Monday, October 24, 2011

The Patrol Method?

I have often heard that Robert Baden-Powell said something like "the patrol method is not a way to operate a Boy Scout troop, it is the ONLY way." (I have yet to see the actual sourcing on that quote, however.)  

I can see the point there. When used properly, the patrol method drives the entire experience. It's what makes Scouting really work. Maybe someday I'll actually see it happen. So far, my experience has been in small LDS wards where there are barely enough boys for one patrol. And the Scoutmaster usually doesn't know what the patrol method means. 

After attending Wood Badge, both as a participant and a staff member, I've seen how the patrol method can and should work. I would really love to see that actually happen in a troop.

That said, I don't think the patrol method applies to Venturing. I might cause a small ruckus in certain circles with that statement, but from everything I've read the patrol method is not a part of Venturing.

Let's review the methods of Scouting for a moment. Here are the eight methods of Boy Scouts, as listed by the National Eagle Scout Association (
  • Ideals
  • Patrol
  • Outdoor Programs
  • Advancement
  • Association with Adults
  • Personal Growth
  • Leadership Development
  • The Uniform 
Now let's have a look at Venturing's methods (see Venturing Leader Manual, p.2):
  • Leadership
  • Group Activities
  • Adult Association
  • Recognition
  • The Ideals
  • High Adventure and Sports
  • Teaching Others
Notice, there are no patrols (or uniforms, or advancement, but that's another topic). I pointed this out at my commissioner basic training a while ago and I don't think it went over very well. The trainer was of the opinion that "group activities" were the same thing as patrols. Well, maybe. But I don't think so.

Group activities can be anything. It could be the entire crew. It could be a smaller division within the crew. It could be an inter-crew competition. I suppose in a large crew the leadership might decide to break up the crew into smaller groups to facilitate meetings and outings, but that would have to be a decision of the crew presidency. And if a crew did that, they would have to create their own leadership positions, which is fine, but that's a decision to be made by the crew.

You could probably argue that dividing a crew into smaller groups to facilitate meetings and outings would actually run counter to the patrol method anyway. Green Bar Bill is supposed to have said that "a Troop is not divided into Patrols. A Troop is the sum total of its Patrols."

I have seen no official BSA publications anywhere (with one exception I'll get to in a minute) that say anything about patrols with Venturing crews. Not in the Venturing handbook. Not in the Venturing Leader Manual. Not in the Venturing Montly Program Forum (round table guide). Not in the Venturing Leadership Skills Course. Not in the Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews. Nowhere in any official Venturing publication that I have seen is any mention of patrols. None.

I mentioned one exception. It is my 2011 Wood Badge Staff Guide. I don't have it with me, so I can't quote the exact wording or give the exact page number. There is a section that is talking about patrols, and their use at Wood Badge and there is a mention that the patrol organization can work as well for the dens of a Cub Scout pack, the squads of a Varsity Scout team, or the teams of a Venturing crew. And, if I remember correctly, that statement isn't even a part that is specifically shared with participants.

So, the only "official" mention of anything like patrols for Venturing comes as a passing statement in a document that most Venturing leaders will not see. Hmm.

I'll say it again. The patrol method is not a part of Venturing. Venturing is a completely different animal from Boy Scouts. It is different enough that most Scouters I know don't know quite how to deal with it. It gets a bit frustrating at times. But it is a fantastic program. I hope it stays around for a good long time.


  1. Your comments are bound to have a brick thrown through your window. LOL!

    The Bible of LDS Scouting says:

    "Venturing doesn't promote patrols. However, the crew can be organized to best meet the needs of the young men. Learning by doing in a group setting provides opportunities for developing new skills."

    So the LDS Scouting Bible agrees with you. I think something that might be inferred is that the boys should know the patrol method from their previous exposure to Scouting and then pick and choose if or when to use parts of it.

  2. Yes, boys who have been involved in Boy Scouts should be familiar with the patrol method, but Venturing membership (nationally) isn't limited to boys who have been Boy Scouts. There are young women who likely don't have exposure to the patrol method. And there are probably quite a few young men in Venturing who were never Boy Scouts. I've got two in my ward.

  3. That is what is so great about Venturing. You don't have to have Scouting experience to be a part. My own 13 year old daughter is excited to join a Venturing Crew in less than a year when she completes her YW in Excellence. She isn't getting enough camping at Girls Camp.

  4. "The patrol method is not a way to operate a Boy Scout troop, it is the ONLY way" was not said by Robert Baden-Powell. It is Green Bar Bill's paraphrase of something Roland Phillips said in the opening chapter of "The Patrol System," by Roland Phillipps. See