Service to New Units

Steve Herman, Council Commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt Council

On February 5, each of our councils took part in a national new-unit videoconference with our national officers, including national President Roy Roberts, National Commissioner Rick Cronk, and Chief Scout Executive Roy Williams.

Hundreds of potential chartered organizations participated in a nationally broadcast commitment day. As Rick mentioned, 5,966 commitments to establish new Scout units were made.

This exciting new initiative for 2003 has tremendous implications for commissioner staffs in each of our councils.

Do you remember the care you gave a baby son or daughter or grandchild? Consider the sensitive care in building a cooking fire after a storm. How delicately does the glassblower treat his new work of art? We have to treat the new unit with the same TLC.

New units are a tremendous factor in council membership growth. Successful council leaders know they must care for what they create. Commissioners provide important care for new units. As council commissioners, we provide that vision for each of our districts.

New units have a greater chance to succeed if a unit commissioner is assigned during the organizing process. Please challenge your district commissioners to provide immediate service to every new unit (remember the fire builder). Your councils probably have a commissioner assigned to each new unit prospect resulting from the recent new-unit videoconference.

So, how do commissioners care for a new unit? Let me suggest some dos and don'ts:

  1. First, be absolutely sure that a new unit is under the care of a commissioner before the organizer leaves the unit. Provide transition; allow no time to elapse between the organizer's and the commissioner's supervision. Try to assign a commissioner with passion and fire. Enthusiasm is contagious.
  2. Have the commissioner make the presentation of the first unit charter a very special event for members of the chartered organization and unit personnel. This will help cement the relationship of the unit to the chartered organization.
  3. A commissioner attends the first meeting of the unit committee. He listens and guides, but does not take over. If necessary, he or she helps the committee chairman build the agenda. He may need to help the chairman recruit additional committed parents. Concentrate on having a good and enthusiastic committee.
  4. Unit leader training is a priority and should be done as quickly as possible. Follow up if unit leaders missed Fast Start or basic training. Provide the missing sessions if they cannot get to district courses. Tailor the training to the unit. If needed, have a training team visit the unit.
  5. A commissioner makes sure the new unit leaders get "youth buy-in." In crews and posts, be sure youth officers are elected and that the Advisor trains the officers using appropriate training material. Success requires that youth embrace the program. In troops, be sure the patrol method is used. Troop success depends on the development of boy leaders. In packs, be sure all dens are meeting regularly.
  6. Don't assume the unit will have a program. The commissioner guides the unit in planning the first month or two of its program. Ask the unit commissioner to pick up and take the unit leaders to the next district roundtable.
  7. Don't let the unit commissioner appear to be a "checker-upper." Commissioners are there to assist and guide, like good friends. They should be good listeners. First impressions are very important with a new unit.
  8. Help the unit start plans for a long-term outdoor experience (Cub Scout resident camp or day camp, Boy Scout resident camp, Venturing superactivity, etc.). Use the council's camp promotion video or other props to get them excited about camp.
  9. Pair the new unit up with an experienced unit—a buddy unit.
  10. Commissioners recognize unit successes. Congratulate leaders for all achievements, no matter how small. Ask the district executive to keep the chartered organization leaders informed of all positive elements of the unit.
  11. Commissioners help leaders solve immediate concerns. Don't let them fester. Be the unit's best friend and confidant.
  12. If a commissioner plays a helpful mentoring role to unit folk, a trusting relationship will have begun.

Service to new units is a key part of your council's unit growth plan. Commissioners do influence membership—big time—so more young people will grow in character and personal fitness. Why not use these key points as part of the training topic at your next commissioner meeting?

Finally, my fellow commissioner leaders, share the vision with all your district commissioners of how carefully we must provide service to new units ... like the fire builder who has just started his fire in a rainstorm.