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Pack feeds Troop and Troop supports Pack, your experience

In a perfect ‘Scouting’ world every Pack would be aligned with a male/female Troop and every Troop aligned with a Crew. That being said, I’d like to explore the reality of Pack/Troop relationships and find what works, what doesn’t and what is really practical. Your shared actual experiences, successes, failures can help move some/many units forward.

First, is the Pack program strong and healthy? Solid retention, full dens, no grade gaps? Second, does the pack enjoy a positive relationship with a Troop with shared sponsorship? By a positive relationship I am speaking of program support, the troop providing den chiefs and other youth or adult leadership and participation with the pack. Possibly shared equipment for pack outdoor activities, instructors for the Bears Whittling Chip Award, and outdoor adventures and camping for Webelos Dens? Does the pack have a Crossover program in place to move AOL’s and Leaders to the Troop? For many Troops the Crossover plan is their life’s blood.

In some cases, if a Pack succeeds on its own in building and maintaining a strong program and does not have a partner Troop, it might be wise to consider building a new Troop out of a large graduating class of AOL’s and their leaders. “Build it and they will come”… in other words, create your own support Troop. Why keep giving away members to units that don’t support your unit?

My pack had a Troop that had fallen apart. No interaction for years. We reached out to them for help for our Webelos Dad n Lad (prior to girls in the program) trip and the few members left helped out. The result was crossing over a full patrol into a troop that was down to 2 scouts coming to meetings. We also crossed the parents who became an active committee and assistant leaders and who, within two years were running the troop that was now 3 full patrols and also supporting the pack. It was very much like building our own support unit.

Care to share, we’re here…

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Nope, not really. It was made more clear to them when I arranged for the AOLs of two packs to visit the troop (same CO) at summer camp (AOL was there on the other side of camp at the same time) and there were four AOLs, with (the only) one being from our pack. Supposedly that opened their (the troop’s) eyes a bit, but I haven’t seen anything from them.
At this point, my only real goals with scouting are getting my kids the opportunities they want. I could care less about units, districts, or councils.
I did find another troop that was more welcoming and we (our pack) and I have a good relationship there, but they are out of the range I can manage getting to every week.

According to the 2019 Annual Report, there were 1.2M Cubs, 800k Scouts BSA, and 42.5k Venture Scouts. Those numbers say your initial premise that every Pack is aligned with one and only one Troop and every Troop aligned with one and only one Crew is incorrect.

The 1 to 1 ratio is the ideal with a strong working relationship. I know packs that send AOL’s to 3 different troops. This splits up what was a natural patrol and sends 1,2 or 3 kids to a Troop where they get absorbed into existing patrols instead of a ‘new member patrol’. This is often uncomfortable as 1 or 2 younger members get lumped in with kids sometimes 2 or 3 years older and if they don’t fit in right away they may leave.

I look at the Little Red Hen story… Hen has a Cub Pack and asks Tr 1 for help, no, Tr 2 no, Tr 3, no… so hen says ‘Well, I’ll just do it myself’. Then when AOL’s are ready to cross, hen says, who wants my AOL’s… Me said Tr 1, me said Tr 2, Me said Tr 3 and hen says, ‘No, I think I’ll start my own Troop’. Getting AOL’s is not a right, it is an earned privilege.

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Scouts should not be “sent” from a pack to a troop. The Scout and their family should choose the troop that best suits their needs.

I wish the concept of “feeder pack” would go away. When I was Webelos Den Leader, I set up visits with 4 local troops. After visiting, the Scouts independently ranked their choices. The troop that was at the same charter org and considered the pack their “feeder pack” was the 4th choice. Why? Because when we visited they thought they were entitled to the new Scouts and treated them poorly. The troop they decided to join welcomed the Webelos, played games with them and taught them Scouting skills.

Troops are different and Scouts need to feel comfortable in the troop or they will drop out of Scouting all together.

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Seems that your Pack does not have a solid relationship with your Troop.

