In simple terms, the unit leader conference is a visit between a youth member and you–his Scout leader. Last night, we held a Board of Review for a Star Scout who experienced a Scoutmaster’s conference a couple of months back.

It was clear the other two adults and I were intimidating to him. I know this Scout. He is comfortable with the Scoutmaster and his assistant but wasn’t with us.

It got me wondering; since boards of review and unit leader conferences should be good places for youth to interact with adults, why was it so scary for him?

It turns out many teens interactions with adults put them in a decidedly subordinate role.

However, Scouts and Venturers develop trust in adults when they are treated in a non-threatening manner and are viewed as equals. Their trust improves if they are asked questions by adults who value their answers. Here’s some information regarding a quality conference:

What is a Unit Leader Conference?

Venturing

The Venturing Advisor conference is conducted under the same general policies and procedures as the Boy Scouting Scoutmaster conference. See 4.2.3.5, “Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference.”

This one-on-one review held after completion of the requirements for a Scout rank (or Venturing Award), but before the board of review, is a time for a unit leader to chat and get to know the Scout or Venturer. It’s also a time to learn what’s going on in the youth’s life.

Together, you can review advancement requirements (when a youth is not advancing, you can use the conference to nudge him forward), but it can be so much more than a mere recheck of requirements.

 What Should You Talk About?

It’s an opportunity for you to discuss with each Scout or Venturer their activity in the troop, team or crew. This is also a time for you to learn more about the youth:

  • Openly talk about the youth’s progress in the unit.
  • Ask how they have demonstrated leadership.
  • Ask what they’ve done in their position of leadership.
  • Ask how they define Scout spirit and live according to the Scout Oath and Law.
  • See if they are having fun.
  • Find out if they are having any problems.
  • Ask for suggestions to make the unit better.
  • Ask about non-Scouting areas of the youth’s life (school, sports, extracurricular activities, etc.).

The Guide to Advancement, 4.2.3.5 Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference states that “the leader conference, regardless of the rank or program, is conducted according to the guidelines in the Troop Leader Guidebook, No. 33009 (volume 1). Though a Scout must participate or take part in a conference, it is not a ‘test;’ the requirements do not state he must ‘pass’ a conference.”

Youth should be ready to review with any of the requirements for the new rank. You must be satisfied that they are ready to go before the board of review; in effect saying,  “I certify that this Scout is ready for his new rank.”

The boy should wear his uniform to the conference, which actually fits in at any weekly meeting, on a campout or by appointment at your home. But, when this option is taken, another adult must be present.

Why does the Scoutmaster engage in this one-on-one review?

This is one way you can look into your unit’s operation to see who is showing leadership, who is holding back, who is shy, who is working with the younger kids, who is skilled in outdoor activities, etc.  Also, you can explore how the Scout Oath and Law affect the youth’s daily life. But, in any case, it is a personal experience, not something for the group to listen in on.

How Often Should They Be Held?

A unit leader’s conference should be held as often as necessary, but no less than one week prior to a Board of Review. While it may make sense to hold it as soon as requirements have been met and before a board of review, it is not required.  In fact, last-minute work on advancement with an older Scout may make it impossible to fit it in before an 18th birthday. Therefore, do it as early as the requirements are met.

For more information on holding this important conference, visit: Scoutmaster Conference at UtahScouts.org or read the Guide to Advancement, 4.2.3.5 Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference.

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Darryl Alder
Darryl is a retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. However, his pride in Scouting, is his volunteer service as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative and Commissioner.

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