity. Even if I don’t attend a particular camp-out I can get the boys parents in contact with another OA adult in our area for ride sharing. I’m having a great time being in the OA.

    • Good for you Dana!

      Last year the membership requirements were changed to allow the Scoutmaster to be inducted if a youth was elected and the SM met the normal eligibility requirements. This doesn’t count against the unit’s adult election ratio.

      Two reason for this. One, it hopefully engages those SMs who dodn’t understand OA’s place in their unit. Two, It’s one more adult to provide rides to events. That is VERY important. There’s a much better chance a youth will attend an event if a unit leader attends. Takes mom and dad out of the problem.

      You’ve obviously figured that part out! Thank you.

  14. How can you, as a Scouter, increase your Scouts’ involvement in the Order of the Arrow?

    Attend OA events yourself and let your scouts know they have a ride to and from.

  15. I was inducted into the Order of the Arrow as a youth in 1988. I was very active in the Order and was eventually elected Lodge Chief. I was also very involved in ceremony events. It is disconcerting when he hear negative comments about the Order, as it did a lot for me as a youth and I continue to volunteer as an adult adviser. It should enhance the scouting experience and serve as a tool to build better leaders. Those elected should be recognized for the leadership they have exhibited in their unit and for the service to their unit that they will continue in the future. I believe that the greatest understanding of the Order’s purpose and principals comes from a meaningful performance of the induction ceremonies, but all aspects of the induction process, from unit election through Brotherhood conversion are important in keeping an active membership in the Lodge. The Lodge should have an active role and function in the counsel and provide service to scout camps and other counsel activities. The OA has also collectively provided millions of hours of service to our National parks. Personally, it opened a new door in my scouting experience and gave me an opportunity to serve in youth leadership positions until I turned 21. I think if a Lodge and its Chapters have a significant presence in District and Council activities including at the Cub Scout level, that the entire organization would be better served.

  16. Speaking as a long time member (35+ years), and Assoc Lodge Adviser of many years, sash and dash has always been an issue. As others have said, some youth join purely to check it off the list. Not much you can do there.

    Our Lodge and it’s current youth leadership have done amazing work increasing retention (>%80) and Brotherhood conversions were pushing %75.. At NLATS a few weeks ago, this subject came up and everyone wanted to know how we were doing it.

    Communications is primary. If a member doesn’t know who, what, where, when, for EVERY event, they certainly won’t be there. We send our newsletter via email AND snail mail to every current member AND every registered Scoutmaster in the Council. Our youth leaders are active on the Lodge FB page, and the Chief posts video messages regularly.

    At ordeals, after the feast, we do OA jump start right then. Captive audience. Then we break up into Chapters and have a short Chapter meeting. This lets the new members meet the youth that live near them and helps them feel welcome.

    Most of our chapters meet at the same time as the roundtable. This saves youth finding rides, and adults taking another night to give them one.

    Our Lodge as a whole is very visible at any event. In the districts, chapter members run events every year like Klondike, and provide youth to run competition events at camporees. At the council level, Arrowmen are always asked to participate in some way, and our Lodge Chief has a seat on the Council Board to facilitate those efforts.

    I normally sum it up by saying the most important reason we have such great participation is that we have simply created a culture that expects it from our members. We make it as easy as possible for them to attend. We follow up when we haven’t seen someone in a while. It’s never “are you coming to …”, It’s always ” see you there.”.

  17. Once Michigan restructured I don’t want to work all day, drive an hour home and then drive two hour across the state for an event. In Michigan we need to go back to smaller territories.

  18. This is just my experience & “opinoin” with O/A and being a member of brotherhood. From the start, I’ve found O/A leaders and Scouts to be very “clicky” and aloof, not friendly, and very much a closed society of those on the in croud. I know thats NOT how it’s supposed to be, and I’m sure there are many O/A outfits run the right way. Let’s not even get into O/A being an initiation, that’s for another day. Overall, I think O/A has a lot of potential and is a good organization.

    • I likewise was a “sash-n-dash,” in my case because I became involved in SeaScouts and OA just wasn’t part of that culture in Minnesota. My son was elected to OA at this summer’s camp. I have to say, based upon what I am reading, I am not sure I want him participating here in Hawai’i. Perhaps if “I went along too.” But then, I guess I would have to be re-inducted. I likewise do not want him (or myself) having to choose between troop or OA.

      • Ponani, you don’t need to be reinducted. Once in the OA always in the OA. You can attend any event he does. I had a wonderful experience in the OA as it suplemented by Boy Scout and Venture/Explorer experience. I’ve been in touch with the local lodge as I miss the time spent with other Arrowmen and there is no problem with me returning.

        • Curious how I “verify ” I was OA? I have to admit, after close to 50 years later, I barely recall anything. I can’t recall what lodge, hell I had to search my files to recall my troop number. Also I now live 5,000 miles away and I understand the “Viking Council” no longer exists in Minnesota.

