I had never been to Montana before moving here last November. It was high on my bucket list of places to visit for several reasons. One is the sheer remoteness of the state and being able to go out into the wilderness and easily not see another person. This has an allure for me.
When a Scouting opportunity to move here was offered last fall, I happily accepted. Having lived here for the past three months and met many people, I am excited about the opportunities for our communities across the state.
Thus far, here are my top five impressions of Scouting in Montana:
- There is Room to Grow
- Our New Website is Facilitating Growth
- Community Involvement is Needed
- We Need Volunteers
- Scouting Pride
1. We need to take advantage of the existing opportunities to invite more people to join Scouting. I often say that we focus so much on our kids, how awesome the program is for our youth, that we sometimes overlook the good it can do for any parent who gets involved. Organizing our recruiting efforts to increase visibility in communities where the current participation rate is low builds on both of these fronts. We have ample room to grow in Montana!
2. Continued implementation of our newly updated website (www.montanabsa.org) with a consolidated calendar that can merge into your phone, timely news, easier-to-read flow, and a simpler and better registration process for events has made this now a highly enhanced tool.
3. To be “seen” in our communities may require us to be more involved. For example, every Scout unit in a town with a Christmas or homecoming parade benefits from just one unit participating. Should we consider service projects based on visibility? Can we help better in food drives? Can we hand out the program for an airshow or community event? Are we inviting the media as often as we can to our events? We all benefit from working within our communities whenever we see a need or an opportunity to do a good turn daily. Our very presence conjures up positive feelings and pride in our communities. We should take advantage of this.
4. Every unit, every district committee, every commissioner corps, and even the committees of the council board need volunteers. I had someone recently tell me that Scouting must change because you just can’t recruit parents anymore. I countered that the challenges for recruiting a volunteer haven’t changed since the dawn of Scouting.
For example, in the 1966 movie “Follow Me, Boys!” the movie setting begins in a 1930s community meeting where a discussion focuses on finding activities to keep the local youth from getting into trouble. A suggestion of forming a Scout troop was countered by not being able to find a volunteer for Scoutmaster. In that meeting, a local man, Lem Siddons (played by Fred MacMurray), finally volunteers and ultimately commits decades of his time as a Scoutmaster. Throughout the movie, there are instances of modern-day challenges presented in veiled and humorous ways.
My point is, if a movie made in 1966 portrays the same challenges of finding volunteers, the problem still exists today. We will likely continue to face that same challenge in the future. The question is – can we get smarter and better at identifying volunteers? Are we taking the time to find simple roles to identify leaders? Are we asking for one-off help with a single experience? Are we being clear and simple when we ask for help? Most importantly, are we taking the time to create a friendship before we ask for help? Friends want to help friends. One thing is for sure – this challenge isn’t limited to Montana.
5. There are different kinds of pride. The good kind comes with humility. It comes from that feeling when something right was done for the good of everyone. The good kind of pride exists when something was done selflessly. You can feel this kind of pride from those participating across this great state of Montana. I see it in the people here as they put on the uniform and say, “Let’s go do Scouting!”