Scouting Moms #9: Scouts ISN’T Church—Putting the OUT in Cub ScOUT

“We meet each week for Cub Scouts in this church classroom on Wednesday nights,” I once overheard a Wolf den leader announcing to a new eight-year-old boy and his parents.

“Aaaggghhh!” I wanted to groan out loud. It wasn’t the first time I had heard of Cub Scouts meeting in a classroom.

Cub Scouts isn’t church! It doesn’t have to be held in a church classroom and it doesn’t have to be held in the evening!

Yet sometimes, because our Church sponsors Scouting, we get the feeling that we have to meet every week at the church, stay in the same classroom, and sit and read out of our Scout books. That stifling setting can be a quick trip down the lane to boys not wanting to come to Scouts, or wear their uniforms, or bring their books!

No. ScOUTING at all levels is designed to be an “outing.” An adventure. An excursion. An activity. Church is for learning principles. Scouting is for practicing those principles through action.

The Scouting program, when executed properly, isn’t designed to happen with boys sitting on chairs in a circle, a teacher and a chalkboard at the front of the room. Or, necessarily held in the evening when boys are tired and there is no more sunlight to be enjoyed.

The founder of Scouting, Baden-Powell said, “In ‘Scout’ there is ‘out’. The open-air is the real objective of Scouting and the key to its success.”

We often envision older boy Scouting programs with youth going on campouts and hikes and canoe trips. But Cub Scouting is also an activity program, designed for little boys who already spend too much time cooped up in a schoolroom or glued to a digital screen.

Research abounds on the benefits of being outdoors. Children do better socially, mentally, emotionally, and physically when they spend time stretching their legs and their lungs. Scouting is the perfect opportunity for them to experience fresh air adventure.

Kenny Ballantine, from the Nature Kids Institute (, suggested that children (and that includes Cub Scouts) should have free play outside once a day, engage in nature exploring once a week, visit a park once a month, and have a wilderness adventure once a year. Cub Scouting can potentially fill most of those needs.

You can’t cook in a classroom, nor can you necessarily carve a pinewood derby car, or practice most physical fitness skills, or develop swimming strokes, or identify bird homes, or visit a fire station, or practice bike-riding safety. These are events that could be conducted with a flair and excitement if they happened outdoors, away from a stifling classroom, and—when possible—during the sunlight hours.

If your den is meeting each week in a classroom, take the opportunity to get out as soon as you gather for the Pledge, a prayer, and the Scout Oath. Get OUT! Ride bikes in the parking lot or down the lane, roast marshmallows over a fire in a back yard, have a scavenger hunt, do service in a Church member’s garden, bake cookies in a kitchen, build a birdhouse in a wood shop, fish at the local pond, do pull-ups at the park, or plant flowers in the dirt!

One of the best Cub Scout dens I’ve ever observed gathered each week in a garage. Think of it! The rambunctious boys were constantly surrounded by tools and projects and all sorts of interesting things! Once any sitting time or book work was finished, they were out on the neighborhood lawn, running, singing, jumping, crafting, climbing trees, learning about animals, or whatever else the weekly activity required.

Now, that being said, it’s understandable that different locations and circumstances offer various restrictions on how and when Cub leaders can meet with boys. But consider breaking the mold of “meeting at the church” and try a garage, a house, a yard, or any place where boys can stretch their legs and grow on wings of adventure. You may be surprised at the excitement and energy young boys build when they know that each week going to Cub Scouts means Adventure! Fun! Activity! Outdoors! Active learning! And…spiritual growth.

President Gordon B. Hinckley observed, “All the beauty in the earth bears the fingerprint of the Master Creator.” Consider that when boys are outdoors they are not only improving their physical lives and passing off requirements, but they are learning about and becoming closer to their Heavenly Father.

“We hold our den meeting each week in the church classroom,” could become, “We begin our den meetings in this classroom, but then we head outside for adventure!”

~Nettie Francis is a former den leader, Cubmaster, and current Cub Scout Mom.

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  1. Excellent emphasis on getting out and doing. Sometimes we take boys out but then we have them sit, listen to lecture, and answer questions just like they do in a school classroom, effectively putting four virtual walls around them. Nobody joins Cub Scouts for that kind of experience. They join so that they can do stuff.

  2. Shep Kuester says:

    Excellent article! Boys, especially ages 8 – 11, need dirt, running, mud, creativity, yelling, exploring,, and fun active games.

    Scouting provides all these things in a safe and educational environment. I sincerely hope our Cub leaders read, and heed, your advice.

  3. Julie says:

    Hey Nettie, How would you get around the problem that I’ve seen in many units where they don’t provide 2 deep leadership for the den leader. I began meeting at the church after many months of begging for an assistant. In youth protection training we are taught to always have 2 deep leadership for the protection of the boys as well as the leader. I found the only way to have other adults around was to meet at the church.

  4. J. Mick Epperson says:

    Oh Nettie,
    How beautiful upon the mountains, or any outdoors, your words of wisdom are. Scouting is outing. I wish there was a way to have this message delivered to every Scout Leader in the world.

  5. Adam Cox says:

    When I was a Cubmaster, years ago, someone asked me if I held meetings outside. I felt like I was hit with a cast iron frying pan. Hey, let’s hold meetings outside! Even in the dead of winter you can go outside for a quick hike and talk about hiking in the dark and going on an adventure! Whole new world opened up!

  6. PinkiMimi says:

    Oh, how I love this article. I think it should be given to every new den leader called. What a difference that would make!

  7. Ben Pillow says:

    When I was in cubs, in a Ward sponsored program, we only met in the building for Blue&Gold banquet and Pack Meetings. Webelos was on Saturday mornings at my house when my dad was the Webelos Leader, and Cubs was at the home of my friends mom, who was the den leader. Never understood the reason for consolidating all meetings at the chapel, with the exception of parental convenience.

  8. Kyle Echols says:

    I agree with the primary message of this article but wish to shed some light on the situation from outside of Utah… where families in a ward travel much greater distances to get to the church building. We have families who travel 45 minutes each way. Most bishops in geographically large areas actually DO require all youth activities to meet at the church building on the same day of the week at the same time to reduce multiple trips. That doesn’t mean you have to stay INSIDE the building or even on the church grounds for your meetings, however, with advance communication and coordination with parents to make sure nobody gets left behind by arriving a few minutes late.

  9. Bill Chapman says:

    Nettie, what an awesome article! So refreshing to think of boys in the outdoors, burning off energy, observing nature unfold before their eyes, learning about plants and animals, and just having a good time. Then, they are ready and willing to listen to us when we counsel with them. They will have confidence in us as we help them do the things scouts do!

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