Turning Parents into Helpers, and Helpers into Leaders
Packs Need Adult Leaders – Most Need More. Yes, a fully functioning Cub Scout Pack must have the following: (1) a Cubmaster, (2) Den Leaders for each den (of 6 to 8 Scouts in the same grade), (3) a Chartered Organization Representative, (4) a Committee Chair, (5) several Committee Members performing key support functions, and, ideally, (6) Assistants for Cubmasters and Den Leaders.
There is no single “magic wand” to wave that will solve the struggle to turn Parents into Helpers and Leaders and if you get a lot of youth to sign up you need even more adults to deliver the program. While you may not have a single “magic wand”, you have a lot of arrows in your quiver.
- Most Packs benefit from constant leader recruitment activities. All Pack leaders and helpers benefit if you keep your eyes open for how parents might help.
- The bad news: not enough are really eager to “be the Leader”.
- So a “group question” of “who wants to be den leaders” usually doesn’t turn up enough volunteers, and maybe not the right ones.
- The good news: most parents are “willing to help”, but they worry about taking on too big a job and not having enough help from others.
- So current leaders should find ways to help turn Parents into Helpers, then engage and find ways to turn those Helpers into Leaders.
- Showing that most of the parents in a Den are willing to help can free one of them to be willing to lead those helpers.
- Having “co-leaders” is a good approach too.
- The bad news: not enough are really eager to “be the Leader”.
- Celebrate your helpers as “Heroes” because they are!
- When you recognize and applaud your helpers, their kids will be so proud that will help those parent turn from helpers into Leaders!
Cub Scouting is a Family Program – Parents Need to Participate Too.
- Only a very small Pack can operate with just a couple of people leading the Scouts
- A Better Approach is “Every Parent Helps"
- It’s only fair that they know that from the start that every parent helps, and many hands make light work.
But ... how do you get people to say “yes, I’ll help” ... and then “yes, I’ll be a leader!”
- A key to recruiting helpers and leaders is:
Did you ask? and did you ask a question that they can answer “Yes” to?
Turn Parents into Helpers, and Then Helpers into Leaders
Most people, when asked to “be” the Den Leader or Cubmaster or Committee Chair, will say “no” ... or “I can’t be a den leader, I can’t do all that”
- Don’t ask people (right away) to be Den Leader or Cubmaster or Committee Chair because most people that will seem too hard.
- Instead, get to know them and ask how they’d like to help, once you get to know them, you can give them suggestions about the right leadership role for them.
- Do encourage general “Committee Member” registration because the more parents who take “Youth Protection Training”, the better for them and the better for your Pack.
- When you ask, ask one individual for specific help with a small task and build on that.
- You will have some people say “I can lead games” or “I can organize trips” or “I can lead songs” or “I can help build stuff”.
- Get people to say “yes” to leading activities, leading games, organizing trips, and building stuff, and you’ll have the leader corps your den needs.
- Break down the “big roles” into “little jobs” if everyone takes on a “little job”, it all gets done!
- This makes it easier for someone to say “OK, I’ll be the Den Leader "
- If you ask “a group” for volunteers, each individual may think “not me” they may think that you meant to ask “somebody else” – so when you ask, also ask each individual one on one for something they can do.
Start with a “Little Task Ask”
Ask an individual for “Help with This” (specific task)
If you have a group of parents at a Den level, but no den leader, if you ask one parent to “be the den leader”, they will likely say “no”. However, if you ask “can you help lead a small part of a simple den meeting”, many will say “yes” if they get specific instructions.
Consider how your Fun Event around Sign Up Night could use some help:
- Doing a swimming event? Maybe set up some parents to help with that as you try to find out which parent can be a Den Leader
- One parent can lead the Scout Law
- Another can be a Game Leader.
- More can instruct and test on the Bobcat Rank elements.
- Another can lead the “Talk Time” discussion of a Den Name.
Asking one parent to lead it all can be “too much”, but slicing and dicing the activity like this allows every parent to “lead a little”, and some will realize they can “lead a lot”. This can be guided by another current or former leader, as a mentor who helps the team of new parents succeed. For parents who “like” Scouting, but are not yet ready to “lead” Scouting, another “little task ask” might be joining a team of parents as New Member Coordinators to welcome families at events.
Know Your Target, Personally.
For key roles like “Den Leader” and “the next Cubmaster”, if you ask “a group” for volunteers, each individual may think “not me”. They may think that you meant to ask “somebody else” – so when you ask, also ask each individual one on one for something they can do. When you do ask personally, it’s easier to find the right role for the parent and it’s harder for the parent to say “no” because if you’re in a one on one talk, you can find something for the parent to help with. For key jobs, ask “two on one” or more as you confirm your engaged leaders, have more than one of you target your next key prospective leaders to “join the team”.Eventually your team of one or two can become a team of ten or twenty.
Consider this: Maybe Less is More. A pack that is swamped with new kids but short on leaders may find it difficult to do the old-style full “perfect pack” plan of weekly den meetings plus monthly pack meeting.
A recommendation is that if you don’t have enough Den Leaders, engaged and ready to go with enough helpers, leading dens of about 8 Scouts of the same age (not more than 10): maybe don’t attempt to have Den Meetings for those Dens. Otherwise, you are likely to have chaos and by having chaos, you are likely to lose those parents who will not tolerate their child being in a chaotic program. Those parents are the ones you want to be leaders since they have higher standards and don’t tolerate chaos!
For dens that don’t have enough Den Leaders, engaged and ready to go, leading dens of about 8 Scouts of the same age (not more than 10), postpone den meetings for those dens until you get leaders for right-sized dens, and those leaders are engaged and ready, while you wait, have “easy” Pack Activities like pot luck picnic nights, or weekend fun events like swimming or fishing or short fun hikes or visit a nature center, and during those events have “The ‘We Need a Den Leader’ Talk” with parents. Dens that have engaged leaders ready to go and the right size den can have Den Meetings, and be the example!?
The Importance of Patience.
If you are a committed leader you have to be patient as you recruit helpers and develop leaders from the parent ranks. That means some things won’t be done as well as you might do them, but you want to develop parents into helpers, and helpers into leaders, and there will be struggles on the way. When you do grow, and let a new den leader lead a den, the goal shouldn’t be just “do it as I would do it”, but let that parent do it using their strengths and resources. If you are a friend and counselor and enable the parent to be successful in their own way, you’re helping that den and family succeed in Cub Scouting.
So have patience and be helpful, friendly, courteous and kind to all your parents and let them “do their best”.