  19. When I was elected, and basically the leadership corps who were also OA members were the ones who elected me. I was a bit excited and I went through the ordeal. Afterwards, I went to my first meeting, I found no one that I knew. It seemed ok at first, but an older boy was tasked with teaching me a dance. It got worse almost immediately. I had asked what is the significance of the dance, like its meaning. This is what I got back: “What are you some kind of braniac, why don’t you just shut the f-ing up and stop talking and learn the dance, the time you spend talking you should be learing the dance.. Hey guy some kind of braniac here. Then most of the boys started yelling at me, berating and said I can either mop the place or learn the dance. Sound like fun to you?

    Well, first, let me tell you that this is in Hawaii (yes, there is only one lodge and you can look it up), we have a native culture too, and we are the only state in the entire USA where we have two legal languages, Hawaiian and English. The rest of the United States, has never declared a national language (you can look that up, too – e.g. http://www.scribd.com/doc/334176/English-as-the-Official-Language-of-the-United-States-Legal-Background-and-Analysis-of-Legislation-in-the-110th-Congress). Defacto English, but not written in any law, but not in Hawaii, we have declared, in law, English and Hawaiian (http://hawaii.gov/lrb/con/conart15.html). Hawaiian dance, hula (but not what you think, most of what you see is Tahitian – with the fast moving hips). State need to take care of this themselves. So, I have learning Hawaiian culture and language without a single drop of Hawaiian blood running through my veins. People help you learn.

    Back to OA, so I figured, well that was just one meeinting. I went to the next one. Then it got even worse. I soon as I got there, no “hello”, instead I get “Did you learn the dance? What do you mean no? Why do you think we gave you the sheet with the steps? For our health? What’s wrong with you!”. Constant yelling at me and another boy who also just joined. Anytime we try to ask a question of speak, we just got “Silence!” then they yelled at us to “learn the f-ing dance you f-ing a-hole”. Can you imagine being yelled at for over an hour? Finally I got fed up, and started yelling back, “that is why you are only first-class, and by the next meeting, I’ll be a Life scout and I’m younger than you. You have no signs of obeying the Scout Law, ‘trustworthy, loyal, HELPFUL, FRIENDLY, COURTEOUS, KIND, obedient, CHEERFUL, thrifty, brave, CLEAN and reverent. You don’t even live the Scout Oath, like the HELP OTHER PEOPLE at ALL TIMES. You are none of these, you don’t belong in the Boy Scouts, you dishonor us all with our horrendous behavior?” The adult leader was no help, not doing much of anything. I was so mad, I reported everyone to the Council. I don’t know what happened, but the next meeting was fine, everyone behaving as a Scout should. There was a Council person at that meeting. He said he doesn’t see what I was talking about, but he feels it and hears derision murmured. I quit. We had no outdoor activity other than the planning of the next ordeal, which would be the next outdoor activity (remember that I had just joined and just gone through the ordeal i.e. it as nearly a year away. OA was the worst experiences of my life, 1000% worse than the ordeal. A year later I earned my Eagle.

    Last year, at one of our Troop’s Court of Honor (I am COR for that Troop and its Pack, I am an ASM in another Troop and Cubmaster of the associated Pack. My son is in the Troop where I am COR.) everyone was told to be in full dress uniform, OA if you have it, merit badge sashes and neckerchiefs for the boys. I wore the OA sash, since it had been 30 years since my horrible experience with the OA, I was figuring it was probably better. A Scout saw me with my sash and asked me if I was in OA. I said I WAS in the OA, but it didn’t work out. I told him of my experience, he said, it is still the same, he quit too. I took off my sash and put it back in my car, I’ll never wear it again. Unfortunately, as Cubmaster I have to be in touch with the OA for our Arrow of Light. But it seems that everyone is quite nice when they come for the Arrow of Light and are quite agreeable and cheerful. In the Troop where I am ASM, we don’t send anyone to the OA, the older boys who did go, all had the same experience as I did and it was 30 years after me, so we stopped sending boys to OA, unless they really want to go. Troop where I am the COR, also stopped sending boys to OA.

    Your area might be fine, but our OA is a thug run gang. I did meet a nice gentleman, a college professor, and was the Senior Patrol Leader at Wood Badge, who loves the OA, he went through it in Idaho. I asked him to go our local lodge and check. I haven’t heard back from him yet. I’ll see him in February.

    You wonder why some Arrowmen, become ghosts? What kind of real Boy Scout (who tries to follow the Scout Oath and Law) wants to be associated with a thug run gang (that seems to try its best to defy – maybe defile – the Scout Oath and Law – an hour and a half where not a minute, ok mabye one minute, is a complete anthesis)? I feel that our lodge needs a full cleanout where the leaders, adults and youth should be driven out of the BSA, or asked to leave. Replace it with decent youth and adults.
    You can guess what I think OA stands for.

    • I’m very sorry for your experience with OA. I’m especially distressed to hear that it still is going on. One question though, why didn’t you attend a meeting and see what is going on for yourself? It’s one thing to ask a scout what their experience with OA has been but nothing beats firsthand experience.

      Part of the reason this hasn’t changed in three decades(!!) could be that the boys are following bad examples. This is one of the reasons that we have adult advisors. Rather than giving up on the OA, I would challenge you to go to a meeting and if it is indeed the same way, take the issue up with the OA chapter advisor and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Here’s one of those times where you can show service and devotion to the welfare of others by helping to fix a continuing problem!

