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Junior Leader Training -- White Stag Leadership Development

Developing Ceremonies That C  L  I  C  K

From Scouting Magazine, October 1951, p 15, 16.

Thanks to Lew Gardner for providing this article. Page references are to other contemporary publications and may no longer be available.

WHAT ABOUT this business of ceremonies in the program of your Troop? Are you one of those Scoutmasters who can take all ceremonial phases of the program in stride and never bat an eyelash? Or are you one who breaks out in duck-bumps when you even think about anything of this nature? If you are one of the latter, don't feel self-conscious or lonesome, for you have company--probably more than you realize.

Most of us like ceremonies - if we don't have to run them. We think ceremonies are complicated. And how wrong we are!

Three words describe all good ceremonies

  • Dignified
  • Simple
  • Short

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "Okay, where do I find ceremonies that are dignified, simple, short?"

Three basic books will get you started:

  • Handbook for Scoutmasters
  • Handbook for Patrol Leaders
  • Advancement in the Troop

There are primarily, two simple reasons why we use ceremonies in Scouting (1) boys like them; and (2) they help to provide inspiration

The phases of the Boy Scouting program which lend themselves to ceremonial observance are:

  1. OPENING and CLOSING of Patrol and Troop meetings.
  2. WELCOMING the new member into tile Patrol and Troop.
  3. AWARDING a rank or special honor - Court of Honor.
  4. INSTALLING a Troop leader or a new Patrol.
  5. EXPLORER INVESTITURE - Explorers in the Troop.
  6. CAMPING- Flag, campfire.

A Scoutmaster who was having difficulties was discussing ceremonies one day with an old-timer.

Old-timer said, "May I see your Scoutmasters Handbook?" He took the book and placed it on its bound edge on the table and said, "Now let's see if this book will fall open by itself." Not so, the book, with a resounding thud, flopped on its back still securely closed. "Aha!" said old-timer, "that's the answer to a good many of your problems. You haven't broken the back of your Scoutmasters Handbook. It's too shiny, new and stiff."

How about applying the "test-of-the- brokenback" to your Scoutmasters Handbook? Let the results of this test be your guide as you attempt to answer your questions, not only in regard to ceremonies, but to all other phases of the program.

Now, to help you break the back of this book, as well as others, let us suggest references that have to do with the ceremonies. Try Tool 14 -pages 465-473. Here you will find material for most of the subjects mentioned above, Then for opening and closing ceremonies, turn to pages 142-144 and 161-163 the chapter on Troop Meetings.

When you prepare for hiking and camping turn to these chapters and see what it says about the use of ceremonies in the out-of-doors.

Have you read the new Patrol Leaders' Handbook? The sooner you "break its back" the happier and better informed you'll be, for it embodies the heart of this' whole Scouting business-the real I way the only way-the Patrol Method way. For Patrol ceremonies that you can guide your Patrol Leaders in using see pages 86-87 for opening Patrol meetings pages 96-97 for closings.

The booklet Advancement in the Troop will give you much helpful guidance in the basic principles of ceremonies of recognition (see pages 17-18). Be sure to study this material before planning for your next Troop Court of Honor.

Be tire that a ceremony of recognition really does two things above all else

  1. Builds up the boy, and
  2. Builds up the award.

Unfortunately, these two most important elements do not always take place.

A wise leader helps prepare a Scout who is to receive an award by giving him advice in such simple things as

  1. Standing at attention with his hands A his sides, facing the audience;
  2. Parking his bubble gum outside;
  3. Being in complete uniforming clean and neat, even though it may not be a perfect fit and may have a patch or two here and there:
  4. A Scout is courteous -remember such phrases as, thank you, sir etc.;
  5. A Scout is cheerful -smile, relax and enjoy yourself.

Simple? Elementary? Yes, but important. Because these things are so elementary, they are sometimes overlooked. Attention to things of this kind helps to make the experience more meaningful and enjoyable for the Scout, his parents and others.

Next, let us be sure that the Scout receives the recognition, rather than the Scouter who is making the award. Too often the spotlight is focused on the Scouter, figuratively speaking, and he rises to the occasion by launching into a speech, thus leaving the Scout high and dry. More careful, detailed information to Court of Honor members ahead of time will help to prevent this.

If candles are used, the methods involved can either make or break the effectiveness of the ceremony. Have you ever witnessed the following? A Scout has great difficulty lighting a match, or he vigorously shakes it out after lighting a candle. Perhaps he blows it out with a loud puff, and the candle as well; or he almost burns his fingers. Any one of these completely steals the show and breaks all semblance of a dignified ceremonial atmosphere. All this may be eliminated by the simple use of one already lighted candle-symbolizing the "Spirit of Scouting" -or whatever you wish to call it. This candle is used then in lighting all other candles and is passed with care and dignity from one participant to another. Also be sure that all candle wicks have been cleaned and straightened beforehand to insure easy lighting.

If lighted candles may not be used, because of fire regulations, perhaps the Scouts' Dads and Troop Committeemen can make up an electrical board. Flashlight batteries and bulbs, large dry cell batteries or regular current may be employed for this purpose. Many unique outfits have been developed by Troops. Why not try your hand at it? Attractive physical properties of this kind will lend much to the dignity of recognition and investiture ceremonies.

After you have exhausted the possibilities for ceremonies in Scouting literature, why not get some Patrol projects going among the Scouts to develop ceremonies of your own for every occasion. Don't overlook the Dads and Troop Committeemen. They'll have ideas too. Remember to keep your ceremonies

  • Dignified
  • Simple
  • Short


Lew Gardner

Lew Gardner, born in 1910 in Oakland, California, is the youngest recipient ever of the Silver Beaver, having been recognized with this award at age 28. He founded and continued for many years as Editor of the well-regarded and popular high-adventure newsletter Boots and Blisters. He has served in a wide variety of Scout roles, including Scoutmaster, District Commissioner, Training Chairman, and RoundTable Chairman, among many others. He helped more than 100 boys become Eagle Scouts. He remained active in Scouting through his late 80's, and passed away in early 2003.