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Scouting Forums

Where Do You See Scouting Membership In The Next 5 Years? What Can We Do To Grow The Program?

The Guide to Safe Scouting has a list of prohibited activities. This list includes “Activities where participants shoot or throw objects at each other, such as rock-throwing, paintball, laser or archery tag, sock fights, or dodgeball.” The list is just an example, not all inclusive, so water balloon fights are prohibited.

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That guide is where I got the water balloon fight prohibition from.

I think that the distinction that @edavignon is getting at is that, irrespective of the size, the G2SS prohibits throwing water balloons (or anything else) at one another.

The word balloon does not appear in the current version of the Guide to Safe Scouting. If you see a reference to them, you are looking at an old version.

I stand corrected. The rule is not in the G2SS, it’s on page 100 of the BSA Guide to Shooting Sports:

Shooting Sports Guidelines


It wasn’t my intent to get in to a hair-splitting debate over the rules. I was merely expanding on a comment a fellow poster was making about the BSA needing to review the rule book…The fact that I had to use a second handbook to back up my statement shows that some consolidation wouldn’t be a bad idea.

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The Guide to Safe Scouting still does not permit a water balloon fight. The passage you quote is regarding using a catapult, sling shot, etc to shoot water balloons at an inanimate target, not throwing them at a person.

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I am on board with everything you said. Adding Lions makes it harder to keep them on the other end. Webelos II year might be more part of a troop so it is seamless.
BSA can’t figure out how to market nationally. We have all the layers and the councils are the functioning units. In my council the creativity is dead. Our local and national programs during Covid are an ideal way to promote scouting. But you need a social media presence to do it. You need a plan. I have not seen BSA or my local council doing anything significant. My professional says the districts need to promote on social media. I am ten steps ahead of him on this, (last week he told me this) but when i offer to share with the other districts i am shot down. Twice. We seem to have the wishful thinking that if we post it they will see it. No one wants to have a real discussion on this locally or nationally. I contacted the national membership chairman. La La Land as an org. from my view. SAD. Not a good plan for the future. I have 2 ideas to promote scouting.

  1. The last Friday of the month. Every scout and scout leader wears their uniform all day unless it is inappropriate. I would wear it under my white coat.
  2. During COVID: Units take turns doing a free Public Service Announcement along a major road in their community. 7 scouts. 7 signs. WEAR A MASK STAY 6 FT. APART.

Scouting is in a rough place right now, and I think it’s going to get worse. When I talk to prospective parents, they’re either put off by the membership changes over the past several years, or they’re put off by the folks that are against the changes over the past several years. It’s a pretty even split between the two groups, too.


Scouting will continue to decline. The real question is how can it survive. One thing that was not addressed is the age. Scouting is MUCH younger. I was at summer camp 3 weeks last year and could count the number of Scouts over 13 on one hand each week. IMO old school leaders are really hurting the program there. Scouts come up from clubs having a fairly clear path towards each rank. They get to Scouts and some leaders have this attitude that Scouts should not be first class until 14 or Eagle until 17 (we’ve all seen them) this is VERY frustrating to today’s youth because when you look at the program and requirements it takes 2 years. Am I suggesting all Scouts make Eagle in 2 years? No, but they should be able to, or by 14. They just get over it by then, over what? Being held back for no reason. I’ve asked over and over with no good answers, why the checklist of items from T- 1st class takes some 3 years, what are you doing an hour a week, a weekend a month, summer camp yearly and more? Youth attention spans are over it, and be honest, so would most of yours.

Venturing was addressed earlier, it along with Varsity Scouting was developed by the LDS church, speaking if the LDS, they just took 25% of the entire membership with them, and a LOT of money and legal help, many in most of the country do not even really feel this, but that number and financial ramifications may prove insurmountable. I really doubt female membership is going to even make a dent in it, let’s face it the best female push was the first, and there is a reason you did not hear numbers bragged about and advertised…they just are not there, not even a finger over the busting dam si to say.