      • Let me straighten a few things out, perhaps I wasn’t detailed enough, or too much rambling.

        “It’s one thing to ask a scout what their experience with OA has been but nothing beats firsthand experience.”
        I didn’t ask, the boy approached me. I was just standing around observing what is going on. The boy was asking me, in effect, how was OA back in the day? I think he was searching for when it had gone bad.

        “hasn’t changed in three decades(!!)”
        I need to clarify that. That wasn’t my intention. I don’t know that, say, 20 years ago, that it was fixed or had gotten better. All I see are two end points (where I stopped is one end; where the boy talked to me, that is the other end) so I don’t know the middle. it might have been worse, it might have been bettter, it might have been the same, I simply don’t know nor do I care. Does it really matter if was good 10 or 20 years ago?

        “One question though, why didn’t you attend a meeting and see what is going on for yourself?”
        My reply is “why bother?” I don’t see, nor read, nor hear anyting that OA does that can’t be done with the Troop or with friends. Learning more about Native American lore, does that require OA? No. Outdoors? No. Both Troops (where I am ASM and the other where I am COR) have high adventure twice a year. Service projects? No. both Troops do service projects regularly, some not even Eagle projets, it’s just what we do. The company that I work for also has community service projects and for that my family also participates. Also, my son’s Soccer Club has regular service projects (its mission is to learn sportsmanship, teamwork, competition (where winning isn’t the main focus) and community service. The chartering organization, of which I am a member, and thus COR, also does community service projects. I already have multiple venues for community service.

        For some reason, maybe serendipity or controlled by a higher power, both Troops do not have overlapping camping trips. If I went to every one of them, I’d go twice a month, and sometimes take my son with the “other” Troop. Although I am a COR in my son’s Troop, and not officially ASM, I still perform the duties of an ASM. In the Pack, where I am COR, I am also the Advancement Chair, Registrar and have setup a program for the leadership to get trained. Where I am ASM in the Troop where I earned my Eagle, I pass on my experieces and I am the most active ASM the Troop has. That Troop has a Pack where I am Cubmaster. I am involved with two Troops and two Packs, and have advancement and at large positins with the District and Council. I have a daughter as well (but she isn’t involved in Scouting, neither Venturers nor Girl Scouts). Any non scout time, non work time, I am happy to spend it with my family. I don’t have any more slots for OA, I think my wife would not be happy with me to spend additional time with Scouting. If I do anything more with Scouting, I’d probably be heading for divorce court. I am simply not going to push that issue with getting involved with OA.

        Can you imagine my opinion of OA if my wife and I get divorced? What effect will the opinion of OA be on my scouting son? Or are you suggesting that getting a divorce is a goal of OA? Or are you asking me to leave a Pack without a Cubmaster, or give up being the most active ASM of a Troop, or leave a Troop and Pack without a COR, or stop being a de facto ASM of the Troop; or devolve being Advancement Chair and leader training cc-ordinator of the Troop and Pack where I am COR or leave the District and Council (District and Council participation required as COR)? Tell me, which would you give up for OA involvement? Please let me know:
        1. marriage
        2. Cubmaster
        3. ASM
        4. COR
        5. Advancement Chair
        6. Registrar for Pack
        7. Leadership training coordinator for Pack
        8. Eagle Board of Review member for the Council
        9. At large member for District.
        10. Board member of PTA (chartering organization of where I am COR).
        11. Time with family (remember I also have daughter)
        12. Service projects (Scouting, work, PTA)
        13. Home improvement/repairs
        14. Hobbies
        15. Leisure

        Or if you can think of something else that I should give up for OA.

        • You are indeed one of those rare individuals that Scouting is always looking for! You do indeed have your plate full and I wouldn’t encourage you to try and do any more (especially if it would infringe on your “family” time!) My suggestion was merely that you attend a chapter meeting and see for yourself if the situation is as you remember it. Right now, your opinion of the Order of the Arrow isn’t very positive at all (to say the least!) As a leader in your troop and also as a District member at large, your opinions carry weight and will influence scouts and scouters around you.

          The OA can be a very good organization if it is operated correctly. As you have seen, if it ISN’T, it can leave scars that may never heal! I don’t want you to “give up” anything! If you feel you are “giving up” necessary time to do scouting already, then you might have taken on too many things at one time. The last thing the scouts need is a leader of your quality “burning out!”

          A single visit to an OA meeting probably won’t give you the full picture but it could help tremendously and it wouldn’t be another position you would be taking on, just another instance, one of the hundreds of ways your current positions in the BSA are already helping.

  20. My son is in the OA and I love all the leadership training and roles he has been given. He with one other boy (both 13) planned and executed the webelos woods event for their district. I’ve never been a part of another group for kids that trusts that level of leadership to that young of boys. They did an outstanding job in my opinion, and better than that, they now see themselves as leaders. Our society needs more leaders that live the ideals of the scout law/oath, and I am thankful that the Boy Scout and OA programs train these young men to be our future leaders!

