No one can pass through life, any more than he can pass through a bit of country, without leaving tracks behind, and those tracks may often be helpful to those coming after him in finding their way.Lord Robert Baden-Powell
At it’s very core, Scouting is a program built around guiding youth to become independent thinkers and leaders. It’s an opportunity to provide a structure with which they build their own Scouting experience. As adult leaders, we provide them with encouragement, teach them through example, and marvel over the great architects they become. Just like everything else in life, practice makes perfect.
It’s no wonder, then, that the BSA has built numerous youth leadership opportunities into the program. One of our responsibilities is to present them with those opportunities early and often, championing even the shyest Scout in their leadership endeavors.
In Cub Scouts, denners and assistant denners are the two official leadership positions available to Scouts. These are peer-elected positions with a service term of a few weeks to a month. These Scouts are provided with gold double-strand cords that are worn over their left shoulder. (You can pick these up at your local Scout Shop.)
As your Scouts reach the rank of Webelos, you might consider building on the patrol method (I talk all about this in my post, “Scouting: Introducing Webelos to the Patrol Method“). In fact, by the time they reach their final year in Cub Scouts, they will be required to work as patrols to fulfill the requirements of the AOL “Scouting” adventure. Traditionally, each patrol would elect their own patrol leader and assistant patrol leader to serve in that leadership role for a certain amount of time.
When Scouts reach the Troop level, there are numerous leadership roles available to them. Patrol leader and assistant patrol leader, of course, but also scribe, librarian, historian, quartermaster, bugler, junior assistant Scoutmaster, and more. Source: Scouting Magazine
Den Chief is among those available roles, and is unique in that it bridges a gap between a Pack and a Troop, building a relationship between the two that helps both units grow.
What is a Den Chief?
A den chief is a Troop-aged Scout who volunteers to assist a Pack-level leader at den meetings, outings, field trips, and other Pack events for one full program year. They are essentially an assistant den leader in many respects, and should be treated as such by both adult leadership AND the Scouts in the den they serve. As a member of the official leadership team, they have a lot of roles to fill:
- Activities assistant
- Assists in planning and conducting meetings
- Cub role model
- Game planner
- Promotes Scouting
They attend den meetings and work with the adult leadership team to fulfill the requirements of the meeting plan, lead the Scouts by good example, and provide games or activities for “down time” to help maintain order. It’s important that a den chief works with the adult leadership team to set goals and expectations early, expressing their interests and strengths, and understanding what their role is on the team.
In our den, our chiefs were also responsible for inducting denners and assistant denners by leading a brief ceremony and pinning them with their new cords.
Den Chief Led Denner Ceremony
These Denner Cords represent the Spirit of Scouting. It takes a team effort to keep the spirit alive. You have been chosen to be members of that team. As Denners, your duties are to assist your Den, Den Chief, and Leaders. During the week, you will set a good example for the other members of our Den by demonstrating the 12 points of the Scout Law and showing true Scouting Spirit. You will care for your cords and will help to pass them on to our new Denners next month. Do you accept these responsibilities?
Please repeat after me.
“I promise to do my best
To help the Cub Scouts in my Den
To do their best
Not sometimes, but all of the time.”
How To Recruit A Den Chief
If your Pack is in need of a little extra help during den meetings, reach out to your local Troops and ask for help, talk to your Pack families with Scouts in a Troop and see if there’s any interest, and keep your ears open for opportunities that might present themselves. Seriously… it really can be as easy as asking a Troop leader to mention it at an upcoming meeting or two!
REMEMBER: if you are recruiting a den chief and use email as a communication tool, you absolutely must have a parent and/or another adult included in that communication at all times. The BSA forbids one-on-one contact per our Youth Protection Training.
Den Chief Training
Speaking of YPT, a den chief must be trained in order to fill this leadership role. New Den Chief Training became available in the spring of 2018, focusing on the den chief responsibilities and teaching them how to have fun fulfilling them. Scouting.org provides an overview of the training, a Facilitator Guide for adult leaders and face-to-face trainers, and an excellent Online Training Module that provides a certificate of completion for validation.
Your Pack might also develop a Den Chief Guide outlining their program and expressing their own specific expectations of these young leaders. My Pack developed a Den Chief Information document using resources from all over the web (and it was many years ago so those sources are now lost) to help teach new den chiefs all about leadership.
