This post is a bit of a bait and switch.
You think this is about term limits for Scouters and it is – kind of.
Thing is I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other. I can see good arguments for and against the idea of a limited term of service for a Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, or any key leadership position. It really depends on the person and the situation. I can see that a unit that adopts a term limit would solve some possible problems but I can see the same policy causing others.
We all have to sign on again annually as it is. I suppose the Troop Committee could ask a bit more formally what each leader’s intentions are at recharter time if they felt that would help. When these ideas come along my basic test is to look for the concept somewhere in the last century of Scouting. If it’s not there I don’t spend a lot of time wondering why it isn’t.
I have a very different take on term limits for district and council volunteers. I really think those positions need to turn over frequently. There’s a different dynamic to that sort of leadership and it needs constant renewal.
I think the far more interesting subject is the nature of adult leadership in Scouting.
Scouters often take on too much responsibility, wear too many hats and generally overextend their commitments. We do this out of a sense of responsibility, because we like a challenge, because it’s rewarding, because no one else will do it or because it’s a lot of fun. Nearly every one of us has a story of getting overextended and the fallout it produces. Nearly every one of us has a story about burning out.
The great thing about adult leadership in Scouting is that nearly anyone can do it! A bit of training and mentoring and just about anyone can do a good job of it. Some get involved for a few years; bring a lot to the table and then they are done. Some of us never really get done, we’re always finding more to do.
I know a lot of golfers. A few are lifers – they will be out on the green until they get carried off. They go to the driving range, read books and take courses. They may even play in a tournament now and again. Most, however, are just happy to play a round when they can.
In Scouting some of us are lifers and some of us are going to help out for a few years. This only causes problems when the lifers start to look down on the others and get a little sanctimonious about things. The other side of the coin is when the new folks see us lifers as stick-in-the-mud old crabs.
Problems like that are easy to avoid; just be a nice person. Understand that you always have something new to learn no matter how long you’ve been around. Keep your eye on the ball, don’t get distracted, and have a good time.