Best practices for forming new dens — and finding new den leaders

Photo by Michael Roytek

The numbers are in, and the numbers are good: Cub Scout membership is up.

“It’s hugely up,” National Director of Cub Scouting Anthony Berger said during a recent episode of #CubChatLive. “We’re very excited about that. We’re going to be serving more kids and more families across the country.”

Special thanks to all the Cub Scout volunteers out there. Maybe they followed our advice on adding more members this spring, following in the footsteps of the successful fall 2021 recruiting season.

With fall 2022 recruiting off to a rip-roaring start, there’s another thing volunteers are going to have to consider: Where are all of those new Cub Scouts going to go?

If they’re older Cub Scouts, they’ll probably be joining existing dens. But if they’re Lions or Tigers, they’re likely going to be part of brand-new dens.

For many Cub Scout leaders, creating new dens from scratch is one of the more stressful parts of the entire process. Watch the discussion with Berger on this exact topic in its entirety below, and read on for the highlights.

It starts with finding the right leader

The No. 1 reason Cub Scout families drop out of the program is because they’re unhappy with their den. Often, this is the result of a den leader who reluctantly agreed to take the position — perhaps due to the pressure of them being put on the spot to agree to be a leader right then and there.

“When you close the doors and say, ‘somebody has to be the den leader,’ you are really rolling the dice on what you’re going to get,” Berger says.

The No. 1 goal should not be to name a new den leader on signup night. The No. 1 goal should be to find the right person to be the den leader, even if it takes a little more time.

One option is to have a current volunteer organize an activity or two for the new den. Maybe they work on advancement. Maybe they don’t. The important thing is to put these new families in a fun, relaxing environment, and see who emerges as a potential leader.

“When you see them starting to interact with each other, that’s when you’ll start to see the parent who has the right skillsets to be that den leader,” Berger says. “Maybe it’s a craft. Maybe build rockets together. Is there someone who isn’t only really good with their child but also with all the other kids? Maybe they’re willing to help the other parents, too.

“That’s the kind of person that probably has the skillset you’re looking for in a quality den leader.”

Elevate the ask

How you ask a new Cub Scout parent to be a den leader goes a long way toward getting the response you want.

“It’s not, ‘oh by the way do you want to be the den leader?’ ” Berger says. “That makes it seem like it’s not that important. Instead, invite them for coffee. Show them what you’re asking. Show them the resources that are available to support them.

“That will dramatically increase the chances of them saying yes.”

It’s important to be flexible when adding a new den — and the new families that come with it — to your pack.

Maybe every other den in the pack meets on the same night at the same time, and that works out great for all of them. But if you’ve got a potentially great den leader who can’t make that night work, maybe consider letting them meet another time?

“There is no standard for how often a den meets or how long those meetings have to last,” Berger says. “The den needs to best meet the needs of its families.

“Maybe if you have kids active in a particular sport, you can have lots of meetings in the offseason, then slow down once you get to that sports season or band season or whatever it might be. It should be flexible.”

For more information on finding new den leaders, check out the Selecting Cub Scout Leadership pamphlet. And for more information, check out the Den Leader Resources page. And, as always, anyone interesting in joining any BSA program can find a unit near them at BeAScout.org.

About Aaron Derr 175 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.