First things first: Families can join Cub Scouts any time of the year.
The traditional fall recruiting push is one of those things that’s done that way — at least in part — because it’s always been done that way. It makes sense, because fall also happens to be the time when kids go back to school (boo!) and Scouting kicks back into high gear (yay!).
And fall recruiting events – often called Join Nights, Sign-up Nights or School Nights for Scouting — have worked brilliantly over the years to provide an influx of new members at the start of every autumn season.
But why not also recruit new members to your Cub Scout pack in the spring? It doesn’t take very much extra work. In fact, it could actually ease some of the headaches commonly encountered when starting new dens from scratch in the fall.
“It can actually make your life as a Cub Scout leader easier,” Lisa Wylie, the chair of the National Cub Scouting Committee, said on one of two recent episodes of #CubChatLive devoted to the topic of spring recruiting. “It’s not much work. And it’s a whole lot of reward.”
How it can work
While there’s no rule against having a Join Night in the spring in addition to the fall, Wylie and BSA Director of Council Services Wendy Kurten suggest instead that you simply invite new families to do something fun with your pack or den this spring.
“It’s just another opportunity for us to introduce Scouting to families,” Kurten said. “Spring is a great time to bring families out, get them involved in Scouting, get outdoors and have some fun.”
The emphasis here is on the word fun. Think “normal friend activities” like swimming, cookouts, short hikes … basically, anything fun and safe that kids can do (outside, if the weather allows it) with their families.
There are plenty of Cub Scout elective Adventures that can work for an event like this, but in general, Kurten and Wylie say advancement should not be the main goal.
“The average family doesn’t know that ranks exist,” says Kurten. “They’re looking for fun activities to do with their kids.”
While your typical fall Join Night consists of non-Cub Scout families listening to a short presentation from a Cubmaster or other volunteer, a springtime casual, relaxed outdoor activity gives the parents of prospective Cub Scouts the opportunity to interact with families who are already part of the program in a relaxed environment.
Cub Scout leaders shouldn’t feel the need to overtly “sell” the program. Instead, just let the new families hang out in a stress-free environment and enjoy this time with their kids.
How does it work with advancement?
Many Cub Scout volunteers have understandable worries about adding new members to a den this late in the Cub Scout season. While the other kids have been working on Adventures for most of the previous school year, new members would, of course, be behind.
This is when it’s a good time to remember that advancement is not the aim of the Cub Scout program.
“The aim is character, personal fitness, leadership development and citizenship,” Wylie says. “Advancement is just one method of delivering our program. It is not the aim of the program.”
Cub Scouts who sign up in the spring can still earn the same insignia that their peers earn during the same timeframe. When it comes to rank advancement, the answer is to simply not worry about it.
If you’re concerned about new Cub Scouts feeling left out of a rank advancement ceremony at the end of the school year, you could simply present them with certificates or ribbons or other prizes to recognize the work they put in in a short amount of time.
They wouldn’t have earned their rank — and that’s OK.
“Whatever Adventures they earn is what they earn,” says Kurten.
What about Tigers?
One way to make fall recruiting easier? Start recruiting prospective Tiger Cub Scouts the previous spring, as they are finishing up kindergarten.
Most councils will allow a child to enroll in Cub Scouts as early as June 1 (or thereabouts), the summer before they start first grade. That means children who have just completed kindergarten can go to day camp and participate in all kinds of fun activities with your pack during the summer.
That way, by the time you get to fall, the core of your Tiger den is already in place, and you’ve already gotten to know the parents, and maybe you’ve even got an idea of who would make a good Tiger den leader.
“They’re excited, they had a great experience all summer,” Kurten says. “Then they’re ready to go in the fall.”
Lions cannot participate in Cub Scouts until they start kindergarten, so putting together a Lion den has to wait until fall. But there’s no reason why Tigers and other Cub Scouts can’t sign on earlier.
“Ask yourself, ‘Who do you know that isn’t involved in Cub Scouting right now?’ ” Wylie says. “Maybe it’s friends of friends. ‘Hey, we’ve got some fun activities going on. We’d love you to join us.’
“Maybe it’s a backyard pool party. A barbecue. A fishing derby. A bike rodeo. I’m a huge advocate for just going out and having fun.”
#CubChatLive is the BSA’s official, weekly live show in which we discuss all things related to Cub Scouts. Click here for a list of past and upcoming episodes.