Disbanding a Very Small Boy Scout Troop

Dianne sent in this question:

My son has been in a very small Boy Scout Troop for 2 years now. We started with about 20 scouts, and now here are only 9 active scouts. Most have earned their Eagle rank and left. We haven’t had any new recruits. Our scoutmaster had a meeting to discuss the fact that the boys’ scouting experience is very limited because of the troop’s size and suggested that the scouts transfer to another troop. All the scouts said that they wanted to stay in their troop and maintain troop meetings and activities while the leaders worked on a growth plan to recruit more scouts. A few days later the scoutmaster sent out an email to all the parents saying that he was suspending all troop meetings and activities and recommended that everyone find another troop. My son and several of the scouts do not want to go to another troop. They like their small troop and the friendships they have made. They feel that they want to preserve the troop’s legacy as well since it is the oldest troop in our district and has been around for over 45 years. Does the scoutmaster have the authority to suspend meetings and activities like that? What if the scouts oppose to his decision, can the SPL resume meetings and activities without the scoutmaster’s approval? I would appreciate any feedback on this. Thanks.

Thanks for the question. First of all, it is possible for a very small troop to have a good program. But one of the most common problems in a troop like this is that the pool of adult leaders is very small, but  if the parents are all willing to dig in and fill all of the adult leadership roles it can work.

The Scoutmaster is appointed by the troop committee with the approval of the chartered organization.  So my suggestion would be that the committee recruit a new Scoutmaster to keep the troop together if the parents are really behind the idea.  If somebody steps in and offers to take over that role, perhaps the current Scoutmaster would see that in a positive light.  If you have not done so already, meet with your troop committee and discuss this with them.  The committee will make the decision whether or not to recharter the troop for the next year.

If nobody else is willing to be Scoutmaster, than the issue could be that the current Scoutmaster does not have enough adult support to provide what he feels is an appropriate and meaningful program. In that case he might be correct that the Scouts would have a better experience in a different troop.

Readers, what do you think?

22 Responses to Disbanding a Very Small Boy Scout Troop

  1. Stephen Cerruti March 20, 2014 at 1:40 PM #

    The comment from the letter that struck me most was, “All the scouts said that they wanted to stay in their troop and maintain troop meetings and activities while the leaders worked on a growth plan to recruit more scouts.”

    Why are the plans to recruit more scouts in the hands of the leaders. If the existing scouts want the troop to stay then they need to get out and beat the bushes and get more boys into scouting. More boys means more adults and thus more adult volunteers.

    While a Troop can operate with only 9 scouts, the concern of the scouts “to preserve the troop’s legacy as well since it is the oldest troop in our district and has been around for over 45 years” can not be assured with 9 scouts of similar age.

    In conjunction with your recommendation to evaluate the need for a new Scoutmaster, the SPL should immediately ask each scout to bring two friends to a special troop meeting, not to join, just to see what they have to offer. Focus on scout skills and telling the troops history and see what happens from there.

    • Scouter Mom March 20, 2014 at 1:50 PM #

      That’s a great point. Adults can plan all of the recruiting events they like. But in my experience, the most effective recruiting happens when a bunch of 12 year old boys are sitting at the lunch table just talking about their last campout. Suddenly one of their friends who isn’t in the troop thinks that it sounds like fun and wants to come check it out.

  2. Priscilla March 20, 2014 at 1:45 PM #

    I think it is unfair to ask the leader to continue. The boys should just agree to all join the same troop and then they can continue those friendships and find new friendships. Yes it will be a different experience, but there will probably be some pluses to it.

  3. Christine March 20, 2014 at 2:04 PM #

    I would like to emphasize this part of Scouter Mom’s reply, “The Scoutmaster is appointed by the troop committee with the approval of the chartered organization.” As such, the Scoutmaster does NOT have the authority to disband the troop. However, there must be adults who step up to help supervise in order to actually have meetings and activities.

