Service Unit Meetings – boring or good idea?

Time for another Service Unit Meeting? Didn’t we just have one? No one ever comes anyway. I never learn anything new. It’s a waste of my time and is boring.

Um, No! LOL

A Service Unit Meeting is a good thing! If you come a little early and help set up, you sometimes learn snippets of advice and hints of things to come. If you stay to clean up, you not only make a good impression, but you also get to make new friends. Got a question about which websites or Yahoo! groups tell you what a SWAP is and how to make it? Need to learn about the country your troop is studying for the Internation Fair? Where better to learn what others have found and offer your own suggestions than at a SUM. There are less and less Girl Scouts as the girls get older. Interested in finding leaders of other troops the same age as yours? You can find them at the SUM. Want to learn tips and tricks, find cheap trips, and freebies to keep the kids occupied and learning? You’d be surprised how many leaders are willing to share what they’ve learned.

Want to stay in touch with the people in the know in your area? It helps to meet the Cookie Manager and QSP sales manager before the sales start. Where better to get answers to your questions, taste test samples, and see the prizes than at a SUM meeting!

Learn what’s going on in the area and stay in the loop and up to date on events and Girl Scout activities in the area.

Working on a Bronze/Silver/Gold award and want advice and tips? Why not see who’s already earned it, or has started the process and see if they can give you handy info to help you.

For leaders with more years in Scouting this is your opportunity to shine and help others. For leaders new to Scouting here is where you can ask questions and always get an answer. No question is stupid, and if you didn’t learn it in training, why not ask someone at your SUM.

A SUM is also a good opportunity to meet other leaders willing to have your Scouts help their troops so your Scouts can work on leadership badges and to learn to “be a sister to every Girl Scout”.  It is especially beneficial in the upper age levels where there is less interest because sports and school activities become more interesting for girls.

I think Service Unit Meetings are great! I hope to see you at one soon 🙂



6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sandi
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 16:31:03

    Hey great blog. Nice to see you enjoy your SUM. I enjoy ours also. We are currently in the process of trying to build our meetings and make them enjoyable to all.


  2. Cac
    Nov 10, 2007 @ 11:44:22

    I’ve been involved with scouting for a long time. My family recently moved to a new region of the country. I decided to make the transition from being a parent volunteer to being a troop leader. I just went to my first Service Unit meeting here. I have no earthly idea how anybody in their right mind could find anything sustaining about these meetings. I got “pinned” in an investiture ceremony that involved layers of elementary school ceremoniousness including a “meaningful reading and lighting of candles” where each new leader had to say the girl scout promise outloud while we lit a candle commenmorating “the moment”. The ceremony included the IMPORTANCE of keeping the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance (a concept I strenuously disagree with – especially since it was ADDED to the pledge after years and years without those words). We were treated to a 20 minute speech on the qualities of a good scout leader which involved two women “stirring” a crock pot containing index cards on which the qualities were written. Special handshakes were exchanged and we listened to a speech on the importance of wearing our adult uniforms WITH our special pins – a dress code, if you will. The whole thing practically made me barf. I looked for a way out the entire time.

    It felt very culty. I definitely experienced an indoctrination into a world I’d have rather not known existed in my new region – it was so appallingly un-fun and un-celebratory in comparison to an actual girl scout meeting or event. Our service unit meetings in my former region were NOTHING like this (they were very casual, fun, involved idea-exchanges, and rarely lasted longer than about 45 minutes). What the heck is going on with this group of ladies at my new service unit area? Do they really need an adult sorority laden with dress codes, rules, and “ceremonies” to make their lives feel meaningful? Don’t women have enough “shoulds” in their lives already? Is this normal?

    It was a truly alienating experience. If our service unit ever worries about attracting more adult volunteers, they are their own cause for adult disinterest in working with scouts.
    Ick, to the max.

    Your feedback, please?


  3. kellskorner
    Nov 10, 2007 @ 12:59:57

    Hmmm I’ve never been to a meeting like. Although I have held investitures every year for each troop, they are at the troop meetings, not the service unit business meetings.

    About the candles and promise: As a leader it is very important that the girls see us say the GS Promise and see that we will follow it the same way we expect them to.
    That link will take you to the main Girl Scout webpage where it says you may omit the word God in the Promise and substitute it with your own belief. There is no standard for the Pledge of Allegiance, that is up to the Troop Leader and/or individual child.

    “Pinning”. Pinning is very important. Now I wasn’t pinned, but I do pin the girls. When they invest is when they receive their Girl Scout pin. Be it the Daisy pin or the Brownie Pin or Junior pin, so on. It’s nice to make a ceremony to make a big deal out of it because it’s fun and the girls enjoy it. At least in my experience, I can’t speak for others, but my girls are impatient for their investiture this year.

