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Benefits and Disadvantages between 6 and 12 Months Leadership of Responsibilities


Our troop is weighing the options of 6 and 12 month terms of leadership responsibilities. Please list the benefits and disadvantages of both leadership terms. What has worked for your troop?

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Twelve months is TOO LONG. That means most of your Scouts are only going to have a very limited number of leadership opportunities, unless you have a very, very small troop – and it doesn’t sound like that’s the case if you have multiple Troop Guides and Den Chiefs.

What, in you opinion, is the advantage to longer terms that makes the reduction in leadership opportunities for Scouts worthwhile?

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One reasoning for why some of the leadership positions such as SPL are 12 months long is because they are much more challenging leadership positions. It takes time for the scout to learn the best way to work with the scouts under his leadership. Lets say that the SPL position was only 6 months. The scout might just have found how he wants to lead the troop towards the end of his term. Just like that, he doesn’t have much time to implement all of his ideas because the 6 months is up.

I agree with the 12 month plan for SPL/ASPL. We do 12 months for all but are only a 20 scout troop. I would consider 6 months for all others accept maybe Troop Guide. There is a huge demand in our town for Den Chiefs but not a lot of interest by the scouts, so this position I have always considered it to be up to the individual scout. We do require them to commit to the Den for the school year if they choose to do it. We have had scouts who were Den Chiefs for 3/4 years

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We do six months as ASPL as a requirement to stand for election to SPL. That way, the Scout ha some idea of what they’re getting into, and some experience. Twelve months as an SPL can burn out a Scout, and then you’ve lost that Scout and the opportunity for someone else to get experience.

With that said, I can see your point about SPL, though I don’t particularly agree. The other positions, though? Does it really require a year to figure out how to be a Den Chief? The job there is to go assist an Adult Leader in presenting the program. It’s not developing meeting plans or running the Den on their own. I actually consider it one of the better leadership positions for young, less-experienced Scouts.

Same with Troop Guide – they’re helping to teach the new Scouts, working from the plan that that PLC put together. You need an older Scout for that position, but it’s not got the complexity that SPL has.

JASM is a little different, too, than any of the other positions. We restrict it to Eagle Scouts, and use it as a tool to keep Scouts engaged in the program after they earn their Eagle.

It doesn’t take a year to figure out how to be a Den Chief. But the Scout needs to serve the pack for a year as one of the requirements for the Den Chief Service Award, so IMO having a tenure of 12 months (minimum) is probably a good thing for this particular position.


I acknowledge that every troop is different in every state, council and city. The troop leadership needs will vary based on the troop size and if scouts want to step up.

I wanted to open this thread for other leaders to chime in on how they have their troop. That is how we learn and grow from each other.

Our troop has been using six month terms for most positions (including SPL, ASPL, PL, QM and TG) for the last several years. Our troop was 40-50 scouts until quite recently (now down to about 30.) When it was larger, we saw six month terms as important to allow as many scouts as possible the opportunity to take on leadership roles. We also applied a one-term limit to the SPL (but not to the other positions.)

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Just to stir the pot - why not consider 3 or 4 month terms as well?

I can already hear the pitch forks being sharpened - but it could work well for some troops. Some scouts will have other obligations such that fitting a smaller commitment might work well.

Now to be clear - I am just kidding as we all know that George Washington dictated 6 month terms when he started the scouting movement in 1454. Besides everyone know that just like clothes - the best fit is found when everyone wears the same size.

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Is that part of Totin’ Chip now? I knew about the axes, saws, and knives…:grin:

I can see that shorter terms could work, too.
It might be particularly attractive for scouts who want to try out several different roles, rather that having to pick just one for a longer term. There could be logistical issues, where not enough scouts want to switch jobs, or there’s not enough time to make changes you want to make as SPL. However, I can see how it could work well, particularly for a troop that has established programs and generally smooth transitions of youth leadership.

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Perhaps those were axes and knives, I don’t know. The thing is that at the end of the day what works for my unit may not work for any other unit in the BSA. Or… what is the most common practice may not fit my unit. But I don’t believe that units should have this dictated by adults. I think scouts should make informed decisions with the ability to adjust their program along the way. If my scouts said they want to change I would say lets start with a overview discussion with the troop.

My gut feeling is that larger troop should follow this with smaller group discussions. And quite honestly, I wouldn’t stand in the way of Patrol A having a different schedule from the other patrols if they had a consensus. It is easy for me to track who has what positions when.

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If you’ve ever listened to the Scoutmaster podcast, Clark Green advocates for 3 month terms because it aligns well with sports seasons and such. It then only requires a scout wanting to commit to a leadership position to commit to 3 campouts.

In fairness - I think this is where the idea was planted. Our troop hasn’t gone there and we don’t have anyone in athletics. We started with 3 month terms when my troop began. If I could go back we would likely have started with 4 month terms.

