WHAT IS A REALISTIC PACK SIZE AND STRUCTURE?
Years ago packs often attracted about 20% of the available youth. Those days were when Cubbing was a male only program but today, even with a blended pack of boys and girls if a pack gets 8-10% of the available youth it is probably doing good. However, 20% is not unrealistic. In fact I know of one highly successful pack that attracted over 80% of the available youth.
Scouting used to be measured with what was called degrees of difficulty. In other words, low income programs had to deal with poverty, high single parent issues and in some neighborhoods a safety issue. The benefit to those neighborhoods was a large demographic in a small area so distance was not an issue. Next came rural families. Distance was a major factor when folks might live a significant distance from meeting sites. Suburban communities generally had the lowest degree of difficulty since most families had adequate finances, distance generally was not an issue and neither was safety.
The biggest key to the size and density of a pack tends to be the quality of the program and the retention of members as they move up the ranks. This is dependent on several factors. First, getting and keeping the support and participation of parents. Cubbing is a family values program and you can’t have ‘family values’ without family. Get the parents involved. Next is meeting the expectations of parents and Cubs. There are many factors involved in meeting expectations. Kids want fun, excitement, adventure, rewards and awards and to see the program grow and keep up with them as they move up in rank and grade. Parents want some of the same things but they also want to see good structure, good communication and that their children are growing in social, moral, character and other skills and areas.
Strong, healthy packs do best when they run an active, 12 month program. Why would you wind down for the summer when that offers the best weather for program and kids have the most free time? Sports exist year round so that isn’t an excuse. Families do not go away for 3 months, maybe a week or two, so that isn’t an excuse. This is a time for great field trips, picnics, conservation projects and summertime advancement and the summertime pack award plus day and resident camps. Our argument about competition with sports was to become the competition because we did so many fun and varied things.
Plan the program to grow with the Cub. Offer special events and recognitions in the Webelos program that the younger Cubs and families will aspire to do. Den and Pack meetings need to be FUN and be built around the Cubs. Family events should be planned throughout the year. Families should be kept informed via a pack newsletter and website. Dens should be kept at 8 members and new dens started as needed. Parents should be recruited for leadership and committee positions and assisted to get fully trained and familiar with their jobs. Ideally, there should be a strong sense of belonging and being welcome at all levels.
Personally, I think that a pack can get too big. If quality and communication starts to slip because of size, you might want to consider a second pack. 6 grades mean 6 dens of 8 Cubs each times 2 if you have equal numbers of girl dens. Might be something to think about.