Your troop is about to receive a new group of Cub Scout “crossovers” —it is that time of year when troops nationwide need to work seriously on their Webelos to Scout Transition, so that these former Cub Scouts have a good foundation for camp in two months. Most troops know that recruiting Webelos is critical to keeping their troop growing and it keeps our current members in the program! Selling new parents into Boy Scouting is much harder than moving happy Cub Scout parents into your troop. So there are some adjustments to make and some problems you need to address. Often the new boys and their parents will be unprepared for the major shifts that will occur after the Webelos-to-Scout Transition. These include:

  • adapting to a new small group structure (patrols operate differently from dens); boy led patrols rather than Akela led dens; the den-like structure is familiar, the “management” structure is not.
  • a new hierarchy of leadership (youth-led more than adults); boy planned and led activities, leaves some parents feeling “unemployed” in Boy Scouting unless they become members of the troop committee, a merit badge counselor or join the Scoutmaster staff. 
  • campouts and hikes no longer require a one-to-one “buddy” parent presence—their son’s buddy is a fellow Boy Scout.
  • a new concept of advancement responsibility; parents no longer “sign off” rank advancement requirements in their sons’ handbooks and where advancement previously relied largely on their den leader’s initiative, the responsibility in the troop will be firmly placed on each Scout’s shoulders, with support (but not initiative) from his patrol and troop programs of activities. 

If these differences are not understood and adjusted quickly, there is a genuine risk of losing this next generation of Scouts before the first badges are sewn on their uniforms.

Many roundtables will have training about this, but you can look back at this post: Webelos to Scout Transition Starts Now for some good ideas. In addition Advancement News offers this solution :

Just as the troop’s Scouts and leaders tried to make the Webelos Scouts and their parents feel welcome to join during their Arrow of Light den visit to the troop, so too must they find ways to make them want to stay once they have arrived. There is no better way to do this than to welcome the new Scouts with an appropriate ceremony, followed by an orientation session—or two, in fact.

Many troops find it most successful for the senior patrol leader and a few other selected youth leaders to lead the new Scout orientation while the Scoutmaster, troop advancement coordinator, and committee chair speak with the new Scouts’ parents. These can be done concurrently by simply using two different rooms at your chartered organization’s location or other meeting site.

When gathering the Scouts, make certain that all have the most current edition of the handbook. For parents, there really is no need to create a “troop advancement manual”—the BSA has already done this for us all. It is recommended that you just reproduce a few relevant Handbook pages, e.g., the requirements for the ranks of Scout and Tenderfoot, to use as examples, and have a copy of the current Guide to Advancement handy for referral.

From experience, these orientations, especially those for the parents, work best when conducted in an interactive rather than lecture-style format. Facilitators for each session can prepare a series of discussion questions for participants, together with well-researched answers and examples. Be sure to leave reasonable time for spontaneous questions, and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know but we’ll research that and get back to you,” if necessary.

These orientation sessions, if held right at the outset of your new Scouts’ journeys, will not only give all new Scouts and their parents the information needed for success in Boy Scouting, but will let the new boys’ families know that their questions and participation in whatever role they would like to serve, e.g., assistant scoutmaster, committee member, even advancement chair, are always welcome. In addition, preparing these orientation sessions will help your troop’s key youth leaders and adult volunteers to re-ground themselves in the same areas, which should help ensure that the best possible overall troop program can be delivered to the youth we are all here to serve.

There are other things you can do too, like year-round recruiting even though Webelos recruiting often ties into crossover time, which is the best time to get as many Webelos Scouts into troops as possible.

Boy Scout units should have an active program to identify Webelos leaders before the start of each Webelos Scout’s second year. Call the Cubmaster to confirm the right leaders, find out how many Webelos Scouts they have, and introduce your unit. Develop a relationship with Webelos leaders. This involves getting to know them beyond an introductory phone call.

Meet on a one-on-one basis outside the meeting environment to learn about the leader and Webelos families. Host the Webelos dens at regular Scout meetings, but make sure programs are interesting, youth-driven and appropriate for Webelos audiences.  Include dedicated time to talk to parents about the troop and answer questions—don’t be in a rush.

Invite the Webelos patrol and parents to visit a unit activity and possibly spend a night camping with the Scouts; let them participate in the activities. They should be treated as a “new boy patrol,” and watched over by the troop guides or other carefully selected youth leaders of the troop. Send a thank you note to the leader and families, thanking them for participating with the Scout unit. 

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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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