Fraser Boyd, a leader with 25th Stirling in Dunblane, shares his experiences of a BB group on the up!
When HQ contacted us to say we are now among the biggest BB Companies in the UK, we were a little shocked – but probably shouldn’t have been too surprised. We’ve seen remarkable growth in all sections in the last three years in particular. We currently have 176 boys – 31 Anchors, 49 Juniors, 71 Company and 25 Seniors – as well as 25 enthusiastic officers. We can’t put our 10% growth in 2012 down to all the great resources produced because we reached the stage where we weren’t actively recruiting: boys and parents are our best advert, and that’s how we continue to grow.
Looking a little deeper, though, as writing this article allowed us to do, we reflected that we do strive to have a high-quality, stimulating programme. We have had to adapt considerably to manage the numbers we have, but this has been done through careful and regular planning, as well as valuing feedback from boys about what they’re enjoying – or not.
About five years ago when we were less than half our current size, we weren’t retaining boys between the Junior and Company Section. There was a drop-off after S2 as well. Introducing a series of transition activities helped improve our retention at the younger age, and encouragement to participate in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Queen’s Badge and a separate, enhanced Seniors’ programme helped keep the older boys. Because of this, we’ve had several boys stay on to go through KGVI, which, in turn, has given us staff for the future.
Parent involvement is key. Anchors and Juniors have a rota for parents to help even with making juice or setting up crafts. We bring in dads for ‘Boys v Men’ nights and ask them to help with canteen or run an activity that uses their skills or hobbies. Many of these parents then look to get involved a little more often. It’s important we have a balance of leaders who are former BB boys themselves, as well as those coming with ‘a blank sheet’: it keeps our ideas fresh.
In 2010, we recognised interests are wider than just the sports and outdoor activities we’ve always had a strong focus on. Two leaders started our band and through regular fundraising, we provide instruments and tuition to Junior and Company/Senior boys in brass, woodwind and drumming. We run a chess club after our Sunday evening bible class, to complement the existing table tennis, pool and Xbox.
Communication is crucial, too. We use weekly e-mails, group texts, allow parents to integrate our Google Calendar with theirs, update snippets of publicity via our Facebook page and Twitter and try to get in the (frustrating) local press when we can. It’s important our community knows we’re there, and we have the boys involved with local charity shops, visiting care homes, doing food bank collections, serving coffees at church, doing litter-picks and performing music.
We’re not complacent though, nor do we think that ‘big’ means ‘best’, and the key thing for us is to keep learning from others. It’s easier to do now – the BB Scotland Facebook page is a great idea-sharing site – and it should help us all enhance our programmes. Looking forward, we hope to purchase a minibus soon, to help us get boys to all the different activities we offer, develop a Christian DVD and book library for our Anchors/Juniors to borrow from, continue to develop the band, and keep providing opportunities for achievement through Queen’s Badge and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
Our former captain – now Battalion Vice-President – Alan Dunn always told a story that rings true today. Telling of the locum minister who put 50p into the collection box upon arriving at a church to preach, only to find it was emptied into his hand at the end of the service with nothing more having been added, we’re reminded that ‘the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it’. We tell the boys this, but it undoubtedly applies to leaders, too. We’re all busy, but the extra effort you need to enhance your programme isn’t long in paying dividends.
You can find out more about this BB Company here.