    There are only two authorities who can disband the troop, one is the Charter Organization. Who is the CO and how involved are they in the troop? Some are strong supporters who would be quite upset to learn that the Scoutmaster has made these statements. Some have no clue that they have any authority over the troop and may only be vaguely aware that they are some Boy Scouts who meet in their building. Either way they must be involved in any disbanding because they own all the assets of the troop, the bank account, the equipment etc. and these things can’t just be disposed of.

    The other authority who can disband a troop is the BSA council. They generally will not recharter a troop if it drops below 5 registered scouts or 5 registered adults.

    If the boys who are in the troop want to stay, their parents need step up to support them and the troop. If the Scoutmaster is burned out and done, let him go. Find a new one from among the parents/grandparents/etc. of the boys who remain, and persevere. Make sure as many possible of the remaining parents get trained and network with other Scout leaders so they know why the troop is floundering in the first place and what can be done to recruit new boys and retain the ones they have. Find the resources that are available in your area for leader training and networking. If you don’t know, find the answers to the following questions…

    Who is our Unit Commissioner? This is an experienced Scout volunteer whose job it is to mentor Scout units and help them resolve problems. Every unit should have one. In the absence of one being assigned to you, the District Commissioner, who oversees all the Unit Commissioners is responsible.

    When and where is the District Roundtable? This is a monthly meeting where Scouters get together and share information about activities, events, policies and problem solving ideas.

    When is the next training? This question can be answered by your Unit Commissioner, at the Roundtable meeting or may be posted on a District or Council website somewhere.

    • TLK April 22, 2014 at 12:31 PM #

      Well said Christine! I have been seeing more and more units in this position where everyone in the unit thinks that the cubmaster or scoutmaster runs the unit, because that is who has been doing it. These units need to get back into the basics and provide or send leaders to training again so they know what their position is supposed to do so that they can start doing it…… My unit has been going through the same thing the past 2 years after our previous Committee Chair stepped down, cubmaster covered while we searched for a new one and once we found one the new CC he continued to let the Cubmaster do all the work… that CC has stepped down after the Pack Trainer emailed all leaders the position descriptions of all positions. I am assuming he didn’t like his position desription as he hadn’t been doing any of it since he began. So time to reorganize, recruit and rebuild.

  4. Percy March 20, 2014 at 2:05 PM #

    9 is still a great number!
    Our troop started with 6 and regularly numbers from 12-18.
    Alot of boys do not want to get lost in a big troop, so I see no reason they should leave.
    Plan some kind of super fun outdoor activity and have every Scout bring someone.
    It is easy to plan amazing events and trips for 9.

  5. Scoutmaster Shawn March 20, 2014 at 2:28 PM #

    The SM should have taken steps to either find someone to replace him, or the CC or CR should have stepped in and taken over. If there is a complete lack of leadership, and the SM, although not “BSA-legal”, is the head of the troop, then he would be the default leader to call it all off.

    *The statement is used in the event the CC, CR and CO are just signatures and could care less.

    Recruitment, for the most part, has to start with the adults. Now, Scout sitting around the table, talking about the latest adventure, is a great tool, the adults steer that ship. The prospect has to get a ride to the meeting. He has to buy into the program and get parents to sign the application and drop the money for dues, gear and uniform. The parents will want to know the who, what, when, where, why and how’s. In the case of boys new to Boy Scouting, the adults must absolutely sell the program. The prospect’s parents don’t understand Boy-Led and the youth leaders, aren’t going to be able to explain the monetary and time commitments to the parents, the adult leaders are.

    It sounds like the SM is no longer committed to the program. If the CO and the committee care about the program, they will step in and take the reins and turn the program around with the help of Commissioners and the District folks.

    As a parent of the Scouts that want to stay in the troop, one of them needs to step up, and not complain about the unit folding. If their sons want the troop to survive, that duty falls on the parents of those Scouts to step up and take control.

    Honestly, if a SM plays this card, wish him farewell and good luck. Then, the unit can get back to Scouting.

  6. ABC March 20, 2014 at 3:18 PM #

    It seems to me, while reading this, that the parents want to force the SM to continue doing this job. It sounds like he is tired and burnt out. It is easy to call on legalities while sitting in the sidelines.

