Definitions of
Active Participation,
Scout Spirit, and
Serve Actively ... in ... Positions of Responsibility

The information below is taken from the 2021 edition of " Guide to Advancement", (BSA Publication 33088 - SKU 648216). The current edition of the Guide to Advancement is the official Boy Scouts of America source on advancement procedures. Rank Requirements Overview

The concepts of "reasonable" and "within reason" will help unit leadership and boards of review gauge the fairness of expectations for considering whether a Scout is "active" or has fulfilled positions of responsibility. A unit is allowed, of course, to establish expectations acceptable to its chartered organization and unit committee. But for advancement purposes, Scouts must not be held to those which are so demanding as to be impractical for today's youth (and families} to achieve.

Ultimately, a board of review shall decide what is reasonable and what is not. In doing so, the board members must use common sense and must take into account that youth should be allowed to balance their lives with positive activities outside of Scouting.

Since we are preparing young people to make a positive difference in our American society, we determine a member is "active" when the member's level of activity in Scouting, whether high or minimal, has had a sufficiently positive influence toward this end. Active Participation

The purpose of Star, Life, and Eagle Scout requirements calling for Scouts to be active for a period of months involves impact. Since we are preparing young people to make a positive difference in our American society, we determine a member is "active" when the member's level of activity in Scouting, whether high or minimal, has had a sufficiently positive influence toward this end.

Scouting is a year-round program administered by tho adult leaders. Units should not be taking time off during the summer or at other times of the year. Regardless of a unit's expectations or policy, if a unit takes time off, then that time must count toward the Scout's active participation requirement. The Scout must not be penalized because the unit has chosen not to meet or conduct other activities for a period of time.

Use the following three sequential tests to determine whether the requirement has been met. The first and second are required, along with either the third or its alternative.

  1. The Scout is registered. The youth is registered in the unit for at least the time period indicated in the requirement. It should also be indicated by the youth in some way, through word or action, that the youth considers himself or herself a member. If a youth was supposed to have been registered, but for whatever reason was not, discuss with the local council registrar the possibility of back-registering the youth.
  2. The Scout is in good standing. Scouts are considered in "good standing" with a unit as long as they have not been dismissed for disciplinary reasons. Scouts must also be in good standing with the local council and the Boy Scouts of America. (In the rare case a youth is not in good standing, communications will have been delivered.)
  3. The Scout meets the unit's reasonable expectations: or, if not, a lesser level of activity is explained. If, for the time period required, a Scout or qualifying Venturer or Sea Scout meets those aspects of the unit's pre- established expectations that refer to a level of activity, then he or she is considered active and the requirement is met. Time counted as "active" need not be consecutive. Scouts may piece together any times they have been active and still qualify. If a Scout does not meet the unit's reasonable expectations, the alternative that follows must be offered.

Units are free to establish additional expectations on uniforming, supplies for outings, payment of dues, parental involvement etc., but these and any other standards extraneous to a level of activity shall not be considered in evaluating this requirement.

Alternative to the third test if expectations are not met:

If a Scout has fallen below the unit's activity-oriented expectations, then the reason must be due to other positive endeavors - in or out of Scouting - or due to noteworthy circumstances that have prevented a higher level of participation.

A Scout in this case is still considered "active" if a board of review can agree that Scouting values have already taken hold and have been exhibited. This might be evidenced, for example, in how the Scout lives life and relates to others in the community, at school, in religious life, or in Scouting. It is also acceptable to consider and "count" positive activities outside Scouting when they, too, contribute to the Scout's character, citizenship, leadership, or mental and physical fitness. Remember: It is not so much about what Scouts have done. It is about what they are able to do and how they have grown.

Additional Guidelines on the Three Tests There may be, of course, registered youth who appear to have little or no activity. Maybe they are out of the country on an exchange program, or away at school. Or maybe we just haven't seen them and wonder if they've quit. To pass the first test above, youth must be registered. But they should also have made it clear through participation or by communicating in some way that they still consider themselves to be members, even though - for now - the unit's participation expectations may not have been fulfilled. A conscientious leader might make a call and discover the Scout's intentions.

If, however, a Scout has been asked to leave a unit due to behavioral issues or the like, or if the council or the Boy Scouts of America has directed - for whatever reason- that the Scout must not participate, then according to the second test the Scout is not considered "active."

In considering the third test, it is appropriate for units to set reasonable expectations for attendance and participation. Then it is simple: Those who meet them are "active." But those who do not must be given the opportunity to qualify under the third-test alternative above. To do so, they must first offer an acceptable explanation. Certainly, there are medical, educational, family, and other issues that for practical purposes prevent higher levels of participation. These must be considered. Would the Scout have been more active if he or she could have? If so, for purposes of advancement, the Scout is deemed "active."

We must also recognize the many worthwhile opportunities beyond Scouting. Taking advantage of these opportunities and participating in them may be used to explain why unit participation falls short. Examples might include involvement in religious activities, school, sports, or clubs that also develop character, citizenship, leadership, or mental and physical fitness. The additional learning and growth experiences these provide can reinforce the lessons of Scouting and also give young people the opportunity to put them into practice in a different setting.