  21. I have a few questions: why are there no wrestling beltloops and bee keeping and martial arts for scouts? There is also geocaching, robotics, etc that boys who are not athletic should be able to strive for shouldn’t there????? Andy McKnight Leader since 2010 Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2013 17:29:13 +0000 To: codycubscouts@hotmail.com

  22. I love our arrowmen. They do right by some of our youth who have the time to attend — even now that our councils have merged and the geography has doubled. However, I am spread thin advising my venturing crew. So, my opinion is pretty much that of an outsider/admirer. Here’s what works as far as I can tell:
    1. Operate on a district level. Lodge chief should visit each roundtable at least once a year and solicit opinions at the scoutmaster breakout sessions if at all possible. OA reps should consider having a youth meeting at roundtable for all troop representatives. This will cost you a few pizzas.
    2. Encourage elections at summer camp. This ensures that boys will be elected after a couple of days actually leading their patrols. When you describe what you are looking for (and not looking for) in a candidate, there’s a chance that you will bring to younger scouts’ minds very specific deeds. This also increases a more uniform presentation of voting rules and enables representatives to assist scoutmasters who may be new to the process.
    3. Give the lodge chief a “bully-pulpit” at council. Have him write an editorial in the council newsletter. Give him a speaking role at council camporees. Parents want their boys to have role models. They see their SPL, they want their boy to be an SPL. Suppose they see a well-mannered lodge chief, guess what they may have their boy pursue once his stint as SPL is over?
    4. Provide service opportunities for arrowmen at council/area events. The Arrowmen in my crew were nabbed by an O/A advisor to help serve one of the meals at our last council camporee. They helped, and I don’t think they even stopped to collect the special patch that was offered. Think about it: maybe lots of these boys did not sign up to have extra events to go to, but maybe they just want to be recognized as “ready to serve, cheerfully.”
    5. Help venturers figure out this scouting stuff. I’ve been very impressed at the nice gear that some young women have had handed down to them by caring older brothers. Get the lodge chief and his cabinet in the same room as the VOA president and his/her cabinet at least once a year.

  23. I’ve heard about a lot of the same in our lodge in the past year. This guy XX got his lodge position by blackmailing this guy GG when GG was so drunk his guts were in the toilet and had to call XX to get him home. The Chapter Advisor’s son had chewing tobacco for everyone at fellowship. etc etc.
    What do you do? Not interested in butting heads with the adult district club (being right is a sure way to be wrong with that crowd) and not interested in encouraging any of my boys to associate with the OA drinking club.
    So, if some get involved and have a good time, fine, if not, fine.

  24. Our Troop is very involved with Order of the Arrow activities and leadership. We have had past chapter chiefs, lodge chiefs, section leaders and even a Southern Region Chief! A lot has to do with the adult leadership of a troop getting on board and being involved. They need to realize that while OA takes a lot of time and effort, it is an awesome organization for both youth and adults.

  25. We are a small troop (average size 22 kids) from a small town in rural Nebraska. Since 2007 our troop has had at least 28 participations in National level OA events. 13 trips as members of the OA High Adventure bases at Sea Base, Boundary Waters, and Philmont (OAOA, OAWV, OATC). The rest are from OA ServiceCorp at National Jambo, NOACs, SummitCorp, ICorp @SummitCorp, ArrowCorp5. All the kids who have participated in the Trail Crew-Ocean Adventure-Wilderness Voyage agree that these are the greatest opportunities and best deals in scouting. Our Troop alone could not provide anywhere close to these opportunities. At least 3 more are signed up for next summer!

  26. #1 The Scoutmaster should to be pro-OA (even if he or she doesn’t participate themselves) by having elections and encouraging the youth to remain active, once elected. #2 The troop should have a youth Order of the Arrow Rep, who will ensure that #3, that the troop does not plan its’ events on the same weekends as OA events.

    • Regarding #3, are you saying that the scouts (like the new scouts, Tenderfoots, 2nd Class) that are not part of OA should suffer the schedule of a program where they are excluded? It sounds like you are suggesting that OA is more important than the Troop because you are suggesting the Troop yeild to OA’s schedule. Am I missing something?

  27. Our Chapter has been “boy run” for the past years by one Troop in the District. If you were not a member of that troop, your input was not wanted. We participated in Ordeal and attended the meetings. The Scouts in the other troops in town quit showing up for the meetings as they were not included. The Chapter leadership positions were always from the same Troop. Not fun for Scouts in other Troops.

  28. The Scouts in our Troop very much seem to have the attitude that OA is a right, not an honor, so they don’t owe anything back (participation in work days, mentoring other OA members or boys who want to be in OA, etc.). Unfortunately, this is fostered by some of the key parents in our Troop. Fortunately, two of our three new OA members this past year are very much focused on OA-as-an-honor (#3 is the son of one of the key parents), so I’m hopeful that this will change in the next few years.