    My question to the parent is this: are YOU willing to step up run the troop? Are YOU willing to organize recruiting events? Are YOU willing to do the millions of things that need done behind the scenes to ensure that the troop is running smoothly?

    If the parents want the troop to continue, then please step up and make sure it does.

  7. Scott March 20, 2014 at 7:06 PM #

    The Scoutmaster, from experience, is more frustrated than any of the parents. There are several areas that need to be addressed. The first being the commitment of the parents. If they were involved, the program would not be an issue. Another being the Cub Scout Pack. Why aren’t the Webelos crossing to the troop. Lastly, where is the CO in all of this. Without their support, the troop is doomed for failure no matter how hard the Scoutmaster tries.

    • Jerry Schleining March 21, 2014 at 8:50 AM #

      Not sure (by the tone of your comment) if you are connected to this Troop or not, but to blame the parents and the Pack are not the solution.
      The Scoutmaster and Committee Chair should be addressing both of those issues. The Committee chair should be dealing with parents and their level of involvement. The Scoutmaster should be reaching out the local Packs and not waiting for them.
      They are not crossing over because they recognize a Troop that is not delivering the promise of Scouting from what it looks like on the internet.
      To blame anyone is not a fix. But based on the initial letter, it is clear that this Scoutmaster is not doing his job.

  8. G. Stiltner March 20, 2014 at 7:27 PM #

    A small scout Troop can function and function quite well. We restarted our Troop several years ago with only seven boys then we grew to 18 then fell back to 6 after the first fedw camp outs. We have just recently recruited more boys. One of our recruiting issues was our Pack and Troop Did not meet at the same location 2 years ago we combined two packs in our area and they became chartered by the same CO now as the pack grows so does the troop. As our older boys make Eagle and Age out we are having younger boys cross over. We are still small an average of 10 boys but that’s not a bad thing because of those 10 boys we also have 10 parents that stay active with their kids. They need to get a new Scoutmaster as this one is either burnt out or has lost interest altogether.

  9. Jerry Schleining March 21, 2014 at 8:45 AM #

    Get a new Scoutmaster. It’s that simple. The Scoutmaster works for the Boys and at the bidding of the committee and CO.
    The one they have now is not delivering the promise of Scouting and therefore must go.
    Now.. I would add that there must be some other issues in the Troop that are not being told.
    Have not recruited in 2 years? Something is wrong there. A Troop can not out recruit it’s losses. If the backdoor is wide open and Scouts are leaving there is a reason for that. Is there a Den Chief program in place? Are the Assistant Scoutmasters reaching out to multiple Packs to see what the Troop can do to help. Recruiting is an everyone issue and that seems to be a big part of this Troops problems.
    All the Eagles are flying away? Something is wrong there. Why are they not staying. I would certainly look into that.
    But by and large a great start would be with the Scoutmaster.
    Hate to sound mean, but it’s all about the Scouts and not the Scoutmaster.
    Have a Great Scouting Day!

  10. Sandra March 24, 2014 at 3:29 PM #

    I feel your pain. We lived this exact scenario several years ago. Our Scoutmaster had had enough. He was tired of being the main person at all campouts. We tried very hard to recruit with Packs stating, yup we are crossing to you. Only to back out at Blue and Gold. We were a small Troop and all parents were doing stuff but we needed more as we still had past Eagle parents running the Committee. We had 6-12 scouts. 90% boys were from a different city then where the Troop was so we didn’t know where to recruit. By the time we were figuring out it was too late.
    *First you need to speak to your District Commissioner and find out what schools or areas you can recruit from.
    *Have an Open House and show why boys should be joining your Troop.
    *Fliers at the schools and library and local churches as well to let Boys know your Troop is there.
    *Find someone to be Scoutmaster and get their training ASAP.
    Good luck. Our Troop did fold after being the oldest in the area and having very good retention of boys to Eagle. The boys went to several different Troops and made Eagle elsewhere so don’t give up the dream no matter what.

