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Frequently Asked Questions

Whether you are a new parent just joining Scouting, a returning member entering a new stage of the program, or an existing parent looking for an answer, it is common to have questions about such a broad experience like Scouting. Browse the resources below to find the answers you're looking for, or feel free to contact us directly.

How old (or young) can a boy be to join Scouting?

Cub Scouting is for boys in the first through fifth grades, or 7 to 10 years of age. Boys who are older than 10, or who have completed the fifth grade, can no longer join Cub Scouting, but they may be eligible to join the Boy Scouting or Venturing program.

Boy Scouting is for boys 11 to 17 years of age. Boys also may become Boy Scouts if they have earned the Cub Scouting Arrow of Light Award and are at least 10 years old or have completed the fifth grade and are at least 10 years old.

Venturing is a year-round program for young men and women who are 14 (and have completed the eighth grade) through 20 years of age.

Is there a Scouting unit in my area?

In most instances, yes. There are hundreds of thousands of units in the United States and its territories, as well as units that serve the families of U.S. citizens who live overseas. Contact us or visit BeAScout.org to find a local unit. They will be able to tell you about units in your community.

In rare instances where there actually is no unit in your area—which generally occurs only in rural areas or overseas locations—a single youth can become a Lone Scout, working with an adult mentor to pursue the advancement program and participating in activities with nearby units when possible.

Must I be a U.S. citizen to join Scouting?

Citizenship is not required of youth or adult members. If you live outside the United States and are not a U.S. citizen, it may be more beneficial to join the Scouting association in your own nation. The World Organization of the Scout Movement provides contact information for all national Scouting organizations on its Web site at www.scout.org.

Are Cub Scouts the same as Boy Scouts? What about Venturers?

Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Venturing are programs of the Boy Scouts of America—so in that sense, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers are all members of the same organization. However, they are entirely different programs: Cub Scouting is a family-oriented program designed specifically to address the needs of younger boys. Boy Scouting is designed to achieve the aims of Scouting through a vigorous outdoor program and peer group leadership with the counsel of an adult Scoutmaster. Venturing provides positive experiences through exciting and meaningful youth-run activities that help members pursue their special interests, grow by teaching others, and develop leadership skills.

How often do Scouts meet?

Cub Scouts meet in their dens once each week, and a pack meeting is held for all Cub Scouts and their families once a month. Beyond that, it depends on the den and pack: A den may hold a special activity, such as a service project or visit to a local museum, in place of one of the weekly meetings or in addition to the weekly meetings. Likewise, a pack may conduct a special event such as a blue and gold banquet as an additional event, rather than a substitute for its monthly pack meeting.

May parents attend meetings?

Cub Scout den meetings are intended to be an activity for the individual boys. They are not a family activity, and the presence of parents can be a distraction. However, parental involvement is not forbidden and all meetings should be open to your participation. If you would like to be present at a den meeting, ask the den leader in advance so that the leader can plan a way for you to observe or participate in an unobtrusive manner.

What supplies and equipment are needed to participate in Scouting?

At minimum, each Scout will need a uniform and a handbook. Additional supplies and equipment may be needed for certain activities such as camping trips or field days. What equipment is needed, as well as whether it will be provided by the unit, will vary. Unit leaders should provide parents with information about any supplies that will be required at the beginning of each program year.

Where can I purchase BSA literature, uniforms, and other program materials?

Our uniforms, literature, and other Scouting merchandise is available at your local council, Scout shops, and other licensed distributors. Visit the Supply Group Web site at www.scoutstuff.org to find a list of distributors in your area. If there aren't any suppliers near you, you can order directly from the Supply Group by telephone.

How can I save money on the cost of uniforms and equipment?

The unit may provide assistance to families. Some units operate a uniform exchange or uniform bank, or they may hold fund-raisers to enable the boys to earn their uniforms. Also, some units will award boys rank-specific uniform components (hat and neckerchief) and/or the program books that the Scout needs each year—so parents should inquire as to what the unit provides before purchasing the items themselves.

What are the Scout Oath and Scout Law?

Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law

A Scout is:
Trustworthy – A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can depend on him.
Loyal – A Scout is true to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school, and nation.
Helpful – A Scout is concerned about other people. He does things willingly for others without pay or reward.
Friendly – A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.
Courteous – A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows good manners make it easier for people to get along together.
Kind – A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated.
Obedient – A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.
Cheerful – A Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.
Thrifty – A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for unforeseen needs. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.
Brave – A Scout can face danger even if he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at or threaten him.
Clean – A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He goes around with those who believe in living by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.
Reverent – A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

Does the Boy Scouts of America have paid employees?