  29. Truthfully, it’s a lost cause in my particular troop. The lodge is run by a click (a handful of adults) and if you’re not in it, you’re SOL. I served as a Chapter Chief, Section Officer, and OATR, but I couldn’t pay my guys to go to OA events in our lodge and get screamed at the entire day to do service from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, with only a 30-minute lunch break. The OA taught me a lot about leadership, but 95% of the boys in my troop were sash-and-dash after Ordeal.

  30. The OA can be a most enjoyable and educational experience for Scouts. It should always maintain the focus on its roots – things that never change: service, cheerfulness and brotherhood. It started in service to summer camp, encouraging and helping the camping program. I had a great first 5 years in OA as an adult. A Vigil honor member, I was saddened when the focus at our lodge was more on administrative practice and adults reliving their lost childhood, which damaged the experience of the youth. On the administrative side, what 15 year old wants to go spend a weekend in business meetings? It’s much more fun and fulfilling to build a new camp facility (and say “I made that”), learn ceremonies, make regalia and sit around a campfire with the best scouts in your Council! On the “Adults reliving their lost childhood”, we had adult leaders interfering with almost every major decision, pulling strings and redirecting those business meetings, and the spirit went out of the lodge. Being more concerned about strict rules than enabling the OA experience cost us both youth and adults and scared off Scoutmasters. “Service Weekends” became Ordeal candidates doing a project without older youth members working beside them, and older members sitting in the dining hall waiting for their next meal or meeting. Who needs that? How many new ordeal members do you suppose came back? The adults need to be role models for the youth, out there showing the brotherhood and cheerful service, not running the show for their own benefit.
    OA can be (and I am sure still is) great in many Lodges. But Lodge Advisors need to be on guard against adult members with juvenile ambitions, and remember the adult leaders you need are the ones who will drive (transport) younger Arrowmen to events willingly and to follow the flow of the Lodge, not redirect it. It’s about the youth becoming adults, not the adults becoming youth. WWW!

  31. Let me start my response with a question: Is the OA a wild Mustang or a broken work Mule?

    I was a sash and dash kid myself, in fact my ordeal was the very last thing I ever did in scouts, long story short is my family moved to an area with no scout troop and I didn’t know about the lone scout program. As such I remember my ordeal with Lodge 5, I remember the two boys in my troop that smuggled in food to the ordeal and got kicked out, I remember the honor, the fire dancers, the sense that this was epic and something really cool. There was a sense that it really meant something, and the other youth took pride in what the program was.

    Today I am an Assistant Scoutmaster, live in a different state all together, wear the lodge flap from my ordeal proudly, but have a tough time encouraging boys to look into it. The why is really simple, yes there is a once a year conclave camp experience that is fun, but for the other 11 months out of the year it’s come to camp and work for us in service hours. Boy after boy in my troop has gone down this road and once they decide the dance team isn’t for them, they are left feeling the only thing that is still open to them in the OA is to work service projects for camp.(mind you that’s a 3 hour drive to get there too) As an adult no I haven’t become active in the local OA, honestly as the assistant Scoutmaster to the BSA troop and the Troop Coordinator for an AHG troop I simply don’t have the time for yet another project, Will I get current local if my son ever crosses that bridge into the OA, perhaps, But it won’t be to carve out more time to go and mow lawns and clean fields for a camp my troop uses once every other year. Service is needed, but the HONOR of being in the OA needs to be returned.

    If you want to get the program back to where it was. I know we were right outside of Philly when I was a boy and the OA was something special there. It was more than a dance team and service hours, there was mentors and the sense of apprenticeship. There was a pride in doing something epic, a story that you could go back to the troop and beat the chest and say hear me roar. It was the best of the best, it was the boys who stood tall and walked strong. Today I send boys off and they go through the ordeal and come back with dirt in their pants, grit in their teeth and a sense of pride in what they did, to then follow it up with request after request to come and do more service hours. I don’t know if other lodges have the same frustration, but in an ever condensing schedule with these boys to tell them that the only honor there is in being OA is that you are asked to do more work?????? I know there is a need for this, but it needs to balance out, there needs to be a little more than just this.

    Let me return to the original question of this response. Is the OA a wild mustang? A symbol of the wild untamed heart of the American core. A piece of history that embodies the Native American spirit and quest to pursue and discover. A code of pride and honor, something to fiercely fight for and look at with the eyes of wisdom and goodly fear. The wild mustang is a fierce untamed wild beast who demands respect and if fiercely loyal to its own clan. The wild mustang drums up a sense of nobility, of awe of ages past, of wonder and excitement. Or is the OA a broken work mule? A descendant of something that was once more but is now simply used to get the job done.

    Yes it’s boy led, but the boys lead by what they have been shown. I don’t have an answer, I’ve been struggling with this for the last few years myself in how to break through the walls and get back to leading the boys into an EPIC journey. The fire is still there, you can see it in their eyes, They are here because they still hear the beat of the drums calling out to the epic journey that it can be. Now we must find ways to guide them into paths in this new world that mirror the epic journeys of old. I’m just an old goat bleeting out on the cliff face to take the leap to run at life full force, I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m not done looking and as long a boy is still willing to follow I will continue to try to find new epic paths for them to journey on.