It is reasonable to accept that competition for a Scout's time will become intense, especially as the Scout grows older and wants to take advantage of positive "outside" opportunities. This can make full-time dedication to the unit difficult to balance. A fair leader, therefore, will seek ways to empower the Scout to plan personal growth opportunities both inside and outside Scouting, and consider them part of the overall positive life experience for which the Boy Scouts of America is a driving force.

A board of review can accept an explanation if it can be reasonably sure there have been sufficient influences in the Scout's life that the Scout is meeting our aims. The board members must satisfy themselves that the Scout is the sort of person who, based on present behavior, will contribute to the Boy Scouts of America's mission. Consequently, the board can grant the rank regardless of the Scout's current or most recent level of activity in Scouting. Note that it may be more difficult, though not impossible, for a younger member to pass through the third-test alternative than for one more experienced in our lessons. - Demonstrate Scout Spirit

The ideals of the Boy Scouts of America are spelled out in the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout motto, and Scout slogan. Members incorporating these ideals into their daily lives at home, at school, in religious life, and in their neighborhoods, for example, are said to have Scout spirit. In evaluating whether this requirement has been fulfilled, it may be best to begin by asking the Scout to explain what Scout spirit, living the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and duty to God means to them. Young people know when they are being kind or helpful, or a good friend to others. They know when they are cheerful, or trustworthy, or reverent. All of us, young and old, know how we act when no one else is around.

"Scout spirit" refers to ideals and values; it is not the same as "school spirit."

A leader typically asks for examples of how a Scout has lived the Oath and Law. It might also be useful to invite examples of when the Scout did not. This is not something to push, but it can help with the realization that sometimes we fail to live by our ideals, and that we all can do better. This also sends a message that a Scout can admit mistakes, yet still advance. Or in a serious situation - such as alcohol or illegal drug use - understand why advancement might not be appropriate just now. This is a sensitive issue and must be treated carefully. Most Scout leaders do their best to live by the Oath and Law, but any one of them may look back on years past and wish that, at times, they had acted differently. We learn from these experiences and improve and grow. We can look for the same in our youth.

Evaluating Scout spirit wwill always be a judgment call, but through getting to know a Scout and by asking probing questions, we can get a feel for it. We can say however, that we do not measure Scout spirit by counting meetings and outings attended. It is indicated, instead, by the way the Scout lives daily life. Positions of Responsibility

"Serve actively in your unit for a period of... months in one or more ... positions of responsibility" is an accomplishment every candidate for Star, Life, or Eagle must achieve. The following will help to determine whether a Scout has fulfilled the requirement. Positions Must Be Chosen From Among Those Listed.

The position must be listed in the position of responsibility requirement shown on the Advancement and Awards web page found at

Since more than one member may hold some positions - "instructor," for example - it is expected that even very large units are able to provide sufficient opportunities within the list. The only exception involves Lone Scouts, who may use positions in school, in a religious organization, in a club, or elsewhere in the community. Units do not have authority to require specific positions of responsibility for a rank. For example, they must not require a Scout to be senior patrol leader to obtain the Eagle rank.

Service in positions of responsibility in provisional units, such as a jamboree troop or Philmont trek crew, do not count toward this requirement.

For Star and Life ranks only, a unit leader may assign, as a substitute for the position of responsibility, a leadership project that helps the unit. If this is done, the unit leader should consult the unit committee and unit advancement coordinator to arrive at suitable standards. The experience should provide lessons similar to those of the listed positions, but it must not be confused with, or compared to, the scope of an Eagle Scout service project. It may be productive in many cases for the Scout to propose a leadership project that is discussed with the unit leader and then "assigned." Meeting the Time Test May Involve Any Number of Positions.

The requirement calls for a period of months. Any number of positions may be held as long as total service time equals at least the number of months required. Holding simultaneous positions does not shorten the required number of months. Positions need not flow from one to the other; there may be gaps between them. This applies to all qualified members including Lone Scouts.

When a Scout assumes a position of responsibility, something related to the desired results must happen. Meeting Unit Expectations.

If a unit has established expectations for positions of responsibility, and if, within reason (see the note under "Rank Requirements Overview,", based on the Scout's personal skill set, these expectations have been met, the Scout has fulfilled the requirement. When a Scout assumes a position, something related to the desired results must happen. It is a disservice to the Scout and to the unit to reward work that has not been done. Holding a position and doing nothing, producing no results, is unacceptable. Some degree of responsibility must be practiced, taken, or accepted.

Regardless of a unit's expectations or policy, if a unit kikes time off, such as during the summer months, that time must count toward service in a position of responsibility. (See "Active Participofion," Meeting the Requirement in the Absence of Unit Expectations.

