What can you do as the person responsible for advancement on your unit committee? As the new committee chair of a troop, team and crew, I have been asking myself this question. I am worried that if I don’t do something, many of the older youth will stall on the trail to Eagle.

The July/August 2016 edition of Advancement News has these suggestions:

A good place to start is by remembering that the important thing is to retain boys in the unit so that over time we may influence their character. A program that is rich in adventure is the key element. Advancement is a natural outgrowth of this rich adventure.”

I’ve heard that many times before, and for our church-sponsored groups, leadership development is right alongside character growth. I also know a good program keeps boys coming out to unit activities and meetings and every Scouting activity moves boys toward three basic aims: character development, citizenship training, and mental and physical fitness.

Advancement is one of the eight methods used by Scout leaders to help boys fulfill the aims listed above. From my own experience as a Scoutmaster years ago, I know that a program that uses all the methods of Scouting will cause growth in Scouts. Advancement is only one of those methods, with the outdoor program and patrol method reigning supreme among the other methods in the troop and team I have been a leader of.

Still, so many parents think that a Scout must earn his Eagle to gain character and leadership skills, so I was glad to read further in this issue of Advancement News:

2015-Guide-to-Advancement“… you should make sure that you are familiar with the latest advancement requirements and the Guide to Advancement so that you will become the ‘go-to’ source in the unit on all matters pertaining to advancement. Be sure that you understand the advancement procedures, especially those for Eagle Scout. Keep a current copy of the council merit badge counselor list, and work to recruit local merit badge counselors to support the unit’s program. Note that all merit badge counselors must be registered, complete Youth Protection Training (within the last two years) and approved by the council advancement committee.”

Wait, that is more than a committee chair can handle. I have an Eagle coach for older Scouts, but I am going to need an advancement specialist to get all that done. But there is more on this matter:

“You can work with youth leadership to make sure the unit has a library of current advancement literature, including an ample supply of up-to-date merit badge pamphlets. Work with the unit leaders to ensure that the program promotes a boy reaching First Class within 12 to 18 months of joining.

Scoutbook“You can help by keeping accurate records. Become familiar with and use BSA’s internet advancement tools, including the Scoutbook Web-based application, to track and report individual accomplishments to the local council. You then will be able to regularly brief the unit leaders on the advancement needs of each boy.

“Schedule regular boards of review, at least monthly, but more often, if required. Be sure to include boards of review during summer camp. Should a boy appear to be having boards less often than his contemporaries, you will be able to alert others to his situation and help in considering what steps to take. For example, a friendly “non-advancement” board of review (GTA may be all that is needed.

“To be effective, advancement must be recognized. One way is to publicly announce the results of a board of review as soon as possible after it concludes, e.g., if in camp, at that evening’s campfire. Hold timely courts of honor (three are required annually to achieve Journey to Excellence Gold) Eagle-Scout-court-of-honorwith the parents and even grandparents in attendance. Some units even hold an annual court of honor where all the troop’s achievements, including a recap of individual advancements, for the year are recognized.

Eagle plaqueDeveloping an advancement display for rank advancement [that is prominently on display in your chartered partner’s lobby] and helping to make sure that all courts of honor are held with an appropriate degree of ceremony should make the event memorable and help to reinforce the message that advancement is a result of program.

I feel pretty good about that suggestion (Just look back at “Our First Court of Honor” from last week.)

This issue of Advancement News concluded with this thought:

“If you help in these ways, your unit will have a strong, supportive advancement program that will help retain Scouts. In this way we will maximize the time we have to influence a Scout’s character. Now isn’t that what we’re all about?”

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