Why Local is the Most Important

The

Commissioner

a publication for commissioners and professionals

Summer 2021

group-2.png

Scott Sorrels,
National Commissioner
scottsorrels@comcast.net

Why Local is the Most Important

From Bryan on Scouting

The COVID-19 pandemic was tough on Scouting units, especially Cub Scouts (if you find virtual meetings frustrating to sit through, imagine how your 7- or 8-year-old feels!). As we transition into a post-pandemic era, what is a solution for returning to normalcy? Start a Cub Scout pack. Even better, start a Tiger den.

That was Scott Sorrels’s advice during the BSA’s recent National Annual Meeting. Sorrels is entering his second year as the organization’s national commissioner. His primary duty, as he puts it, is being the chief morale officer. And American families’ morale, including that of youth, took a major hit during this past year. Isolation, breaks in routine and missing beloved activities and events concocted an unwelcome recipe for anxiety and depression to take hold.

That’s where Scouting can help.

“I sense a level of anxiousness and enthusiasm as we’re coming out of this unusual period in our history,” Sorrels says. “Scouting can be an ideal structure for the American family to get on its feet again”

More important than ever 

For more than 110 years, the Boy Scouts of America has helped change the lives of millions of young men and women, teaching the values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.

The organization continues that mission, and those in the program know the life-changing opportunities Scouting provides both youth and adult leaders. One challenge, though, is meeting the needs of today’s families, addressing busy schedules, cost prohibitions and different priorities in diverse communities.

“We need to be creative and flexible in how we make Scouting available,” Sorrels says. “That includes how we embrace families.”

It’s an ongoing conversation that will call on the voices from everyone. That includes Scouts, too.

Sorrels served as the co-chair for the World Scout Jamboree , held at the 2019 Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. For that event, which hosted more than 40,000 Scouts from around the globe, adult leadership recruited a team of Scouts, nicknamed the “Dream Team,” to provide input and help execute what they wanted out of the jamboree.

“A group of adults can sit around without talking to the youth they’re trying to serve, and they’re not going to be able to deliver a successful program that the youth are going to respond to,” he says. “We need to listen to the young people we’re trying to serve.”

That’s why he highlighted a couple of youth-written letters in his NAM presentation. One, penned by a Scout named Jack, requested that his pack to meet again — the unit had not had a meeting in nearly a year.

A recent Harvard study on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic found that two-thirds of the study group, which consisted of youth ages 7 to 15, showed clinically significant signs of anxiety and depression. However, research shows that those troubling effects can be reversed through positive experiences and challenges, structured routines, exercise and less screen time.

Sounds like Scouting can be an answer, just as it has been for more than a century.

“We do a very good job of talking about the passion and the experience of Scouting within the Scouting family,” Sorrels says. “Something we’re working very hard on is communicating the value of the experience to non-Scout families.”

As National Commissioner, a role first held by one of the BSA’s founders, Daniel Carter Beard, Sorrels sees his role as supporting local Scouting.

“I think of myself as being the guardian for our front-line volunteers who are out there serving America’s youth in units or working in district committees or council advancement committees — Scouting happens locally,” he says. “My fundamental job is to try to do everything we can to partner with them, to collaborate with them and to make them successful. If we do that, we’ll serve more youth and preserve the mission of Scouting, which at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing we’re doing right now.”

The path ahead

The leadership is in place for the BSA to step up post-pandemic and post-bankruptcy to fulfill the needs of American families. Teamwork will be needed for the next step.

“Our volunteers have to reach out and embrace and partner with their professionals,” Sorrels says. “We’ve got to build a collaborative team like we never have before. We’re going to have fewer professionals, and that means that we as volunteers will step up even more to help move us forward.”

In the end, parents, unit leaders, council executives, national staff — we all have the same goal: to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes.

“It has to support the local councils because that’s where Scouting is delivered,” Sorrels says. “We’ve got to deliver the resources they need to be successful.”

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Go Start a Cub Scout Pack!

The

Commissioner

a publication for commissioners and professionals

Spring 2021

group-2.png

Scott Sorrels,
National Commissioner
scottsorrels@comcast.net

Go Start a Cub Scout Pack!

What is the most important thing you can do for Scouting? That’s easy. Go start a Cub Scout pack!

