«Rev. David Weyrick, Ph.D. Great Trail Council Boy Scouts of America Dedicated to Dr. Randy Pausch, who fought a battle with cancer and passed away as ...»
What Keeps Adult
What Puts Them
Rev. David Weyrick
Great Trail Council
Boy Scouts of America
Adult Scouters In
What Puts Them Out
Rev. David Weyrick, Ph.D.
Great Trail Council
Boy Scouts of America
Dedicated to Dr. Randy Pausch,
who fought a battle with cancer
and passed away as I was writing this booklet.
He understood the importance of
data and of Scouting.
© 2009 by the Great Trail Council Boy Scouts of America 2 About the Author A native of Akron, Ohio, David Weyrick is an Eagle Scout who worked on the camp staff at the Manatoc Scout Reservation for fourteen summers. He has been a Scouter for more than thirty years serving as a Unit Leader, Chaplain, Commissioner, and Trainer. David served as Lodge Chief and Section Chief in the Order of the Arrow, on Wood Badge staff, backpacked at Philmont, received the District Award of Merit, holds the Silver Beaver, and is a James E. West Fellow. He serves on the Area Four Committee and the Council Executive Board as Chairman of the Council’s Camping Committee.
David is Pastor of the Stow Presbyterian Church and holds a Ph.D. in theological education.
He enjoys cooking, whittling, hiking, Star Trek and is an accomplished musician. He and his wife, Beth, have two children and two wire-haired Dachshunds. He has previously authored a five- volume set on the history of Manatoc along with a book on leadership for Scouters.
3 Acknowledgments I would like to thank the following for their
help with this booklet:
My father, Robert Weyrick, and Jan and Bob Hixenbaugh who proof -read the manuscript.
Mike Jones, Great Trail Council Scout Executive, who has gotten used to my crazy ideas in the hopes that my books can make a difference.
Mike Panasiti, Assistant Scout Executive with the Great Trail Council, who encouraged me along the way and helped pass out surveys.
Jim Shimko, Program Director with the Great Trail Council, who loves Manatoc as much as I do.
And some 339 Scout Leaders who took the time to fill out my survey and eat some steak and eggs at the weekly Leaders’ Breakfast during summer camp at Camp Manatoc.
4 Introduction Scientific Stuff This booklet proves nothing. Let me explain.
Years ago I earned a Ph.D. That and a small fortune will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
But, supposedly with a Ph.D. in hand, I now have the credentials to say something intelligent based on research. This booklet tries to say an intelligent thing or two about adult retention in Scouting based on some scientific research.
Many folks don’t really understand what scientific research means. When they hear about it they think of Albert Einstein or some mad scientist in a lab with boiling test tubes. But, its simple.
Scientific research uses what’s known as the scientific method. That’s just gathering observable, empirical, or measurable evidence in order to make an observation. And from that observation, we hope the researcher is able to say something intelligent.
Research tries to answer a question or solve a problem based on the information (we call it data) that has been gathered. A classic example is 5 historical research and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The researcher tries to answer such questions as was there more than one gunman and if so, where did they stand? The researcher gathers and studies information that is observable (film footage, photographs) in order to say something intelligent.
Candy companies conduct research when they develop a new product. They test it on kids and measure how many liked it and how many didn’t. Get enough kids to say they like a product, based on the observable research, and it just might sell.
The film industry spends millions of dollars a year to get you to enjoy a movie. Films we see in theaters go through numerous test showings to gain peoples’ opinions. These opinions (research) help the producers make changes to develop their final product which will make money.
But research doesn’t prove anything, it can only infer. We could look at research in more detail and talk about theories and hypothesis but, trust me, research doesn’t prove, it infers. That means the research draws a conclusion from the evidence.
An historical researcher can’t prove there was more than one gunman in Dallas that fateful day in 1963. The researcher can only infer, draw a conclusion, from all his or her evidence.
6 That’s why this booklet proves nothing. It’s some research that infers several reasons why many adult leaders (a.k.a. Scouters) stay in Scouting and why some leave.
The idea for this booklet actually began in 2006 when I was involved in writing another booklet for the Great Trail Council called ReTENtion: The Ten Defining Moments in a Scout’s Life Where Retention is Critical and What You Can Do About It. Leaders used the ideas in that booklet to help them keep boys in the program. Statistically we have seen improvement across the Council and in other Councils in our Area and Region.
But numbers reveal that Councils can do a better job retaining adult leaders. As I looked at the annual adult retention numbers in my own Council I asked myself, “Why do leaders stay in Scouting and why do they leave?” I had some ideas but nothing observable in order to infer some conclusions. So, I decided to conduct my own research that would be informative and able to shed some light on adult retention for this great organization.
A great deal of research uses sample groups.
Candy companies sample boys and girls. Film companies sample teenagers, “soccer moms,” as well as senior citizens.
7 My research would need a sample; a group with a common thread, that could provide information. Obviously, the common thread would have to be Scouters. I just couldn’t ask people walking down the street, “Could you tell me why Scouters stay in Scouting?” If they had no Scouting experience, they wouldn’t have a clue.
But, where could I get a good sized sample group of Scouters and what would I ask them? I thought about visiting all of the monthly District Roundtables but realized most met on nights I couldn’t make because of my church responsibilities. I thought about visiting unit meetings each week but that would involve more time than I could give.
I finally decided my group would be those Scouters who attended summer camp at our Council’s Camp Manatoc. As a member of the Council’s Executive Board and as a Council Chaplain, I could easily meet with leaders at the weekly leaders’ breakfast during the seven weeks of summer camp.
But, what would I ask them and how would I gather the information? A one page survey would be easy and if I designed it correctly could be filled out quickly and provide me with enough empirical information to generate some conclusions.