  32. I think that is part of the issue. So many boys are eligible and most sash and dash. I was elected when it was a two boy per troop limit. Maybe we should go back to that. The problem is the OA is no longer the BSA’s elite boys…..But every wastoid boy who gets the required number of camping.

    But wait, the scoutmasters can help by not recommending everyone who is eligible.

    Locally the OA is slave labor to setup and tear down the summer camp. One of the chapters has a dance team, that does a couple of Arrow of Light things and then dances once per year at a council family function. No fall fellowship

    • As a scout, I enjoyed going to help my SM with our camp’s beaver days. So, no regrets about the hard work. In fact this past summer my son was helping hike some fellas on their five miler, and came across the section of trail he improved for his ordeal. He was quite proud that his improvements stuck in spite of some fierce intervening weather, and commenced organizing some spur-of-the-moment clearing of some recent deadfall.

  33. This is a timely topic! We are having our monthly chapter meeting tonight and I will have our troop representative bring up this topic. If done right, it could provoke some interesting and relevant discussion. It’s also possible that it could be quashed before it begins by the chapter advisor. I think I’ll report back tomorrow on what happens…

    • Wow, what an eye opener! I showed up with my son and our troop rep. and, with one other scout from our troop, we made 50% of the youth membership that night! Four troops were represented in all out of eighteen in our chapter… not the best percentage of representation!

      Some of this is understandable as the last two chapter meetings were cancelled due to illness and weather and this month’s meeting wasn’t well advertised. In fact, I didn’t know about it untill two days ago. The boys sat around the table and pretty much just ran through the agenda for the next month. There was discussion about the Annual Lodge Dinner which is being held in two weeks and also about our three clans dance team and the starting up of rehearsals for it. Two of the six youth are current members while three of the six were new Ordeal members with only one showing any enthusiasm for joining.

      Clearly, the chapter needs an infusion of that “cheerful spirit!” The boys WANT to be in OA but they seem to not know how to promote the “Brotherhood of Cheerful Service.”

      I wasn’t going to speak up but when it looked like the meeting was going to close without ANY discussion about what could be done, I decided to chime in. I mentioned this discussion we are having here and I tried to get the boys to brainstorm ideas about how they could make the Order more relevant to the troops.

      While I won’t go so far as to say I was shot down by the Chapter Advisor, I will say that I had the distinct impression that my comments weren’t welcome. I don’t know if that was because it was the end of the meeting and it looked as if my comments would start up a discussion that would drag the meeting on or if my concerns were not shared.

      No matter. The first step is to get the arrowmen of our chapter to the next meeting and THEN have a plan ready for discussion! I know the Chapter Advisor and I will have a friendly discussion with him about how to get the chapter leadership to present this to the membership. Since we both want the same thing, this should be a productive endeavour.

    • Something very similar seems to be happening with many venturing officer’s associations. We don’t seem to be forming/attracting those strong youth leaders. Or perhaps this strong leaders are being drawn to other organizations?

  34. To answer the question, my troop and previous troop’s participation in the OA is almost non-exisitant. Let’s think about why. You’ve 13-14 years old. You’re on a sports team, in scouts, and maybe confirmation. Or if you’re older say in high school there’s driving and academics to throw in there. The OA program is a weak program and as such, will not draw in the scouts to participate. Given a choice for a weekend activity, driving 2 hours to camp, work your $%# off all weekend, and have to pay to do it (legal requirements and that wonderful camp food) OR stay at home and go to the Basketball game with friends, or work on a merit badge, or go on the camping trip with your Troop (the kids you really know) most boys will not take up the OA option.

    In addition, membership elections in our area are awful. The current Troop I am in I don’t think has had elections in 10 years. The troop actually runs its own Honor Camper award. No election, just complete 20 nights of camping and you’re considered an honor camper. No special meetings, ceremonies, just another patch.

    When I asked the Scoutmaster if they’ve had elections, he basically said, when ever the Chapter asks, he always agrees. The problem is, the Chapter has never asked.

    In my previous Troop, the Scoutmaster didn’t push the OA because he felt (and rightfully so) active participation in the OA could take his best youth leaders away from leading the troop.

    I had a great OA experience when I was a youth, and was elected to Vigil as a youth so you know I put in the service hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it. HOWEVER, looking back on that experience, I was a scouting nerd, and wasn’t a well rounded kid. I didn’t do sports, my grades were ok, nothing to write home about. Today’s boys have many more choices than when I was a youth, and the quality of the OA program is so up and down I am not surprised participation is down.

  35. I think the problem is a matter of time and busy schedules. There are typically 4 weekends in a month. Almost always, there will be a weekend dedicated to a troop campout, and often another weekend in the month will include a unit fundraiser, service project, junior leader training, Eagle court of honor, day trip or some other Scouting event/activity. Plus if these Scouts are truly dedicated to the program (and thus worthy of induction into Scouting’s honor society) they may also have other Scouting commitments (such as being a Den Chief for a Cub Scout pack, being involved in a Venturing Crew, serving on a camp or NYLT staff, etc.) – so there goes another weekend each month or so. Plus most Scouts have more than just Scouting in their lives – they all have homework, studying and school project; many also have sports, band, religious groups, and other clubs or activities that they’re involved in (so there goes another weekend… or two, or three). Plus usually Scouts have one weekend a month that gets tied up with a holiday or family commitments and such. So it becomes hard to attend OA weekends, conclaves, trainings, and other OA events without giving up the core of their Scouting lives – their troop. Most of the boys I know who are really active in the OA are fairly inactive in their home troops (they just don’t have the time to do both).