We know from our personal journey how the lockdown has affected our lives. Our Scouts have similarly been affected. Our older Scouts often found ways to stay engaged, and even thrive. Nearly 50,000 Eagle Scouts in 2020 — including our inaugural female Eagle Scout class — show the magic of the movement. It has been harder for our youngest Scouts. For the first time, our Cub membership currently lags Scouts BSA membership. Rebuilding our Scouting base after the pandemic can most benefit from rebuilding our Cub Scout base. Cub Scouts are the future foundation of our program, thus the mantra: Go Start a Cub Scout Pack!

Reflecting on this past year, I am struck by the realization that Scouting is ideally positioned to help and support American families in the post-pandemic environment. Think about it: Our program provides a structured, goal-oriented comprehensive program that is ready made for the American family. We can demonstrably prove how Scouting improves lives through character development, outdoor adventure, and education. That is the message we need to take to the American family.

Ongoing research about how we can best support our younger generation shows that there is much work to be done. A current Harvard University study suggests that two-thirds of their 7 to 15 age sample has clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and depression, with corresponding increases in hyperactivity and inattention. According to Dr. Ronald E. Dahl,[1] the good news is that “troubling trajectories can be relatively easily reversed with positive experiences and by supporting kids through challenges.” The Harvard study has found that those who had structured routines, exercised, and had less screen time fared better. Is that starting to sound like Scouting? Other psychologists recommend that parents help their children find activities that give them a sense of purpose and help them set related goals. That sounds like a recipe for Scouting to me!

The re-emergence of Scouting is already happening. Summer camp attendance promises fun and adventure for tens of thousands of Scouts this summer. Our high-adventure bases are ready for a strong year. We, as a nation, are rediscovering the great outdoors. We are indeed ready to “Escape the Great Indoors,” as our new campaign will suggest. Units are meeting. Courts of honor are being held. Scouting is happening in America.

As commissioners, we should focus on retaining youth in a quality Scouting program. That has always been our calling. We urge you to reach out to lapsed units and see what we can do to reinvigorate delivery of the Scouting promise. We are already starting to see positive results from supporting and re-engaging units that just need a little extra attention. Finally, go start a Cub Scout pack! Call your local Scout professional or membership team and ask how you can help start a Cub Scout pack. Together, we can make a difference as we move forward to deliver our mission.

Thanks for all you do for Scouting,

Scott

[1] “Loneliness, Anxiety and Loss: the Covid Pandemic’s Terrible Toll on Kids,” Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2021.

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The Power and Resilience of Scouting in a Time of Change

The

Commissioner

a publication for commissioners and professionals

Winter 2021

group-2.png

Scott Sorrels,
National Commissioner
scottsorrels@comcast.net

The Power and Resilience of Scouting in a Time of Change

The preservation of the mission of the Boy Scouts of America is a goal that unites all of us. We often talk about how we can best preserve the mission and, in the face of change, how we will grow our program. Perhaps it is an appropriate moment to pause and read the mission statement again:

The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

It is a powerful and simple statement. In times of rapid change, our mission statement reminds us of a number of constants in a world where few constants seem to remain in place. The values of the Scout Oath and Law are constants by which millions of young people and adults lead their daily lives. These values do not change. The need to prepare our young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes does not change. Indeed, in times of rapid societal challenge, the imperative to grow our platform to instill the mission in the next generation is our rallying cry. Whether volunteer or professional, youth or adult, whether you serve at the critical unit service or some other level of support, we all share a common mission to serve the next generation of Scouts.


In the last number of months, I have witnessed time and again the fundamental power and resilience of the Scouting program. It is our common recognition of the fundamental power to positively change lives that provides the foundation for our path forward. It is the resilience of the movement that provides the energy and drive to accomplish the next steps. I find resolve in the millions of smiling faces from our shared Scout trail. We have the opportunity to demonstrate to the nation our strength, resilience, and resolve, as we work together to continue the
mission of Scouting.

What is the clarion call for how we support Scouting at this moment in time? Simply put, we must keep our focus and work together to support our local units. While our methods might change, our fundamental role in supporting local units never changes. Our actions ensure that we deliver quality program to America’s families every day.

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