When Webelos have basically spent 2 or more years together in a den, they have a group identity and really ought to stay together as a patrol. The ideal is to cross over to ‘their’ troop that they have been getting assistance and support from. The AOL’s should have been experiencing one or more outings with the troop and should have gotten to know Den Chiefs from the Troop. A feeder pack is to be cultivated by the troop. That troop attention will help to improve retention and the quality of the pack program. If you don’t have it I would suggest that the leaders of the two units get together and work on it.

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I have seen the tale of two packs play out on multiple occasions.

There is the pack that does not have a troop that coordinates with them. This pack might be strong and might be weak. It depends a lot on their recruiting strategies. There retention is likely lower than normal. The amount of AOL’s that cross over to a troop is hit or miss.

There is also a pack that has a solid relationship with a troop. They ask the troop for assistance and for den chiefs to serve in their dens. Their strength also depends a lot on their recruiting strategies. There retention is likely higher. A large amount of their AOL’s bridge over to scouts BSA.

Scouting is a journey. You can give them a starting point and an ending point, but without guiding them through the turns in between there is a good chance they will get lost. This isn’t done alone and the more people there to guide them is always better.

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A troop owes a pack nothing, go to where the Scouts will stay in the troop.

So I joined a pack in 2017 where the troop had folded several years before. Due to some political reason a group of Scouts split off their troop and re-formed the one where we met about that same time.

The Pack had some difficult years and from 2014 to 2017 it dropped from 70 to 7 Scouts on paper.

The 2018 group, one AoL Scout bridged over to a troop, I ran into them through fall 2019 at school events and they were still in it their third year.

Our charter org shut down in early 2018 and we went a different direction from the troop. They moved 7 miles from us.

We moved a block away to a church that already had a pack and troop

That pack ended up folding in fall 2020 and we took on their last three 5th graders on paper. They met with the troop for meetings (we meet a different night than they had been)

My 2019 Arrow of Light Scout was the last in his age group. He quit in early 2019 when dad started traveling for work and mom was dealing with four kids5. I understood the choice of the Scout because of no friends in the group. Ran into dad in fall 2021 and tried to get one sibling in but they never did.

For the 2020 group, went up to 2x for a few weeks then back down in fall 2018. The last Scout paid for camp summer 2019 and didn’t show up. Told me they quit with back to school. I also needed a new Cubmaster

For 2021 my 4th graders all quit with Covid in spring 2020. The group of three for that year that merged with us did bridge over to the troop we associated with

That troop today has three Scouts under third year and 7 finishing up Eagle/aging off. My guess is they won’t be able to recharter for 2023. Knowing who’s coming up behind, we wouldn’t have enough adults signed up.

We made a visit to them and they failed to impress anyone. They didn’t include our Scouts in the program (one sat under a table), they didn’t have a single activity for their older Scouts (not a unique situation), they already stopped camping Friday nights- they don’t leave until 10am on Saturday, they didn’t talk to the other parents about the program at all, they didn’t have an activity calendar and I already knew they were financially near broke.

They didn’t have a 5th grade campout visit activity on their calendar until I brought it up in October, though we ended up not going to it in the end.

So we found a plan B troop and they were dramatically better in all aspects so we’re going there instead.

I talked to the 6th grade program adult of the three Scouts and recommended they have a Plan B ready. We’re functionally killing a troop so they needed to know this.

The part that frustrates me is I recommended merging several packs and troops (3x packs, 2x troops) back in 2019 and was explicitly told No.

Of those units two packs no longer exist and one troop might survive, but if their pack was that small, it’s likely on the edge too.

With the UMC pulling out of Scouting a new unit moved down near us, which might become our new Plan A for bridge over. I’ll catch someone with the troop in summer to talk about this.

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Our Pack and Troop have a good relationship. We kind of stay out of each other’s way most of the time but we do coordinate more than many. For example, if the Pack is having an overnighter, the Troop is often invited to attend and often invited to cook breakfast for the Pack as a fundraiser. The Troop benefits from the (small) funds and team work. The Pack benefits from having less insanity to kick off the day and a good breakfast to fuel the Cubs. The younger Cubs also get to see the older Scouts in action. I’ve found this early access builds a natural admiration and respect between the older Scouts and younger Cubs which carries through and seems to motivate more Cubs to have the goal of becoming a Scout.

