Front Line Stuff
Edited by Mark Ray
Making Better Use of Den Chiefs
Because den chiefs play such an important role in supporting den leaders and encouraging Cub Scouts to cross over into Boy Scouting, Scouter J.W. wants suggestions on how pack and troop leaders can recruit and retain quality Boy Scouts for this position.
Too many times the den leader treats a den chief like an older Cub Scout or mostly ignores him. Work him into your program; show him he is needed and that you depend on him.
Take time before or after each meeting to mentor him. If he has accepted this leadership responsibility, he needs to be trained and held accountable.
Last but not least, reward him. Mark off his requirements in the Den Chief Handbook so that he can see he is accomplishing something.
To recruit quality den chiefs, the pack leader(s) should arrange to visit Boy Scout troops in the area and explain their need. Remind the Scouts that the role of den chief is considered a position of leadership responsibility eligible for Boy Scout advancement.
Recruits should be acceptable to all leaders involvedCubmaster, Scoutmaster, den leader.
The den leader should then treat the den chief as a young adult leader and give him specific responsibilities, not just consider him to be there as a "gofer."
The troop and the pack leadership need to work together in this endeavor. Once a cooperative atmosphere exists, allow the den chief the leadership opportunity to be active and responsible. The Boy Scout has to feel that his services are needed and wanted. Give him the latitude, and he will exceed the expectations.
It is imperative that the Cub Scout leader be familiar with the den chief's job description and not use him to run errands or to serve as a sort of older denner.
Familiarize yourself with the Den Chief Service Award requirements and fit his obligations into the agenda for den meetings.
Treat the den chief as a peer and make sure you include him in your planning meetings, emphasizing the need for his expertise and advice. Whenever possible, let the Scout lead meetings or teach skills, and he'll develop the sense of ownership for "his Cub Scouts" that keeps him coming back every week with enthusiasm.
The Den Chief Service Award is a great tool for both the den chief and the den leader. The requirements clearly lay out what a good den chief should be doing: leading specific activities, setting a good example, attending pack leader meetings, helping with joint pack-troop activities, etc. Den leaders should use this award as a road map when they work with den chiefs.
Training is the key! Every den chief should complete the one-half-day Den Chief Training course. If you're a den leader, attend the training with your den chief. That way, you'll know what he knows, and you'll start building a collegial relationship with him.
In our troop, we reserve three youth leadership positions for Life Scouts and Eagle Scouts: senior patrol leader, junior assistant Scoutmaster, and den chief. We believe the den chief position is that important because what that Boy Scout does can directly affect our troop's future. We only want to send the right Scouts to work with Cub Scouts, and we honor den chiefs for their service just as much as we do other youth leaders.
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