So, after receiving permission, I circulated
the survey which asked:
8 Number of years as an adult leader Gender Year of birth Previous youth involvement in Scouting Eagle Scout Three reasons why they stay in Scouting Three reason why they believe Scouters leave Each Thursday morning during the seven weeks of the 2008 summer camping season at Camp Manatoc, the surveys were passed out and almost every leader returned one. That produced a great deal of data for me to generate my conclusions.
The booklet is mostly divided into two sections: what keeps leaders in (eight conclusions) and what puts them out (six conclusions). It just so happened that’s where the numbers fell. There where almost fifty reasons given in the surveys but most were just mentioned once or twice. I paid attention to the ones that received more “mentionings” (if that makes sense). Each conclusion chapter contains some objective findings from the surveys and then some comments.
I had the honor of asking 339 Scouters to help me offer some insight into retention of adults within the Boy Scouts of America. Of those 339, 20 (5.8%) were female and 319 (94.2%) were male.
About one third of the Scouters (32.4%) had been leaders from one to five years while another third (34.2%) had been leaders for six to ten years.
That meant that two-thirds (66.6%) of the Scouters, had been leaders for ten years or less.
About one quarter of them (24.1%) had eleven to twenty years of leadership, 5.4% had twenty-one to thirty years experience, and 3.8% had more than thirty-one years in leadership.
They ranged in age from 18 (born in 1990) to 70 (born in 1938). The average age of the Scouters was about 46.
But if we break that down, we find the average birth year of those who had been leaders from one to five years was 1968. And, as you would expect, as the years of leadership experience 11 increased, so did the average age of the leaders.
Average birth year of those with six to ten years experience was 1961; those with eleven to twenty years was 1957; twenty-one to thirty was 1950;
and more than thirty-one years was 1947.
Almost two-thirds of the men (61.1%) were Cub Scouts and about the same (62.6%) were Boy Scouts. Those who were Explorers or Venture Scouts were 12.5%. Interesting that almost onethird of the men are Eagle Scouts.
Even more interesting and something to note is that 75% of the female leaders were Girl Scouts.
These conclusions are based on Boy Scout leaders’ opinions.
That’s enough for now. Let me present my conclusions 12
WHAT KEEPS THEM INThey Want to Help Boys
Conclusion #1As I was collecting the data from the surveys, it didn’t take long to realize that helping boys was the top reason these leaders stayed in Scouting. Almost two-thirds of them listed this in one way or another.
Perhaps the largest emphasis within this “helping boys” theme was an opportunity to guide them into manhood. The comments reflected that leaders wanted to assist boys in their patriotic, selfless, spiritual journeys into adulthood. Some called this “guiding,” others “mentoring,” and others “leading.”
Some of the more specific comments were:
“I enjoy seeing the smile on a boy’s face when he finally figures something out.” “If we don’t help our boys into manhood the right way, who will? The culture? His video game?”
If leaders stay in Scouting to help boys, then how do Districts and Councils lift this up as a priority and use this as a way to both attract and retain Scouters?
Perhaps the best bet is to turn it around.
Rather than emphasizing the idea that leaders want to help boys, emphasize the understanding that boys need help; especially on their way to manhood. In today’s technological, fast paced culture, our boys desperately need their fathers and other men to guide them up into an authentic manhood.
Unfortunately, masculinity is sometimes looked down upon and also vilified because of the repression men have historically put on women.
At times, it seems to sound politically incorrect to talk about leading a boy into manhood. But, as the one leader wrote, “If we don’t help our boys into manhood the right way, who will?”
Almost one-third of the leaders surveyed said that they remained in Scouting because they wanted to be with their sons. They became leaders because their sons joined a pack or troop.
If we look at that a bit more we find that 40% of the leaders with one to five years of experience expressed that as did 44% of the leaders with five to ten years. That percentage dropped substantially when compared to the leaders with more experience.
Looking at it even more, we see very little percentage change from the number one reason (Helping Boys) to this number two reason (Being With Their Sons) among those with less leadership experience. We could infer that for up to twothirds of our leaders, being with their sons was about as important a reason to remain in Scouting as helping all the boys.
Among the more experienced leaders, being with their sons was not nearly as important as helping boys. As a matter of fact, among the eight conclusion that I am presenting, this one ranked 17 the lowest for the leaders with eleven or more years experience. That’s understandable because the more experienced leaders’ son are grown and no longer in the program or are leaders themselves.
It also ranked low among the female Scouters at 15% Districts and Councils need to understand the importance of the father-son connection and promote that from the start of a boy’s tenure in Scouting.
For some reason, this idea of father-son seems to be diminishing in our culture. Before I was a Boy Scout, I was in the YMCA Indian Guides. That was a program for fathers and sons which used the slogan, “Pals Forever” and its purpose was to foster the understanding and companionship of dad and son. Each group (troop) was called a “tribe,” and my dad and I were in the Otoe Tribe. There was a similar program for fathers and daughters called Indian Princesses.
Back in 2003, the national office of the YMCA, cowered to politically correctness by ending these programs after almost eighty years.
All references to Native-Americans were eliminated and the new program became the “Adventure Guides.” Tribes became “circles” and the purpose of the new organization is “to strengthen the relationship between a parent and a child.” Gender specific programming (fathers and 18 sons) is no longer offered and gender grouping (all boys or all girls) is now one of four options for the circles.
I am sure Adventure Guides are doing some great things and I have no doubt parent/child relationships are strengthened. My point is that if up to two-thirds of the men leaders state that one of the main reasons they remain as a leader is to spend time with their sons, and if we want to retain these leaders, then we need to capitalize on that and promote the father-son bonding that can happen in Scouting.