It is best when a Scout's leaders provide position descriptions, and then direction, coaching, and support. Where this occurs and is done well, the young person will likely succeed. When this support, for whatever reason, is unavailable or otherwise not provided - or when there are no dearly established expectations - then an adult leader or the Scout, or both, should work out the responsibilities to fulfill. In doing so, neither the position's purpose nor degree of difficulty may be altered significantly or diminished. Consult the current BSA literature published for leaders in Scouts BSA, Venturing, or Sea Scouts for guidelines on the responsibilities that might be fulfilled in the various positions of responsibility.

Under the above scenario, if it is left to the Scout to determine what should be done, and he or she makes a reasonable effort to perform accordingly for the time specified, then the requirement is fulfilled. Even if the effort or results are not necessarily what the unit leader, members of a board of review, or others involved may want to see, the Scout must not be held to unestablished expectations. When Responsibilties Are Not Met.

If a unit has clearly established expectations for position(s) held, then - within reason - a Scout must meet them through the prescribed time. If a Scout is not meeting expectations, then this must be communicated early. Unit leadership may work toward a constructive result by asking the Scout what he or she thinks should have been accomplished in that time. What is - the Scout's - concept of the position? What does the Scout think the troop leaders - youth and adult- expect? What has been done well? What needs improvement? Often this questioning approach can lead a young person to the decision to measure up. The Scout will tell the leaders how much of the service time should be recorded and what can be done to better meet expectations.

If it becomes clear that performance will not improve, then it is acceptable to remove the Scout from the position. It is the unit leader's responsibility to address these situations promptly. Every effort should have been made while the Scout was in the position to ensure the Scout understood expectations and was regularly supported toward reasonably acceptable performance. It is unfair and inappropriate - after six months, for example - to surprise someone who thinks his or her performance has been fine with news that it is now considered unsatisfactory. In this case, the Scout must be given credit for the time.

Only in rare cases - if ever - should troop leaders inform a Scout that time, once served, will not count.

If a Scout believes the duties of the position have been performed satisfactorily but the unit leader disagrees, then the possibility that expectations are unreasonable or were not clearly conveyed to the youth should be considered. If after discussions between the Scout and the unit leader - and perhaps the parents or guardians - the Scout believes the expectations are unreasonable, then upon completing the remaining requirements, the Scout must be granted a board of review. If the Scout is an Eagle candidate, then he or she may request a board of review under disputed circumstances (see "Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances," "Responsibility" and "Leadership"

Many suggest this requirement should call for a position of "leadership" rather than simply of "responsibility." Taking and accepting responsibility, however, is a key foundation for leadership. One cannot lead effectively without it. The requirement as written recognizes the different personalities, talents, and skill sets in all of us. Some seem destined to be "the leader of the group." Others provide quality support and strong examples behind the scenes. Without the latter, the leaders in charge have little chance for success. Thus, the work of the supporters becomes part of the overall leadership effort. Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference

The unit leader (Scoutmaster) conference, regardless of the rank or program, is conducted according to the guidelines in the Troop Leader Guidebook (volume 1). Note that a Scout must participate or take part in one; it is not a "test." Requirements do not say the Scout must "pass" a conference. While it makes sense to hold one after other requirements for a rank are met, it is not required that it be the last step before the board of review. This is an important consideration for Scouts on a tight schedule to meet requirements before age 18. Last-minute work can sometimes make it impossible to fit the conference in before that time. Scheduling it earlier can avoid unnecessary extension requests.

The conference is not a retest of the requirements upon which a Scout has been signed off. It is a forum for discussing topics such as ambitions, life puipose, and goals for future achievement, for counseling, and also for obtaining feedback on the unifs program. In some cases, work left to be completed - and perhaps why it has not been completed - may be discussed just as easily as that which is finished. Ultimately, conference timing is up to the unit. Some leaders hold more than one along the way, and the Scout must be allowed to count any of them toward the requirement.

Scoutmaster conferences should be held with a level of privacy acceptable under the BSA's rules regarding Youth Protection. Parents or guardians and other Scouts within hearing range of the conversation may influence the Scout's participation. Since conferences relate not only to the Scouting method of advancement, but also to that of adult association, they are meant to be face-to-face, personal, and individual experiences. Though virtual conferences are allowed they should only be held when circumstances preclude a more personal approach.

While it is intended that the conference be conducted between the unit leader and the Scout, it may sometimes be necessary for the unit leader to designate an assistant unit leader to conduct the conference. For example, if the Scoutmaster is unavailable for an extended period of time or in larger troops where a Scout's advancement would be delayed unnecessarily, then it would be appropriate for an assistant Scoutmaster (21 years old or older) to be designated to conduct the conference.

Unit leaders do not have the authority to deny a Scout a timely conference when one is required for a rank. Unit leaders must not require the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, the Eagle Scout Rank Application, statement of ambitions and life purpose, or list of positions, honors, and awards as a prerequisite to holding a unit leader conference for the Eagle Scout rank. If a unit leader conference is denied, a Scout who believes all the other requirements have been completed may still request a board of review. See "Boards of Review Must Be Granted When Requirements Are Met," If an Eagle Scout candidate is denied a conference, it may become grounds for a board of review under disputed circumstances. See "Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances,"

Page updated on: May 08, 2022

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