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Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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 do I know what activities are age-appropriate for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers?

Scout handbooks list a variety of advancement activities appropriate for the age of the youth in each program. You can also find other books at your local Scout shop with ideas to make your meetings and events more interesting.

How do I know what to do with the Scouts?

Cub Scout Program Helps, available through your local Scout shop, provides a theme for each month and ideas for games, skits, crafts, experiments, and activities. For Boy Scouts and Venturers, the leaders/Advisors guide and the handbooks provide activities and ideas. There are also other resources available through the local Scout shop.

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.

Must individuals who are serving as a merit badge counselor register as a merit badge counselor with the Boy Scouts of America?

Yes, an Adult Application must be completed for each position in which the individual wants to serve. The application allows only one position per form. For instance, an individual who wants to serve only as a merit badge counselor will need to complete only one application. However, a Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmaster who wants to serve as a merit badge counselor must complete two applications—one for the Scoutmaster position and one for the counselor position.

What is the minimum age requirement for merit badge counselors?

An individual must be at least 18 years of age to serve as a merit badge counselor.

Once a volunteer is registered and approved as a merit badge counselor, is that registration for life?

Approvals for merit badge counselors and all other adult volunteer positions are valid for one year only and must be renewed annually.

How many merit badges can a merit badge counselor support?

Merit badge counselors may be approved for as many badges as they are qualified. However, the local council's approving body may impose a limitation based upon the needs of the local council and individual districts.

Can merit badge counselors coach their own sons or close relatives (for instance, a nephew)?

Yes, but only if the young man is part of a group of Scouts who are all working on the same merit badge. Approved counselors may coach any Boy Scout who contacts them through the proper procedures.

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 happens when the weather, locale, or some other circumstance makes meeting all of the conditions of the merit badge requirements impractical? Can substitute requirements be created for those stated?

No additions, deletions, or alterations are permitted. The requirements are to be completed exactly as written.

If the requirements for a merit badge on the required list for the Eagle Scout rank vary among the Boy Scout Handbook, the merit badge pamphlet, and the Boy Scout Requirements book (current edition), which resource takes precedence?

The current edition of the Boy Scout Requirements book lists the official set of requirements for rank advancement and for each individual merit badge.

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 BSA Youth Protection guidelines and leadership practices should a merit badge counselor be aware of whenever meeting with a Scout?

Be sure to follow the buddy system. Whenever a merit badge counselor meets with a Scout, there must always be a third person present. This third person may be any other adult familiar to the Scout such as his parent or guardian, or the Scout's "buddy," such as a friend, sibling, or other relative.

All adult volunteers are expected to complete BSA Youth Protection training within 90 days of assuming a leadership position. This training can be done through MyScouting. BSA Youth Protection training helps preserve a safe environment for young people and adult leaders so that they can all enjoy the Scouting program.

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.

I have a unit with children of all different faiths. How can I include the religious emblems programs for my unit?

The religious emblems programs should be presented to youth members and their families as an optional program for them to complete through their religious organization. Religious instruction should always come from the religious organization, not from the unit leader. Parents need to be informed of these programs and told where to get the information for their particular faith. Interested in making a presentation on the religious awards? Find sample scripts at www.praypub.org.

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.

What is the adult religious recognition program?

An adult religious recognition award is presented by nomination only. The recognition is presented to worthy adults for their outstanding service to youth through both their religious institution and one of the national youth agencies. Recipients of these awards are unaware that they are being nominated. They are nominated to receive an award by submitting the required application, letters of recommendation, and resume. Please check eligibility requirements for specific awards.

Which religious emblem square knot should I wear?

Cloth, silver knot on purple, No. 05007, may be worn by youth or adult members who earned the knot as a youth, above the left pocket. Cloth, purple on silver, No. 05014, may be worn by adult members presented with the recognition, above the left pocket. Adults may wear both knots if they satisfy qualifying criteria. (See the BSA Insignia Guide, No. 33066.)

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