A four month term could align very well with the school year. Start a team in September just after the school year starts. Again, start a team just as second semester gets started (Jan). And then a term to see the summer program through. It fits well within the sports seasons in my area as well.

Remembering US Army experience, my officer training in leadership positions the duration in time was not set. Leadership positions were assigned so that officer candidates were tested/evaluated by each type of group activities. We have taken this as our doctrine and adapted it to our scout troop.

The JASM, SPL, ASPL, PL, QM and TG roles have the following types of of group activities requiring leadership. - hiking/camping/outdoor, practicing skill sets/competitions, ceremonies, and planning/organizing/coordinating.

Depending on troop size and rank distribution the objective would be to give each scout a leadership opportunity in each group activity and role as a minimum. Elections are still held. Appointments are still made. Previous holders of roles in a group activity are ineligible until all scouts have cycled thru each role and activity.

This works for large troops and small. After completion of role in an activity the scouts, during an after action meeting, provide a critique of leadership style and adequacy of leadership in terms of preparation, conciseness, control, and enthusiasm. We throw in the unexpected during each group activity to challenge the youth leadership to improvise and take proper action. ie. medical emergencies, forgotten equipment, becoming lost, and etc.

In my troop of 4 scouts a tenderfoot, a 2nd class scout , a 1st class scout, and a life scout this is what we do to the best of each scouts ability. Each scout of course for us wears multiple hats. We keep them mentally awake and on their toes.

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I’ll echo some of the other replies that 6 and 12 months aren’t the “only” options. Two other options are “indefinitely, until something changes” (such as the incumbent aging out, moving out of town, or taking on a conflicting PoR), and “after every Court of Honor” (which might be several times a year). And the rules needn’t be the same for other PoRs as they are for the SPL.

My sons’ current SPL was elected after only about 3 or 4 months had elapsed from the prior SPL’s election (although I gather that the Scoutmaster invited the prior SPL to serve as JASM, whereupon he accepted/appointed himself JASM and resigned as SPL, triggering the election; as far as I know the troop had done annual SPL elections in the past). Some time within the next year, we are likely to complete a merger with another troop, which has conducted annual elections at a different time of year; so at least one of the troops will have to break its schedule.

As I recently wrote in another forum, there are a lot of variables in troop elections not set by BSA policy, also including:

  • whether the election is by open vote or secret ballot;
  • whether the youth can call a vote of “no confidence” at any time, or instead the elections are fixed up to a year ahead of time on the troop calendar;
  • whether there are certain rank or previous-position requirements for any office (such as that the SPL has to be at least First Class, or that the SPL has to have previously served a certain amount of time in any other Star-qualifying PoR);
  • whether certain Positions of Responsibility are term-limited;
  • whether certain Positions of Responsibility cannot be held by the same boy simultaneously;
  • how boys are moved into and between between Patrols, and any rules for the election of Patrol Leaders.
  • (I stand corrected by @WilliamC about whether the SPL is “in” a patrol.)

In a larger troop I think it would be reasonable to term-limit the SPL, to give more youth the opportunity to be in that position, and give a prior incumbent an incentive to promote a fair election between his possible successors, rather than fighting to run again. In a small troop, that may not be possible (although perhaps the SPL’s task in a small troop should be “recruit the next SPL and get him to First Class before my term is up”!)

But for positions other than the SPL, if the SPL’s term is even six months, I’d say the SPL should be free to appoint new (or newly-advanced) boys to troop-level PoRs at any time, and in a Patrol, the PL should be free to change the APL and other Patrol-level duties as needed; certainly not tying every PoR to the same cycle as the SPL or PL.

My experience as a boy was with LDS troops, and my oldest son’s first troop was LDS. In those troops, boys tended to have the same PoR from election/appointment until their families moved or they aged into the next Priesthood level (12/14/16/18). In my sons’ current troop, the SPL generally changes all other PoRs after his own election, but sometimes he keeps a boy in the same position as before.

I have less experience with larger troops. If a large troop wanted to have a formal policy on PoR mechanics, I have ideas about rules and procedures, but I’m sure even a long list of rules could be misused and if everyone is following the Scout Law then “no rules” could work out just fine.

It is unreasonable to limit leadership roles by time. So I disagree with the BSA guidelines in this regard.

Why should a single scout be the SPL for the whole high school senior year. Other high school seniors are just as deserving the experience offered by the SPL position. Likewise for the lower ranks of ASPL, PL, QM and TG that are sophomores and juniors they are equally deserving of the experience. Could this be reason for Eagle Scouts leaving the troop before they age out as many have observed. Many youths join scouting because they realize within school athletics they will have a low likelihood of becoming team captain. Those scouts were expecting that they could become leaders in scouting but the system is rigged so they can’t practice leadership there either.

School athletics is all about winning whereas Scouting is all about leadership training not about winning the SPL position for a whole year.

