I think we all have a few things we’d like to change about our Troops. Perhaps it’s the extent to which we are boy led, perhaps it’s the engagement level of Scouts, perhaps it’s difficulty in recruiting. We all see areas for improvement yet we often struggle to capitalize on them. But in reality, many of the tools we need to transform our troops are already in front of us. It’s one of those tools that I’d like to discuss today – the Troop Meeting Plan.
The Troop Leader Guidebook suggests that the Troop Meeting Plan “provides the framework for
Quite simply, the Troop Meeting Plan is a pre-formatted agenda for conducting a Troop Meeting. I call it a ‘secret weapon’ because many Troops overlook this simple tool – perhaps because it is so simple. But I believe there are (at least) seven ways that making use of the Troop Meeting Plan can transform our Troops:
- Boys won’t get bored. The Troop Meeting Plan divides the Troop Meeting into sections that are typically about 10-20 minutes in length. This is important because it keeps boys moving from one activity to another, never allowing any single activity to get old. At the end of 90 minutes, you’ll hear boys exclaim, “Are we done already?”
- Boy will learn more. In addition to being inherently more interesting, switching activities frequently allows the brain to ‘reset’. This happens because the brain remembers beginnings and ends more effectively than it remembers middles. Quite simply, breaking up the meeting into distinct sections creates more beginnings and ends.
- Recruiting becomes easier. The variety of the Troop Meeting plan typically involves games, contests, ceremonies, boy-led meetings, and learning new skills. This variety makes every Troop Meeting a potential recruiting night. Consider the boy who randomly shows up to take a look at your Troop. What sort of Troop Meeting would you want him to see?
- Meetings are youth led. As adults we do a fairly good job of conducting a meeting even if the plan is only a rough sketch in our brain. However, youth typically haven’t developed those sorts of ad-lib skills, so the Troop Meeting Plan provides a consistent structure that gives your Senior Patrol Leader the ability and confidence to conduct the Troop Meeting with little or no adult intervention.
- Minimize the role of the SM. Perhaps it’s the same a point #4, but use of the Troop Meeting Plan minimizes the role and visibility of the Scoutmaster and other adults. This natural ‘side-lining’ makes it easier for adults to let go of the reigns and allows boys to step into their appropriate role as youth leaders.
- Use of the pre-opener. The first item on the Troop Meeting Plan is the pre-opening activity. The possibilities for an effective pre-opener are endless, but the role that it plays in mentally preparing boys to actively participate in your troop meeting should not be underestimated. (See ‘The Pre-Opener – A Scout Troop’s First Impression’ blog post for additional info.)
- Meetings are planned in advance. By its nature, the Troop Meeting Plan is as much a planning tool as it is an agenda. Using the Troop Meeting Plan allows Patrol Leader Councils to be more focused and more effective as they actually plan their Troop Meetings. You’ll also find that the Troop Program Resources are structured in the same way as the Troop Meeting Plan, so using them together is simple and effective.
Any one of these reasons might be enough to implement the Troop Meeting Plan in your Troop, but together you can see why we call the Troop Meeting Plan the ‘secret weapon’ to transform your Scout Troop!
Completely agree. Since we started using the Troop Meeting plan, the meetings are better run, the activities/skills instruction always have the gear needed and I (SM) have been able to step back and get out of the way.
The Scouts love the structure. They know what happens next for every meeting. They may not know the content of the “next” but they know after opening is skills instructions and after that patrol meeting, etc.
Outstanding, as a scoutmaster for 30 years, I have seen it all. From SM running the entire program to youth running the program.
With the help of a well planned PLC meeting, all of the meetings can work well with youth running them. The PLC is “the” place for the SM to have some input on what he would like to see accomplished for the month, however, he/she participates in a consulting role and does not run that meeting either, this is the job of the SPL. I have found that if the SM provides a “boiler plate” format for use at meetings during the month, the PLC has an easy job of filling in the blanks based on the annual program plan. It’s also a great idea to have a patrol/s responsible for the logistics at each meeting. This results in “buy in” by the boys as they are now responsible for the success or failure of the event. By doing this you add the structure, build confidence and create an active and well planned program for each meeting and the activity of the month (presumably a campout). What if they fail, let them fail, their peers will let them know not to let it happen again, and in my experience it generally does not.