  36. It may be that in attempting to reach everyone, we have oversaturated ourselves wiht too many options. Venturing, OA, High Adventure, let alone helicopter parents who want MBs handed out like Oreos and Scoutmasters who are willing to obilge them. It’s so easy to get in that it doesn’t matter. In our area, the Council supports a service orgznization called Lone Bear that siphons off OA members. LB’s express purpose is to work at local camps, but which has local control. I was proud to be tapped out but never could figure out what it was for and fell away. Now my son is likely to be tapped out, so I took him to the annual Council Conclave and there were almost 300 scouts and scouters. What they have done is pull from OA’s best to be trainers at NYLT, summer camp etc. So, that’s a major leg up if you’re OA. I hope he gets more from OA than I did.

  37. I have two sons who are to be joining Boy Scouts shortly. I have quite a bit of difficulty with the “Order of Arrow” cultural appropriation of Native American traditions and reinforcing stereotypes. I have thought about preventing my scouts from participating in any “Order of the Arrow” events because of this. To me, the organization’s shortcomings outweigh the benefits.

  38. This may not be the right place to ask this question. But can someone explain why the Boy Scouts insist on using the term “Indian” instead of “Native American”? I’ve made a point with my two boys education that “Indian” is an incorrect term for Native Americans and should only be used in reference to people from India. It feels like the Boy Scouts are undermining what I’m teaching my sons.

    • Great question. I can speak to how this issue is handled in the BSA’s magazines. We use Associated Press style, which offers this guidance:

      “American Indian” or “Native American” is acceptable for those in the U.S. Follow the person’s preference. Where possible, be precise and use the name of the tribe: “He is a Navajo commissioner.”

  39. Thanks. Good point about AP style.
    After posting what I said, I realize that many tribal groups also refer to themselves as “American Indian”. The exclusive use of Indian for those from India appears to be solely my own ‘hang-up’.

  40. The level of OA participation in our troop is absolutely none. We transferred from another council where my son participated in OA and another council approved honor camping society there. Here the troop attends a camp that only participates in the other honor camping society. The council recognizes OA, but at a different location. My son can’t afford to attend both camps, let alone he has no one to attend with (as a troop which is normally required). Another problem is that it took over a year to get on the email list of our OA chapter despite numerous attempts.

  41. I have read some comments here mentioning that a scout felt the OA did not matter. That is sad, as maybe he does not understand what I feel to be the OA’s true purpose. I will explain shortly. Also, repeatedly I see written here that entry into the OA is a popularity contest. What should be taken away from a scout being elected into the OA is that this is not necessarily an “accomplishment’ or “reward”. Membership should also not be viewed as a contest for popularity among scouts or that OA membership is a group of “elite” scouts as the act of helping can be obtained by any scout. OA membership should be viewed as a testament to a scouts spirit and character as a person. My son has always been cheerful and kind as well as someone who will lend a helping hand to anyone who is in need. It just so happens that he joined the BSA and was recognized by his peers for his helpfulness within the community. Does this warrant a reward or exclusivity to an “elite” group? Should he now be labeled as one of the “popular” scouts? I hope leaders and scouts remember what OA membership is really about… recognizing Scouts who BEST and I repeat BEST exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. This does not mean if a scout is not elected, they are not worthy. BEST exemplify means not everyone can be a part of the OA and should not suggest exclusivity as a result. We live in a society now that feels they are entitled to be recognized as the BEST, even though they may not be. I would like to take this a step further and say they should BEST exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives…when no one is looking or a requirement does not need to be filled. OA membership should NEVER be about status or rewards but a true election of a scouts character. These scouts that are then elected based on their character alone, should be recognized for the purpose of setting an example to the other scouts in the troop. That is true leadership, when you can position someone with good qualities as the person who sets the BEST example.

  42. Hear, here, McKenney!
    Order of the Arrow has been the most exciting part of my Scouting journey. I was tapped out in 1985 and sealed the deal within the year. I became active in the dance and ceremonies teams as a youth, and attended Chapter meetings regularly. Like many others, I got sidetracked by the three Ps. Paycheck, Petrol, and Perfume.
    Fastforward 30 years … Cubmaster of sons’ Pack (main reason I got back into Scouting), ASM with oldest son’s Troop, NYLT Adult Staff/WB, OA Lodge Camping Promo advisor, misc Council stuff … OA will always be my favorite part of Scouting! A great Council is not possible without a GREAT OA LODGE! WWW!

  43. First, I only recently was accepted and as an adult. I was not chosen as a youth (Eagle Scout). I worked at our local Scout Camp over the past summer. These are some insights watching the O/A versus the non-O/A.