I hope things turn around, but all the things previously mentioned, my items, and now covid shuttling down camps, including Philmont a se one time in 3 years is bit going to bode well.

One last thing, my son did online merit badges with 3 councils, 1 was great, 10 in a class and real participation. The other 2 were just awful. No adult interaction, a person just lecturing a group of over 200 (1 was 900 Scouts) and just hand in a complete workbook, just awful, some kids may like it, but it is not the program at all.


@ LanceStalnaker

I think there is a lot of truth in what you are saying. The problem I’m seeing with the “old Scout Leaders” is that not nearly enough younger parents are stepping up to volunteer. These younger parents seem more content to let someone else teach their kids in the formative years. These are the same types of parents that will be the first to fuss at because “little Johnny” isn’t ranking up fast enough but has no idea of what he’s actually doing in Scouting.

A Scout should rank up when he or she ready. I’ve met people that put arbitrary restrictions on advancement and that’s not healthy. Even the BSA wants new Scouts to achieve First Class in the first year which is why the role of the Troop Guide is so essential. I’ve seen Scoutmasters want to use the SM Conference as a “retest” of skills that have been checked off which I have a problem with.

I do think the timing of everything is really kicking Scouting in the side. The Covid-19 is probably the worst because it’s keeping the Scouts from fellow-shipping in person on a regular basis. I also feel that there will be a significant percentage of parents that are going to be too afraid to send their scouts back to meetings even when the “all-clear” sign is finally out. We are already suffering from “Zoom-Fatigue”. Video meetings are not the long term solution. People tend to discover they can do without certain things in life if they’ve gone a long period of time not having to use it. Some other replacement becomes more useful…Right now people are paying annual fees for a product they can’t fully use and it’s going to be more expensive next year. I would expect a very large number of schools will not be opened in the fall which is going to kill recruiting. I don’t know how people around the country recruit, but visiting the elementary and middle schools (when the principal) allows it is popular and since a lot of churches sponsor Packs and Troops you can recruit there but even in-person worship service are not happening in a lot of places.

I just hope this Covid thing runs it’s course soon. If we have to go another year like this the loses will be devastating.

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I’m not seeing that as much as I’m seeing “old Scout Leaders” that discourage new parents’ participation either actively or passively.


That’s a good point. I’ve seen that too in my experiences with various Troops at Summer Camps, Council events etc… It seems like some of these people are in Scouting more for themselves than growing the program.


Agree on all your points. I am a teacher, and trust me, I get “those” parents, lol. The older Scout leaders need training, a pep talk, and to more fully understand the situation. I am a Scoutmaster of a Troop that exists because of such a leader, who has a troop of about 5 left, only one under 14. BSA wants first class in the first year because it is very achievable if the program is run as written with youth leadership understanding the goals, after that service, leadership, and merit badges and it just is not as hard as some make it. Will they all get there by 13 or 14, no, but 17…that is 7 years and so easy for the Scout to get on to new interests in life. I have 4 sons, 3 are Eagke Scouts, they were 16, 17, and 17. My 11.5 year old is a Star Scout, 46 merit badges, and our Troop Guide, and loves working with the new patrol. Younger Scouts have all the tools. We need to make sure they can earn Eagle in 2-3 years if THEY choose or longer, but that should not be on our timeline. Having said that, show me one Scout that chooses 7.5 years over 2.5? The world is changing for sure.

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If you are an “older Scout Leader” and I’m going to arbitrarily use the age of over 50 Years old, you are seeing a younger parent that may look a little different, dress a little different and acts a little differently for a time before the internet and social media become a part of society. An older scouter may not warm up to a parent that might have tattoos, maybe some body piercings or even lime green hair and is suffering from culture shock and are struggling with the fact that we no longer live in Normal Rockwell’s concept of Americana. You have to look past the these things. Good people come in all manners and when we find a solid adult when need to cultivate and welcome them with open arms and get them involved.