If your Scout is stepping into this role, make sure they pick-up a copy of the Den Chief Handbook at your local Scout Shop.
Training doesn’t stop at the completion of an online course, however. It’s up to den leaders to lead by example and show den chiefs how to behave, react, and help. Baden-Powell himself says, “There is no teaching to compare with example.”
Inducting Your Den Chief
When a Scout voluntarily seeks out a leadership opportunity and commits themselves to it, it’s a pretty big deal! Don’t just let your den chief show up to a meeting, blend in with the younger Scouts, and become a piece of furniture. Bring on the pomp and circumstance, make them feel important, convey to the Cubs that this is a leader to be respected and admired.
But how? Ceremony!
Make sure you have the appropriate den chief cordage on hand. There are two types of den chief cords that are to be worn during their year of service. The den chief cord is a blue and gold braid worn over the left shoulder (under their epaulet), and the Webelos den chief cord is a red, blue, and gold braid worn over the left shoulder (under their epaulet). We’ll talk about the Service Award cord later.
They may also wear the official Den Chief Leadership patch on their uniform sleeve, which can be purchased at your local Scout Shop or online.
Welcome your new leader into the den with a Den Chief pledge. Have your chief make the Scout Sign and repeat after you…
Den Chief’s Pledge
I promise to help the scouts in my Den to the best of my ability, to encourage, guide, and protect them in all Den and Pack activities, and show them by my example what a Scout is.
I will strive to be prompt and dependable, and to cooperate with the Leaders in carrying out the Den program.
As each Scout becomes eligible, I will encourage them to advance to the next rank and continue along the scouting trail.
As each Webelos Scout becomes eligible, I will do all in my power to interest him in becoming a Scout.
Leadership Requirements at the Troop Level
If you have a den chief, it’s likely that they’ve volunteered their time with the goal of completing leadership requirements for rank advancement.
- Star Requirement 5 states that a Scout must serve actively in a leadership role for four months.
- Life Requirement 5 states that a Scout must serve actively in a leadership role for six months.
- Eagle Requirement 4 states that a Scout must serve actively in a leadership role for six months.
Serving as den chief helps a Scout complete those requirements! This is why your own good leadership is so important to a den chief. Those few months are your opportunity to make the most of their time and attention.
Den Chief Service Award
There’s more to a den chief’s service than rank advancement. For those Scouts who serve in this role for a year, they may very well qualify for the Den Chief Service Award. There are several requirements to earn this special award, and the cords that go with it.
- Serve the pack faithfully for one full year.
- Attend Den Chief Training (if available within year of service) OR be trained by the assistant Cubmaster and den leader.
- Know and understand the purposes of Cub Scouting.
- Help Cub Scouts achieve the purposes of Cub Scouting.
- Be the activities assistant in den meetings.
- Set a good example by attitude and uniforming.
- Be a friend to the boys in the den.
- Take part in weekly meetings.
- Assist the den at the monthly pack program.
- Meet as needed with the adult members of the den, pack, troop, team, or crew.
- Complete four of these projects:
- Serve as a staff member of a special Cub Scouting event, such as a Scouting show, bicycle rodeo, etc.
- Serve as a staff member of a Cub Scout day camp or resident camp.
- Advance one rank.
- Assist in recruiting three new Cub Scouts.
- Assist three Cub Scouts to become Webelos Scouts.
- Assist three Webelos Scouts to join a troop.
- Help to plan and carry out a joint pack-troop activity.
- Recommend to your Scoutmaster, Varsity Scout Coach, or Venturing Advisor another Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or Venturer to be a den chief.
Maintain a copy of the Den Chief Service Record to ensure that you award your chief for their service in a timely manner. Present them with their new Den Chief Service Award cords and Den Chief Service Award certificate in formal ceremony, either at a Pack meeting, Troop Court of Honor, or both! They may wear their Den Chief, Webelos Den Chief, and Service Award cords together on their left sleeve.
What Are You Waiting For?
The den chief leadership role is an important part of a Scouts advancement and career, and it truly does go a long way toward helping your den go and building leadership skills in our younger generations. It’s an investment in the future of Scouting that you should be making.
All of the cool den chief gear mentioned throughout this post can be found at your local Scout Shop or online at ScoutShop.org.
Do you have a den chief? Was or is your Scout a den chief? What tips or tricks would you like to share? What have I forgotten to cover? Tell me everything!
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Yours in Scouting,