  11. Miss B. March 26, 2014 at 9:27 AM #

    My sons Cubmaster announced he was steeping down, 6 months before the end of the current scouting year. I expected him to step down, as his son is moving onto Boy Scouts. The packs committee has disbanded, as we do not have the adult support necessary to maintain the pack. Our chartering organization has also chartered with another Cub Scout Pack recently. The leadership discussed merging in the past, but considering there are no committee or leadership meetings it has not been currently discussed.
    I made a decision to find a new pack for my own child when the Cubmaster made his announcement. Being a single parent I wanted my son to have a male role model, and being his Den Leader was not providing him that role model. The pack was being held together by a fray stringed as it was. I found a pack with a male den leader, and my son enjoys going to Scouts now. It is a larger Den (8 boys), and the pack goes camping and overnights, something he did not do with the other pack.
    It is hard to run a unit when you do not have adult support. There are required positions, and those positions are difficult to fill. Most parents move on with their children, and when recruiting is not successful it puts the unit on the chopping block. In my sons new unit I have already volunteered for a position because it is now a required position, and the pack did not have any other volunteers.
    The families that remain in my sons former unit do not want to merge with the other pack. Honestly I think it would be the best solution to the lack of leadership problem the unit has had for 3 years now. The town has 4 cub scouts packs, and all 4 units have seen a significant decline in enrollment. A decline in enrollment also means there is a decline in adult participation, and adults available to volunteer. Whatever they choose to do is their own decision. I know that going to another unit was in my sons best interest.
    If your Scouts want to stay, then finding a new Scoutmaster is the best solution. Reach out to your Unit Commissioner if your committee does not have a solution. If they are unable to help you reach out to your District Commissioner. A unit without a Cubmaster or Scoutmaster is a unit in crisis.

  12. Shannon March 28, 2014 at 3:50 PM #

    I’m the Scoutmaster in a small unit of 6 Scouts, with the hope of 2 new crossovers this month.
    We are in a small town 30plus miles from the nearest Troop. It has been an uphill challenge to keep our Troop going because of the small numbers. Last year we had 4 Scouts earn their Eagle and take off. The year before that we had 5 Eagles go. Now we are left with 12 and 13 year olds with no older Scouts to show them the ropes and it and in some ways it feels more like a Webelo Pack instead of Scouts. Very difficult to have a boy led Troop with the young ones. Chaos can be part of it, but so far we’ve stuck it out.
    This is my 2nd year as Scoutmaster, and there have been many times I’ve thought about quitting. The only reason I’ve stayed is because my son in one of the Scouts. One of the biggest challenges of a small Troop is the lack of local support and funding. It’s really hard for the boys to raise money in a small town. Most of what we get is out of pocket(mine and assistant leaders) but that gets old and costly at times. This is a poor town too. There are only so many fund raisers the boys can do and too few boys to help out if some can’t do it. That being said, I think it will work out if we stick to it, but it shouldn’t have to be this hard.
    Heck, as long as we have boys here that want to go camping, hiking, and enjoy Scoutcraft, etc. I’ll keep on.

    • Edwina March 21, 2015 at 3:39 PM #

      Shannon, I applaud your willingness to keep going with your troop, even with the problem of finances. Our family has been members of several different packs and troops through the years. Even when there was a problem with finances in our group’s circle, we were able to find ways to finance our boys without the leaders having to shoulder most of the bill. There are still ways to get help with both funds and materials within a community that thinks it can’t afford to support the scouting program. I’ve found the biggest thing is to point out that they aren’t supporting a scout group, but are helping with the next generation of young men! Whether I was asking for help with materials or funds to purchase something our group needed, I usually tried to make my requests once a year instead of several times a year and was more successful. That meant planning out the entire future year and figuring out everything we would need. Then, I would take the entire list with me, along with a photo of our group so people would have a better idea of actually who they were supporting. I have been a WEBELOs leader, advancement chair, committee chair, and scout master (never more than one position at a time of course!), but in each and every position I needed to seek help from the families and community for support. I rarely did all the support myself though. I think it would have led to my burnout quickly if it did since I was a single mother during most of these positions.