    “meaningful reading and lighting of candles”. Now I’ve probably done that same ceremony. We keep our Girl Scout Candles in a small globe with stones and flowers. We light the candle to signal the start of the year and we put them out at the end of the year in a Closing Ceremony. Not everyone does it, but it is a nice way to start and end your Troop year. It’s just more formal and another thing my scouts enjoy. My co-leader and I make our promise and explain that we understand what it means and plan to uphold it. It’s just a way of showing the girls that not only do we hope they live by the Girl Scout Law and Promise, but that we will, too. Again these ceremonies have many different ways to perform them and it is up to the Troop Leader to decide what their troop will do.

    There have always been Adult uniforms, but they were more optional in the past. With the new management and changes that are being made, they are now making it a requirement. On one hand it is nice. When you are at a gathering with many troops and parents, the kids will know that women wearing Girl Scout shirt and pin are ‘safe’ to talk to. At least she should be since we have to clear back ground checks before we can be leaders. 🙂

    I have to say that my training has been more formal than yours. Instead of women stirring crockpots, I’ve had to buy the manuals and sat through meetings where they teach me how to hold meetings and good ways to approach things and suggestions on earning badges, tips for taking trips and going camping. Things like that, never play acting. Although I can imagine your surprise. I keep picturing Macbeth when I think of those women stirring a crock pot.

    I can honestly say I’ve never witnessed meetings such as you described and I can only recommend you start your own troop where you may hold your meetings as you like, and find a parent volunteer to take your place at the Service Unit Meetings. Where I live, if you cannot attend a Service Unit Meeting, it is acceptable to send an alternate leader or a parent to sit in your place and gather your information and give it to you.

    I am sorry to hear about your bad experience and it makes me happy to be where I am, with my extremely helpful meetings that give me information and advice I’d never have received otherwise. Maybe a carefully placed question might show you another leader who is not happy with the meetings either and you two can kind of band together and figure things out.

    As far as I’m aware, they can not make you stop being a leader if you do not attend the Service Unit meetings. Where I live not even half of the troops have a representative. In fact it’s probably not even a quarter, although we have grown in size of leaders attending the meeting over the past two years.

    There are plenty of places online to find helpful information, and if the Service Unit Meetings are not mandatory for you, see if you can find someone to go in your place that won’t be upset or disturbed (I’m still picturing Macbeth here) or see about having the Service Unit Manager arranging a place for you to pick up important documents from the meetings you have missed. Or will miss.

    Me… I’ll be at my next Service Unit Meeting and will probably be even more grateful for SUM than I’ve been in the past. I don’t know if I’ve been helpful or not. Please feel free to contact me again if not.


  4. Cac
    Nov 11, 2007 @ 12:16:13

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I am totally on-board with making ceremonies meaningful for my scouts (who, by the way are all 16 or older – I have 14 girls in this troop all working on gold awards and are amazing young women). My co-leader and I let these older girls plan their own ceremonies and the resulting events have been fabulous and special for everyone. So… my real concern was not about those meetings at all… it was solely about the SUM I attended with the lecture on the uniforms, the pledge (“under God”), the new adult leaders each saying the promise and lighting a candle for our own pinning ceremony (as though somehow WE would find this meaningful), and the utterly bizarre Macbeth pot-stirring. I was in a room of ADULTS (a few kids were present mostly due to moms with child care issues and were used to help serve refreshments at the end). I’d say there were 50 adults in the room and maybe 8 kids (one was a teen who rolled her eyes repeatedly during the entire thing). So… this was an event for ADULTS. About 9 of the adults were there to get “pinned” (so I am not referring to pinning actual young scouts, which IS important to them but c’mon, it’s just not a big deal for grown ups to get scout leader pins and is silly to make a room full of adults pretend as though it is). All of the women in the room over 55 were wearing complete adult scouting outfits (jumpers, scarves, shirts, the WHOLE DEAL) and for whom??? For each other? And then we got the lecture on the importatnce of dressing this way at the SUMs. I felt like I was in a bad dream: the one where I dress like a professional all day for my job and then I come home to go to a SUM and have to change my clothes and dress like a 2nd grader but I do it incorrectly and walk into a room where everyone stares darts at me. I am no spring chicken either (49). Furthermore it felt very awkward when one of SU leaders told me where I could get a catalog for my own uniform (online, a local shop, etc.). I smiled, of course, but was thinking, “In which reality are you living? In the one where women work as professionals and are fully capable of dressing as adults for these meetings or in some other decade or culture’s world where it’s okay to tell a woman how to think, speak, and dress?” We want our girls to become leaders and we should model it. This felt a lot like culty peer pressure from which we try to steer our girls away. Is the uniform a normal requirement for the adult meetings? Is it normal for an adult meeting to include lecture about The Pledge of Allegiance or to have adults say the Girl Scout pledge aloud while lighting a candle for themselves?