Why does not the BSA focus on changing guidelines to reduce attrition in its ranks rather than promoting a political issue. More scouts in the program will mean a reduction in registration fees. for all. That is economics 101. If you can’t reduce overhead costs then the only recourse is to increase sales. I will talk about the reason why 300,000 cubs to do not crossover to scouts in a future forum topic.

If he resigned from scouts, then it may be because

  1. He feared that he could not meet the challenges of the JASM responsibilities
  2. He coveted the power of authority of the SPL. See my post.
  3. He did not understand what “Ride for the brand” and “Do what has to be done.” meant. See my post.
  4. The scoutmaster did not prepare him to accept the change of his position in the troop hierarchy and how important that was for his/her future advancement in business hierarchy…
  5. or some life crises unknown to those involved. Like a parent who felt the change was a demotion of status.

Sticking to BSA guidelines are not sacrosanct. If situations call for it change the guidelines to fit the situation. They are just guidelines after all. By simple observation you can see the social dynamic and fix what is causing dissatisfaction among the scouts.

I would suggest that a troop introduction letter be prepared and handed out to each parent and youth regarding how the troop will be operated especially if it differs from guidelines so everyone understands and accepts them. This is very important for the parents who are the most critical components in a successful scouts career.

The intro letter should talk about how leadership skills will be developed in ALL scouts and how teamwork will be emphasized and how changes of scouts role is part of it as it is in business for which the scout is being prepared.

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Our troop uses both(-ish) at the Scoutmasters judgement. Beyond serving for the basic advance requirement, I’ll say it depends on the intensity of leadership needed. i.e. SPL & PL’s are typically a high leadership output position with a lot of demands placed on the scout to perform as leaders in a youth run organization. On the other hand, other leadership positions such as a Bugler, Historian, or Chaplains Aid, while important, typically carry a slightly less level of leadership load. With these example it could make sense to have SPL’s serving for 6-months and a Librarian serving a year. Another element to factor in is the size of the troop. Do you have enough talent to rotate scouts every 6 month? Large troop probably will while smaller units may find this a problem.

Obviously everyone here feels that denying some scouts leadership positions because the position is set by time in months and there is not enough time for ALL scouts to experience the leadership positions during their scouting career is OK.

This observation can only be because of the Everyone’s A Winner" Mentality. and it is good enough for scouts just be around leadership and not actually experience it for themselves.

Promotions in the military is dependent on time in rank but military training is not. Scouting is training and there should be no time in rank conditions.

Here’s What the Scoutmaster’s Handbook Says:

Senior Patrol Leader

“The youth leader with the most responsibility in a troop is the senior patrol leader. He is elected by all members of the troop. Each troop sets its own requirements and schedule of elections, though senior patrol leaders are usually chosen at six- to 12-month intervals and can be reelected. During a Scout’s tenure as senior patrol leader, he is not a member of a patrol.”

The big take away is that there no unifying guidelines to election requirements. Just the actual role of each position. Each Troop has the flexibility to set their own rules.

I think a 12 month term of SPL makes life pretty easy on the SM and ASM’s. If you have an older Scout that’s a good leader you are in cruise control and not have to spend a lot of time teaching.

Speaking for myself, I like the 6 month option. I feel it takes a month or so of a new SPL to settle in and become familiar with the position, 3-4 months to focus running the Troop and implementing his agenda and the last month or 2 to see how his agenda played out and see how successful it was before the next election.

The reason I’m opposed to 12 months is simple. The SPL can run for re-election. If he’s done a good job it will show in the election. If the boy needs a break from the responsibility he can step back. It’s easy for us adults to forget these Scouts have a life outside of Scouting and I don’t want to see a youngster burned out from too much on his or her plate.

I don’t think a quarterly cycle is enough. Depending on the time of the year with holidays and vacations an SPL may not have a lot chances to carry out his or her agenda on such a short rotation.

I do think there should be some minimum requirements and this is where the Troops can set their own limits. I think a First Class or Higher should only be able to run IF the Troop has enough boys to do this. A First Class should be expected to know all of the basic Scout Skills and is moving in the Leadership Ranks of Scouting. In the military, you wouldn’t see an E-4 made the base commander for the same reason. Experience and Merit matter.

There are a lot of good ideas being tossed around. Bottom line is I want to see as many boys have a shot at leadership as possible. They need to fumble the ball and make mistakes. That’s how they learn. As long as the Scoutmaster is properly holding onto the reigns to assure order and progress is occurring things will be fine.

Schedule elections based on .group activities requiring leadership. - hiking/camping/outdoor, practicing skill sets/competitions, ceremonies, and planning/organizing/coordinating.

An elected SPL is responsible for planning and executing an outdoor event with his/her chosen team of ASPL, PL, QM and TG
A different elected SPL and his team is responsible for the next outdoor event.