  13. Nomar Martinez March 31, 2014 at 2:48 PM #

    Hello scouters,
    Some like these happened in our troop when I start with my son in Troop 12 of Levittown, Puerto Rico.
    I was a Life Scout when I was young and now I start a comeback with my son. With only 11 active scout and four of them where Second Class Rank and three were Life Scouts, the rest with no ranks recently in the troop. We re-charter in 2014 with a new Scoutmaster that have new fresh ideas and visions. He starts the recruiting service using the Merit badge of Robotics. Today we have all scouts (14) with the merit badge. Starts with the Majagüa District, a recruiting program, to increase the scout’s members. The innovative concept goes at the level that our District saw our way to catch attention and gave us the opportunity to make a presentation in the district round table, to show how to motivate new scouts in the program and how to teach scout leaders to provoke a blast of recruiting. Today we have Robotic Counselor (Techno Inventor of Puerto Rico) approved by BSA Council, that teach the Robotic Merit badge to all of our district units. Basically the program show a power point presentation with the assembly process in arming the robots using EDGE Method. Then transfer from PC to robot command unit and then operates the robot with a remote control, doing skills related to scouts. Example: cut a rope with a pocket knife attach to the robot chassis. When is cut, released a rubber band that throws a projectile to the target. All operation seen via cellphone that sent Wi-Fi video of the actions from the robot. A Video remote control operation, programmed, assembled arm and calibrated by youth scout. This is more enthusiast than a video game in their houses, shooting zombies. We provoke innovation to create applications that motivate kids to no limits, the imagination is the limit. They used infrared sensor, proximity sensors, direct command controls, Wi-Fi video communications, pulleys operations, motor drives controls etc.

  14. danny March 31, 2014 at 7:01 PM #

    im a scout and i swithced to a larger troop and its way better in the long run.

  15. JTJ March 11, 2015 at 4:31 PM #

    Do not disband your Boy Scout troop.
    Go to your district round table and tell them you need help.
    Ask your boy scout district executive for help.
    Ask your district commissioner for help.
    Ask your scout executive for help.

    You may have to double up with another troop until your troop is revived.

    Saving a Boy Scout troop is a very rewarding experience.

  16. Edwina March 21, 2015 at 4:25 PM #

    Instead of ending a really great scouting experience for these boys in the troop they love, I would suggest finding another small troop in the area and making arrangements to do SOME activities together, like some but not all of the camping.For some of the activities you could even see if one of the packs in your area would like to come too.

    The boys and the committee should also step up and take control of helping to enlarging the troop. Between the boys inviting their friends to activities to having an activity in the community showing how much fun is involved in scouting, there’s no reason why a pack or troop shouldn’t be able to enlarge a group IF they really want to. Maybe put on a display at a community activity or a parade float to name a few things that can be done.

    Maybe, the committee needs to also have a talk with the scout master, to find out if he’s burned out, feels like he isn’t getting the support he needs, or if there isn’t some other personal problem that he feels he isn’t able to continue working with the boys at this time. It could be that someone else may have to step and let the scout master take a break for a while or just stop being the leader. There are all kinds of help available for leaders as people have pointed out.

  17. Brownie June 7, 2015 at 10:46 PM #

    Our troop had a similar issue because the adults used the meetings as a social club and ignored the boys. I got involved as a former Eagle Scout and at the time I was 19. With the help of a few parents we saved the troop. It now has a cub pack with 40 boys…a sea ship unit with 15 mixed youth and the troop has 75 boys and 30 adults. With a little guidance you can save your troop. We are over 70 years old now. I’m 40 now and still work with the unit. We have over 205 Eagle Scouts and going strong. Don’t let one guy ruin the programs your boys love. He may be burned out and need relief.

  18. TessT January 12, 2016 at 11:54 AM #

    Scouts masters are volunteers. They absolutely can decide to stop being the Scout master. I am not sure why anyone would question this. The parents of the boys in the troop should thank him for the time that he spent leading the troop; and then one of those parents should step up to volunteer their time for this. Parents need to stop taking volunteers for granted. I was a girl scout troop leader last year, and won’t be doing it again due to ungrateful parents who whined and complained about everything. REMEMBER TO ALWAY SAY THANK YOU.

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