Yes, there are many opportunities for employment with the Boy Scouts of America, from seasonal jobs at summer camps to a lifelong career.

If I don’t know much about camping and the outdoors, how could I be a good Scout leader?

Being a good Scout leader requires more than knowing how to camp. However, the Scouting program does provide outdoor training classes for leaders with beginning, intermediate, and advanced outdoor skills.

My family is very busy; how would I have time to be an effective leader?

You will not have to carry the responsibilities alone. Other leaders and parents in your unit will lend a hand by using their skills to teach the youth or assist with special projects, enabling you to be an effective leader and parent.

Can women be Boy Scout leaders?

Yes. Every leadership position is open to women. In fact, more than one-third of Scout volunteers are women.

Is training available?

There are a variety of training opportunities available, specific to the leadership position you hold. For example, as a new unit leader, training is available immediately to enable you to run your first meeting successfully. More in-depth training is provided throughout the year, and monthly roundtable meetings enable you and other leaders to share ideas on how to organize fun and exciting activities for youth.

How can I become an adult volunteer?

Express your interest to the unit leaders—the Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, crew Advisor, chartered organization representative, or members of the unit committee. While there's no guarantee that a specific role or position will be available—and there may be a selection process among several candidates even if the position is currently vacant—there is usually some way in which you can contribute, and most units are glad for any offer of help.

Can a merit badge counselor require a Scout to work beyond the specific requirements of the merit badge in order to challenge the Scout and allow him to discover more about the subject?

In fairness to all Scouts, additions, deletions, or other modifications to the requirements are not permitted. The requirements are to be completed exactly as written. However, a merit badge counselor may share additional information and resources that the Scout could use on his own to learn more and challenge himself.

What is the buddy system, and why is it necessary?

The buddy system is a safety routine that calls for a Scout to be paired with a buddy whenever he participates in Scouting activities such as aquatics, cycling, or hiking, and when he meets with his merit badge counselor. It is a way for Scouts to look after one another, stay safe, and have more fun. During meetings with adult leaders, a Scout's buddy can be another Scout or friend, or a relative.

What are the religious emblems programs?

The religious emblems programs are created by the various religious groups to encourage youth to grow stronger in their faith. The religious groups—not the Boy Scouts of America—have created the religious emblems programs themselves.

The Boy Scouts of America has approved of these programs and allows the recognition to be worn on the official uniform, but each religious organization develops and administers its own program.

If the religious emblems program for a faith has more than one level (for the different grade levels), may the Scout earn all of these recognitions?

Yes. Members can earn all levels of their religious emblems program. However, they must be in the appropriate program guidelines when they start and complete each level (they may not go backward and earn younger programs).

Where is the religious emblem worn on the uniform?

The universal religious square knot is worn over the left shirt pocket of the Scout uniform. The medallion is pinned over the square knot for full uniform occasions.

How do we get started on the religious awards programs?

First, youth members must obtain the specific booklet for their religion. This booklet will contain information on all the lessons and service projects that they will need to complete. Each member needs to have his or her own booklet to document progress. Some religions also provide adult manuals for counselors and mentors. Check with your local council to see if it stocks these booklets in its store, or contact the religious organization directly.

Second, parents must review the specific guidelines for their particular program; age/grade requirements vary from program to program. Some programs require that the youth be an official "member" of the local religious institution, others may not. Each program determines who may serve as counselor (some require clergy, others allow parents or other family members). Be sure to look at specific eligibility guidelines!

Third, families should talk to their religious leaders and show them the booklet before beginning any program. Most of the religious emblems programs require that they be completed under the auspices of that religious organization, and many require the signature of the local religious leader. Again, check the specific eligibility requirements for your religious program.

Fourth, the member needs to complete the requirements, obtain the proper signatures, and follow the instructions to order the emblem/award. (These emblems are not available in your local council.) The emblem can be presented at any time of the year and should be presented in a meaningful ceremony, preferably in the member's religious institution.

Who may serve as a counselor for the religious emblem?

It depends on the program. Some programs require clergy to serve as counselor; others allow a parent or family member. Please check the specific guidelines for your religious program.

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