We coordinate crossover well. The Troop welcomes AOLs to meetings. The Troop schedules and plans both a pre-crossover overnighter at which they host the AOL scouts for a day and night of scouting fun. The Troop also plans a welcome bash the night of the crossover with bonfires, games, etc.

All our AOLs are told they have no obligation to cross to this Troop, but the way the Troop shows the boys they are welcome pretty much ensures they cross to that Troop.

It’s not by accident. It’s not strictly on purpose either… there has been no “master plan” to keep this in motion. The leaders in the troop are, no surprise, the former leaders in the Pack who have remained involved. As a result incoming new adult volunteers to the troop have good contacts to the Pack, having just come out of Pack life. This creates a natural bridge of sorts and in the 8 years I’ve been involved in this apparatus it’s been the case that new leaders, CMs, SMs, ACMs, ASMs, Committee Chairs, etc. have just kind of organically carried on this “tradition”. I think it’s great.

Where I grew up, it was super rural. There weren’t options. Pack 193 graduated to Troop 193 unless you wanted to drive a long ways for meetings. So, this model never struck me as odd to have a Pack<–>Troop relationship like this. Interesting to see it’s not “the norm” necessarily.

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Kevin,
UMC is not pulling out yet, there are still ongoing negotiations. It may be a local church thing or a single Annual Conference thing.
There is an Ad Hoc committee of UMC people at the National level in the negotiations/mediation for the National NSA Bankruptcy.
Note: In the UMC an Annual Conference is simular to a Local Council and has a geographic area that it provides support to. Each Church is an Individual organization and each Annual Conference is an individual organization.
Hope this helps. Mike COR for 3 units at a UMC.

Also Rural area. For many years Until last Fall Our Boy Troop only had 1 feeder Pack (both sponsored by our church). Now we also sponsor a Girl Troop. The closest Troop is about a 30 minute drive on 2 lane rural highways. We now have a new “feeder” pack in a town about 10 minutes away. We are attempting to establish good relations with them.

(Rant Warning)
I’m sorry but I think this statement is part of the problem. Without packs, troops fold and dwindle. While they are two distinct programs they are absolutely linked together. The troop owes it to all of the scouts that have come before to ensure scouting continues. This program is more than just babysitters of America. We strive to develop tomorrows leaders. We hope to instill values into young people that will make the world a better place. The only way to do this is to take responsibility for our own future. The BSA could hire professionals until they run out of money, and that won’t keep the program going. It takes our community expanding itself to sustain and truly realized the vision of the scouting movement. (end rant)

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Good point John… The mission of the volunteers in a pack is to shepherd Cubs through to a solid Troop that will shepherd them to Eagle and beyond. It is a journey and one with a lot of opportunities to get detoured/sidetracked. Lion to AOL and AOL to Eagle are good guidelines, not that advancement is the only thing in the Scout Program. It requires a lot of other elements, fun, adventure, recognition, fellowship…

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It might be better worded to say that a Pack does not owe a Troop its AOL’s unless the Troop cultivates through service and support a positive relationship with the pack and maintains a strong, positive program for the Scouts that meets their needs.

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I’m glad you found a way to say it more civilly than what I was thinking, hence why I didn’t respond. I hope the statement was misinterpreted by us both.

While Packs and Troops are individual of each other, they are most definitely co-dependent and should be in a perfect world. While feeding into a troop that is chartered by the same org is convenient, it is by no means required nor should it be. After my AOLs did a visit with our troop, I sat down and got their thoughts. Were they excited? Nervous? Underwhelmed? This allowed me to gauge interest in seeing if visiting another troop for their entire den, or even just an individual, was necessary.

We’re lucky enough to have a solid, strong, and active Troop under our same charter org, but that communication goes both ways. They want AOLs, well I need Den Chiefs. Never an issue when it comes to opportunities for a Scout.