    An analogy: in schools children say The Pledge to begin the school day, often followed by a “moment of silence”. Schools have dress codes for kids (and faculty are trusted to dress professionally). When the school day ends sometimes there is a faculty meeting. Ditto for teacher work days. Nobody cares if some faculty members change into sweats or switch to sneakers (to get out of heels). Faculty meetings do not begin with The Pledge or a “moment of silence”. New teachers are not put through a ceremony. When teachers DO receive awards, it is announced with little hoopla other than quick applause. This is true for administrators too. Just because we model the dress code, Pledge and “moment of silence” regulations when students are present during school day classes is not an indication that we ought to do it FOR EACH OTHER. Similarly the failure to observe these protocols at faculty meetings does not mean we do not regard them as important. It just means we’re adults and we trust each other to be good models for our kids. We wear ID badges to show we’ve passed our “clearances” to work with kids, not “uniforms” as anyone can buy a scout uniform. Anyone. Even the criminal down the street. Just go check out the Salvation Army’s clothing rack for confirmation.

    And, regarding NOT going to SUMs: there is serious pressure to attend here. And, goodness, I would never ask a parent to submit to such silliness on my behalf.

    Any more feedback? I’d love to know how you’d respond in a similar situation.



  5. kellskorner
    Nov 11, 2007 @ 14:00:43

    Hi 🙂 You know I can’t say I’ve experienced this situation you are describing. I’d been a Girl Scout as a child. For me I just registered and took my training. No one pinned me. I bought my own pin and what not.

    In my area it is not mandatory to wear a uniform, although I definitely can agree with wearing a GS shirt when at Service Unit functions and outings. Not only to identify you are their leader, but so the girls can easily spot you. ( I do know that anyone can walk in the Girl Scout store and buy a GS shirt to wear 😉 but think of it more as making it easier for your girls to spot you and others to know you are with them. I think nowadays our kids are raised to understand that just because you look like something it doesn’t mean you are. I heard rumors that it was going to be mandatory to wear an adult uniform, though. All I can say to that is, I spend enough money outfitting my three Girl Scouts and buying handbooks, badgebooks and other things that I don’t have the money to deck myself out in a full uniform. A shirt I don’t mind, but personally, I invest as much time and money as I can afford, and for me it is a big deal to make me have to spend more money. When I spend money it’s never on myself. It’s just the way I am.

    With my Troops, the only thing mandatory is a vest with the Flag patch. My Juniors need to have our troop crest, and all troops need to have the council patch and regular insignia on their vest, but I do not make any other part of the uniform mandatory. Things are tough everywhere, and I have several girls in my troop who can’t afford these things. When you add in the new Girl Scout age level, so now the girls wear a uniform for two years instead of three, it adds even more of an expense some parents can’t afford. In my personal opinion it is nice for them to have a light blue shirt and brown pants for the brownies, but they don’t have to be the actual uniform, then they can wear them to school and/or meetings and events. For my Juniors on up, I just advise it would be nice for them to wear khaki pants and a white shirt for functions. If not all girls can afford something, it shouldn’t be mandatory, in my opinion.

    I’ve never been to a ceremony like you described in both your posts so I have no experience to draw from. I have, however been to a formal meeting when we closed our Girl Scout thingy (words are escaping me today). We said farewell to our Unit in preparation for our merger. I felt underdressed as everyone else was decked out in full gear like you described. I didn’t think of it as culty because that was a formal, once in a lifetime meeting. Saying farewell and closing our Unit. They also awarded a lot of people and businesses that night. It was long, but a learning experience for me.

    SUM meetings are important, I definitely agree with that, but I honestly have no advice for your situation. I can’t advise you on what I have never seen or experienced. For me, I’m used to the pledge, promise and law at every Girl Scout function, but we don’t do it to start our SUM meetings. We’re there for business and we settle down and get to it. If it were me… I would find a parent to go in my place and tell them up front, listen this is what they expect you to do. If you still want to attend for me I appreciate it. Have you been to more than one SUM meeting at this new place? Or was this the first one?

    Sorry I’m not of more help to you. Feel free to ask me more questions if you have them.


  6. kellskorner
    Nov 11, 2007 @ 14:03:59

    You know, I think I’m going to contact my SUM and ask what she thinks. She sees more of the inner workings than I do.


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