Bryan on Scouting

Can a volunteer serve in multiple positions within a unit?

Yes, your official title — the position indicated on your BSA registration — says you’re an assistant Scoutmaster.

But now a Scouting colleague has asked you to sit on the troop committee as well.

You agree (just an hour a week, right?), but when you try to register your second position, it turns out the BSA’s registration system won’t allow it. What gives?

Let’s ask the expert.

The question

That question was on the mind of a Scouter named Curt who emailed me recently.

He writes:

You’ve probably heard this one before. Can an assistant Scoutmaster also be on the unit committee?

Thanks!

– Curt

The expert’s answer

The simple answer is no. The BSA has a one-position-per-person policy designed to offer the best possible experience to Scouts while not stretching our already-busy volunteers too thin.

Of course, this only applies within a unit. Some volunteers are registered in multiple units. That means you could, for example, serve as a committee member in a pack and an assistant Scoutmaster in a troop. Or a Scoutmaster in a troop and an associate advisor in a crew. And so on.

For the full answer, I went to the expert: Peter Self, program development team leader for the BSA.

Peter offers three reasons for the one-position-per-person (per unit) policy:

  1. It keep Scouters from being too overwhelmed by too many responsibilities.
  2. It encourages a broader base of adult volunteers in the spirit of “many hands make light work.”
  3. It offers our youth members multiple adult role models.

Here’s his full response, which is worth taking time to read:

This is a question that is asked of every professional from the newest district executive to the most seasoned Scout executive. Anybody who has tried to register in more than one position within the same unit knows that in most cases, it can’t be done. Our registration software just won’t allow it.

The only exceptions are for the head of the chartering organization, known as the Institutional Head (IH), and the Chartered Organization Representative (COR). Either of these individuals may register in one other position within the unit.

This means that an assistant Scoutmaster cannot also serve as a member of the committee. A den leader may not simultaneously serve as the Cubmaster. A crew advisor or Varsity coach may not additionally serve as the committee chair, within the same unit.

The reasons behind this policy are pretty simple but intentional in their design. Here are just a few of those reasons:

  1. We don’t want any of our leaders to become so overwhelmed in their Scouting role(s) that they end up neglecting their own families, careers, churches or other community commitments. We know that Scouting is an amazing tool to help strengthen families and develop our youth, but Scouting is only one aspect of a well-rounded life. Spreading out the volunteer roles of Scouting over a larger number of people helps ensure a more-balanced life and prevents volunteer burnout.
  2. Having a broader base of volunteers results in a stronger unit with more parental and chartering organization support. Just imagine how robust your unit would be if an adult member from every Scout’s family, or several members from the chartering organization, were engaged in a support role for the unit. As they say, “many hands make light work.” How much more fun would a volunteer’s job be if he or she didn’t feel alone in his or her efforts?
  3. In terms of the youth experience, interacting with multiple adult role models helps develop our Scouts in ways that pay big dividends when they head off to college, the military or the workforce. Our young adults will be better prepared for life if they have had the opportunity to interact with a wide array of personalities and character traits. Being able to communicate and work with different people of varying backgrounds results in better citizens. Isn’t that what we want?

So, although the “one-position-per-person” policy may seem restrictive, it’s just one of the ways we can ensure that Scouting delivers on the values we strive to instill in our Scouts.

Ask the Expert

Have a question you’d like to ask a BSA expert? Email me (using the subject line “Ask the Expert”).

Find other expertly answered BSA questions here.