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Looking for solid adults, Look to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD or other injuries. Scouting will be beneficial to both the scout and the veteran!


The hour or so a week in troop meetings should not be dedicated to youth advancement. It is youth led. So, the topics will be whatever interests them. And not all troop guides are equally focused on advancing new scouts. In the end, it’s up to the scout to decide whether they want to put in the time to advance or not, and for many, it’s not a priority. They can still have fun in scouts doing the activities/camping (well… not right now), and still determine that Scouting was successful, even if they never become an Eagle.


How can we use the current situation to our advantage to make Scouting better and safer while allowing our youth to grow and have more fun during the process?


So you allow 10 year old Scouts to decide to play Magic 50 weeks a year? Of course not there are parameters to be followed, Scout run, yes, with guidelines. Working on Scout skills is advancement related. Are you suggesting if say Pioneering is the program feature for August, your new patrol would not be doing knots and lashings gs while older Scouts did pioneering projects up to and including the pioneering merit badge with a pioneering camp out? That’s the program. What do you do when the program features are, First Aid, E Prep, Camping, Canoeing, etc. It’s all advancement related, all of it, computer games, board ga.es, space exploration, you name it relates our job is to help them connect t those dots for advancement, and of course there is service and such. If your program can not get willing Scouts to first class in a year, I’d be looking long and hard at my program. Will all get there, no, but a year with an active troop is the standard BSA has set for their program, not me, and it is their program, not ours.


First of all, I’ll say that I am not a Scoutmaster or ASM. But I am an Eagle Scout. Secondly, I didn’t say the scouts can do whatever they want. As you said, there are parameters. But those parameters are not the advancement requirements.

There is a lot of scouting that can happen without technically covering any advancement requirements. That was my first point. My second was that troop guides are imperfect, and as youth, probably not as organized as an adult that’d make sure the new scouts are doing all of the requirements in the meetings. Third, it’s up to the scouts themselves to decide that they want to work or and be tested for a particular requirement. Some scouts would rather focus on camping and other adventures than meeting every requirement.


Some of the comments in this thread really hit home for me as well. I look around the troops in our metro area and it seems that most (at least the ones that I’m familiar with) are having issues. Recruiting issues. Retention issues. Adult issues.

Recruiting shouldn’t be that hard. BSA allows a lot of freedom to the scouts, if the scouts actually are allowed to lead their troop. I see the youth come up with ideas that are crushed by the leaders because it’s too inconvenient for them, too expensive (isn’t that why the scouts do fundraising?), or other reasons (one idea at our PLC last night was shot down because it was an indoor activity that adults thought should be done during the cold months rather than the summer).

Retention is honestly harder. There is a lot more going on now that is competing with scouts. I think someone earlier in the thread related to what my youth was like - 3 TV channels and only an hour a day of what I would want to watch if I was available at that time, one sport at a time that was low on the priority list, and maybe a job (most of us worked on our family farms). Now every sport has 5 leagues that run year around and I won’t even get into electronic distractions.

Previous posters above really made me realize that we’re not alone in our leader issues. Some troops have parents that don’t want to be involved. Some troops have older leaders that have been there 20+ years and aren’t willing to pass things along to newer parents. We are all volunteers, we didn’t get interviewed and have our resume approved for our positions. You may have a SM that has no actual leadership experience. How is that person going to pass on leadership skills to the youth?

I don’t know about the next 5 years, but I do think that BSA is headed in a bad direction. It’s not unrecoverable, but it needs a direction and a clear path to the future. Much like investors want to know what a new CEO is going to do to turn around a business, we, as parents and as volunteers, would like to know what BSA is going to do to turn around our organization. We are all part of this solution, but it’s pretty hard to help steer the ship when you are not allowed to do anything other than swabbing the deck.

Sorry, this ended up longer than I intended it to be.