5 Tips to Master Pack Meeting
My son was a Wolf when I began as his Cub Scout Pack Master. I had been to pack meetings in the past for him, and I’ll be brutally honest, I wanted to slit my own wrists. The boys were inattentive, rude, and seemed to have no interest in what was happening. As a parent I was discouraged. Pack meeting happens once a month and it is the one time they get the pay off for the hard work they put in. Pins, awards, recognition and fun is what these meetings are all about but it all seemed to be lost in the fray. It even got to the point that I would make excuses not to go because I couldn’t handle the craziness of it.
Now, I’m bossy by nature, but I also really love kids, so why did I want to wring all of their necks (including and especially my son’s)? I guess that’s the nature of the beast, put your money where your mouth is. Shortly after I started giving up on the who thing I was asked to take over these three-ring-circus meetings. Great.
I have one brother who never spent a day in scouts and a husband who doesn’t have much good to say about the program. I had to find what would work for me with absolutely no back ground in the program. I know there are “Round Table” meetings to give leaders ideas on how to do these meetings, but I was turned off by the idea of going because of what the meetings I had been to in the past were like. I finally decided to be selfish. If it worked for me, it will work for the parents and it would trickle down to the kids. No, I did not duct tape the boys to their chairs, but I did sit down and really think about what pack meeting was really about, and what wasn’t working for me and what I would like the boys to get out of it. Here is how I turned a “Lord of the Flies” situation into a program that every single person who attends pack meeting enjoys and is meaningful to the boys involved.
Step 1: Get the boys under control.
- I started by sending an email out to the parents and den leaders before my first meeting outlining my expectations. They included arriving on time. Cubs were not allowed to enter the room until the meeting began, but parents and family members were to take a seat inside. There was NO gather activity. I know, I know, the BSA likes gathering activities but I felt it promoted a feeling of chaos. When the cubs arrived, their job was to sit lined up in the hall until we started. I had a den leader stay with them to keep them under control.
- When it was almost time to beging I had a talk with the scouts themselves. First off, if I wanted their attention or to get them to quiet down I would yell “Cub Scouts” and they would respond “yes, cub master”. Then they were expected to be quiet. We practiced this several times in the hall until they were a little used to it.
- Next I told them they would not be sitting in the front row as they had in the past, they would be sitting with their families. They were to enter and find a seat with a parent. Parents are far more likely to keep kids in line if they can whisper in their ear (which I wished I could do countless times in the past).
- In addition, I had three special treats set aside that would be awarded to the most respectful and quiet scouts during the meeting. I called it the reverence award and I let them know these awards were available to the most reverent.
- Next we discussed that they are men in training, that is why they are in scouts. In short, this is their first exposure to preparing to be a man. Men don’t speak out of turn in meetings. Men don’t back talk. Men don’t get out their seats when it’s inappropriate. Men congratulated each other on a job well done. The aren’t men yet, so they won’t be perfect, but this is their time to practice.
- Finally, after each scout received their awards the rest of the pack would stand and give him the scout salute on my cue. No silly cheers, I went for straight ceremony. If during the meeting they got loud I would call them back to attention with “cub scouts” and them responding “yes cub master”.
- PS. A microphone does wonders in keeping attention.
Step 2: Respect during the meeting. During the actual meeting there were no games or silliness. We did the flag ceremony, prayer, core value (very short), awards for each boy, info on what to expect in the month to come, reverence awards, closing prayer and flag ceremony, and then fun! I try to keep the actual ceremony as short as possible. They are 8-10 year-old-boys, there is only so much patience they can handle.
Step 3: Let the fun begin! This is a celebration for their hard work for crying out loud! There is a time and a place for boys to be boys and after the seriousness of the ceremony it’s time to celebrate. Selfishly, I didn’t want to force boys to do things they might not enjoy and that I had to run so I set up four stations around the room for them to do at their leisure. As time went on I found I could create stations that actually passed off electives for them, but were fun to do. I’ll cover those in future posts.
Step 4: Choose a theme and run with it! This is what makes each meeting special. Of course awards are cool but every meeting I choose a theme and deck out the room. Decorations, activities focused around the theme and themes that are relevant and exciting to the boys make it a red letter evening. Legos and Minecraft are just a couple of the themes that were huge hits. That is part of the reason they wait in the hall, so that when they enter the room the theme is revealed to them. They love the surprise of what I’m going to do next. They are enthusiastic while being appropriate.
Step 5: Make a rank award special. In our pack we award ranks every month a scout has a birthday and moves up. Some packs give them once a year, either way, you can make it a serious and proud event. I bought a black stick of face paint from a craft store and when a boy moves up in rank in addition to giving him his award and his mom the pin I mark his face in a tribal-ish type way with the paint. It’s a badge of honor and for the most part the boys love the recognition. So much of scouts is ceremonial, and that’s cool! It creates a feeling of honor. Soldiers, athletes, even actors wear war paint and we as a society connect it with a feeling of importance. This is one of the best parts of pack meeting.
Since I have adopted this format our meetings have gotten better and better until one day, without me asking them to, the cubs all sat in the front row without their parents and were the picture of respect. I was so impressed that at the next meeting I gave everyone of them a reverence award. We have not had a problem with respect and reverence since.