On a recent campout, Scoutmaster Tim sat down to talk with Second Class Scout Jacob for a Scoutmaster conference. After he scribbled his initials in Jacob’s handbook, the Scoutmaster looked around and realized something: almost all of the campers were below the First Class rank.
It had been a problem for months as fewer older youth opted not to attend the troop’s monthly outdoor outings. Since there aren’t any specific camping requirements to advance to the Star, Life or Eagle ranks, their motivation to camp at the troop’s regular close-to-home campouts had definitely disappeared.
How can he encourage the older Scouts to participate and lead the younger Scouts at these campouts? Perhaps, he thinks, he should provide some type of rank advancement incentive for the older Scouts to attend.
Should Scoutmaster Tim adopt a personal policy to see Scouts for Scoutmaster conferences for Star and above only during campouts?
The expert’s response
We asked Mike LoVecchio, BSA advancement specialist, who pointed to Section 126.96.36.199 of the Guide to Advancement. Tacking on extra requirements, like forcing Scouts to attend a campout so they can meet with the Scoutmaster, is unfair to the Scouts and is contrary to BSA’s policy on unauthorized changes to advancement. Per the Guide to Advancement:
No council, committee, district, unit or individual has the authority to add to, or subtract from, advancement requirements. There are limited exceptions relating only to members with special needs.
Furthermore, the Guide to Advancement states that Scoutmasters cannot deny meeting with a Scout, thus hindering their advancement:
Unit leaders do not have the authority to deny a Scout a conference that is necessary for him to meet the requirements for his rank.
Scoutmaster Tim was only trying to get the older Scouts to step up and be stronger leaders in the troop, especially during campouts.
Well, it’s a common conundrum — keeping older Scouts engaged — but there are much more appropriate means of addressing it, and perhaps the best way is to actually have a Scoutmaster conference.
What it should be
A Scoutmaster conference (Advisor conference in Venturing and Skipper’s conference in Sea Scouting) is not a bargaining chip, nor is it a retest of knowledge. Don’t look at it as a final task that calls for a leader’s stamp of approval. In fact, a Scoutmaster conference can be done at any time. Per the Guide to Advancement:
While it makes sense to hold one after other requirements for a rank are met, it is not required that it be the last step before the board of review.
You can also have more than one conference before an advancement in rank. It’s simply an informal, positive meeting with the adult unit leader and a Scout, still it has incredible value. It’s an opportunity to get to know the Scout, learn about the Scout’s struggles, offer guidance and help set life goals. It’s a chance to reinforce Scouting’s ideals on a one-on-one setting.
In the case of a disinterested older youth, it can turn into a brainstorming session on what can be done to reenergize the Scout’s interest. Perhaps that Scout and their peers can plan a horseback riding or mountain biking trek, explore a merit badge or special award that interests them, or conduct a fun, themed campout for younger Scouts that combines Scouting skills and a little friendly competition, like say a Star Wars camporee?
All conferences should be done with the knowledge and full view of others, according to BSA’s Youth Protection policy. They should also not be held online.
For more frequently asked questions about Scoutmaster conferences, check out this article.