    1. It is not meant as a position to lord over others who are not yet O/A.
    2. You were peer selected, not BSA nominated.
    3. You are now responsible to set the example for all scouts, not just the ones you like.
    4. You are honor bound to teach scouts a better way, that is not arrogance.

    Same for Woodbadge.

  44. Our Troop is pretty active in the local Chapter and Lodge, and the Lodge itself is quite active….so much so that this past year a 3rd ordeal was added to the annual calendar. Sure we have the occasional “sash-n-dash”, but more often than not we have pretty decent involvement…..

  45. It would be very helpful if the OA would actually come out to the troop and explain to the boys what the OA is all about not just make contact when they want to have a vote in your troop for members. I have a group of young scouts and every time I try to ask the OA to send a rep to talk to the boys we never get any response

  46. The Order of the Arrow is a proud honor camping society which is firmly entrenched in the Scouting program that is proud to promote the overall well-being of Scouting, including good citizenship, building great character and cheerful service to others. It’s a great thing that keeps on getting better and keeps on giving!!

  47. I think part of the problem might be that when a young man achieves the right
    to be in the Order of the Arrow…there might be too much else going on in his life to remain dedicated to his scouting pursuits…I WAS an Eagle scout at age 16…this was the case for me…

  48. I’ve been a member of the OA for 30+ years, and a Chapter Adviser of a large and very active chapter for 20 years. During that time I’ve seen the OA have a big impact on Scout’s lives, plus do a LOT of good for local camps, (both Scout and non-Scout).

    Unfortunately in the last couple of years attendance at meetings had seriously dropped off. We’d still get good turnouts at the Ordeals, but for other events it was more problematic. This year however the bottom fell out of our Ordeal attendance. Normally if we had 40 candidates that was acceptable, 50 was good, and 60 was a great turnout. In the spring only had 20, and 5 of them were from other chapters. We didn’t have a single brotherhood candidate, normally we’d have 20+ :-(. That was what REALLY bothered me. So we scheduled an urgent 2nd Ordeal for the fall, and pushed it hard. Unfortunately we still only had 15 show up, (5 from other chapters), and still not a single brotherhood. For the first year ever we will have no Ordeal members getting Brotherhood. Ouch.

    That led to a lot of discussions about what happened. Was there a big conflict with school activities? None that we could find. We do our events the same weekend every year, and they are planned to be the least conflicted as possible. I’m VERY worried about what next year is going to bring.

    A big part of my worry is that National has come to view the OA not as an Honor Service Organization, but as a cash cow. The absolutely asinine JTE requirement that Lodges “donate” $23 per member to the local Council FOS just kills me. Now there is no incentive for Councils to have quality lodges, only lodges with as many registered members as possible. It doesn’t matter if those members never show up for a single event, or do any service. As long as they have paid their dues, (and the JTE ‘donation’), that’s all that counts.

    And that’s not even getting in to the fees that Councils charge the OA for events. Some of our chapters do their Ordeals at non-BSA camps. Those camps don’t charge a fee at all for Ordeal weekends. They are just thrilled to have groups of Scouts come in and work all day for them. What happens at BSA camps? They charge the OA as much as they can. Building fees, per person fees, etc. You would think that the councils would be happy to get as many people as possible there to help out, but no, too much these days it’s just about the money. How much money can a council suck out of the OA accounts.

    To make this worse this coming year the cost for an Ordeal Candidate will be (I think) $53. $53?!?!?!?! All to come out and spend 8 hours working, with “scant food”? Just so you can get a sash and a patch? Seriously?? And we wonder why we are getting fewer and fewer Scouts to come? Last year two of the Scouts in my Troop were elected. They were twins, and their dad was our Adult Candidate. I remember the look on his face when I told him it was going to be $150 for the weekend. And of course there is scholarship or campership type money available for OA events. For some reason this year none of those 3 wanted to come back and spend even more money just to get a Brotherhood sash.

    I think more and more people, (especially SM’s), are starting to feel this way about the OA, and I think that’s going to hurt it’s brand even more. Is that what caused our very steep drop in new members this year? Probably not. But then again I don’t think it’s helping us at all. (Don’t even get me started on the horrible costs for something like a Fall Fellowship lockin, or a Winter Banquet).

    But until National get’s it’s head out of it’s financial hole and let’s the OA go back to being an actual Honor SERVICE organization instead of an open checkbook, this is the direction I see it going.


    P.S. And PLEASE don’t tell me that the youth voted for this JTE requirement. I talked with one youth officer who was there when the vote was taken. He said the youth were strong armed by the adults into voting for this requirement. He told me that the pressure to vote for it was intense, and as much as he wanted to vote against it he was afraid to not vote for it.

  49. LOL. I Just re-read my post and realized I goofed. I missed the NO in this line: “And of course there is scholarship or campership type money available for OA events.” So it should read “And of course there is NO scholarship or campership type money available for OA events.”

    Now that I think about it, the way I wrote the line SHOULD be correct, unfortunately it’s not. We are a very urban chapter, and a lot of our Scouts are from inner city families, and $53 for a weekend is just not going to happen for them.


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