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Brining in new AOL’s should be a driver for change in the troop as well, if they are not happy with what the Troop is doing. It should be about what the scouts want to do and not what has always been done.

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My kids pack (I was CC) basically rebuilt/saved the troop. The Leadership we sent over created an awesome program and a couple of years later a family moved about 45 minutes away and liked the troop format so much that they commuted past probably half a dozen other units to remain part of Tr 238 and actually formed a satellite patrol. When Troops and Packs for a symbiotic relationship that meets the needs of both groups, everyone wins.

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I have to take issue with your starting premise. The idea of “feeder packs” and “poaching” are bad for our goal of keeping kids in Scouting. While we are all Scouts together and share some common values, it is equally true that each unit has its own personality and that a big part of the Webelos experience is (or should be) about finding the Troop that’s the right fit for you and your family. Some units are more youth-led; some focus more on camping; some are better for youth who are advancement-focused. There are good units in all of these - and good youth with individual goals. Picking a unit just so you can avoid sewing a new number on your shoulder is a poor way to find the right fit.

With that said, yes, Packs and Troops need to work together to help both units survive. Yes, you can share equipment and even leadership. But a Troop should try to have that supportive relationship with all the Packs nearby, not merely your little sister/little brother unit.

(This is even more critical for Venturers. In most cases, there simply aren’t enough youth from any one Troop to make the Crew viable. Crews almost invariably draw from multiple Troops.)

We had good success sending Den Chiefs down to the local Packs. Den Chiefs are a fantastic resource for the Pack and a great growth opportunity for the Troop. But we shared our Den Chiefs with any local pack that was interested. We also shared equipment and invited them to events and outings. Mostly it worked, though we also had our share of failures.

It’s vital to remember that there are some big differences between the programs. The youth-led focus of troops is more than a little disconcerting to parents who’ve only ever seen the adult-led Cub program. And troops struggle to remember that while the individual scout is the smallest element of a patrol, in Cubs it’s the scout-parent team. So joint activities should be executed with care - and maybe a bit more adult involvement than the troop leadership considers normal. But you should definitely still plan and run them.

For the Pack side, you have to ask for help. I know you’re busy and feeling overwhelmed by the requirements of the Cub program, especially with all the changes. Remember that troops are busy with their own programs, too. They will often be glad to help you - but it’s not their place to force their way in to your unit.

So those are my lessons:

  • The Pack has to ask for help.
  • The Troop has to make time to provide it.
  • Both units must keep reasonable expectations that respect the differences in the programs.
  • Cross over to the unit that’s the best fit.
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While I agree that the best fit for the youth and family is certainly a big consideration, a part of that is staying with a familiar group. I would hope that the Pack wouldn’t need to ask more than once for support and that after that it would become an automatic partnership. I believe in ‘feeder packs’ but not to the exclusion of other units accepting AOL’s from neighboring packs. Certainly there may be many reasons for an AOL to go to a unit different than that which shares the Chartered Partner. Friends, family, program content, accessibility (meeting date/time location) are some of the things that may impact a choice. I don’t believe poaching was a term I used. Venturing often becomes a clique and when the core members leave the unit falls apart. I still maintain having a Troop Leadership Corps that is duel registered as a Crew can expand program and recognition opportunities for the older youth and create a consistent flow of new (dual) members for the crew and conserve valuable, experienced and knowledgeable junior leadership for the troop .

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My unpopular opinion is that going forward, if it’s chartering organization has a pack and a troop program, it should operate as one giant entity. If the families just assume there’s a scouting program there that runs from beginning to end, and it’s run well, that should be your scouting program. That being said, if people want to go out and explore, that’s great too. But if the expectation is that we have a scouting program that is fairly comprehensive, then that will satisfy what people are looking for. Of course, everyone’s mileage may vary, but I think that’s a good default. I also do not practice what I preach as I took my kids to a different troop at the time, because of problems with the one in my backyard, but I also worked hard over the years to help improve and build that troop back up for the scouts behind mine.