The Patrol Leader Council (PLC) is one of the key elements of youth leadership within a Boy Scout troop. The senior patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, and patrol leaders use this monthly meeting to plan troop meetings, courts of honor, and the monthly outing. This is one way they practice the leadership skills of communication, planning, and compromising.
Our troop’s PLC meets the fourth Monday of the month, from 6:30 to 8:00 in the evening. They have an agenda which starts with a roll call and agenda approval. Old business is followed by new business which then moves into planning. The planning portion of the meeting, during which plans are made for troop meetings and activities, is usually when things get bogged down. The boys do not seem to enjoy planning things. Of course, as an adult leader, this is when I have to bite my tongue and stay quiet. I could plan the troop meetings in ten minutes instead of the 45 minutes it takes the boys. But if I did that, the boys would not be planning THEIR program. I do not want this to become the scoutmaster’s program.
There are a few guidelines I have put into place though. Troop meeting openings must contain something patriotic and something Scouting. An opening may only be used once per month. The boys must come up with three separate patriotic and three different Scout openings. The same “once per month” also applied to the game and meeting closing. This gives us a fair amount of variety and keeps us from doing the “same ol’ thing” each meeting.
I also encourage the youth leadership to only use one opening, closing, and game from the previous month. This allows us to have five or six different things in each area over a two month period. It makes it a bit more difficult for the PLC, but it works out well in the long term.
The youth leadership takes even longer to plan a troop outing. I encourage them to brainstorm a list of possible activities, then pick the ones they like the best, and finally post them into an agenda. Sometimes this goes smoothly, but other times it is like working with first graders.
Do we always get the work done during the ninety minute patrol leader council meeting? No, not always. If the boys would stay on track they could easily accomplish their goals. They have a tendency to stray from the agenda. Sometimes a look from the scoutmaster to the senior patrol leader is enough to get things back on track. (Sometimes it is the scoutmaster who got them off track in the first place.)
Even though the patrol leader council meeting can appear to be an inefficient way to get things planned, it is a great way to develop youth leadership skills and keep Boy Scouting a program for the boys, planned by the boys. I should know. I have been participating in them for nearly thirty years.