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Raise the Bar – Taking on the Challenges

Friday 4th January 2019

Raise the Bar’ is our campaign for 2018-19 and based on 10 challenges for each Company, Battalion and District focussed on raising the quality of experience for children and young people in The Boys’ Brigade. We are encouraging everyone to get involved and take on the challenges and in this issue we bring together two challenges ‘Getting together as a Staff Team’ and also ‘Programme Planning’.

Steve Dickinson, former Brigade Secretary and Chief Executive (2004 to 2015) shares some of his thoughts on taking on these challenges.

From Brigade Secretary to Kit Boy

I had been to support the Juniors at the Battalion 5 a side tournament and was putting the kit bag containing the shirts into the car when someone made the remark about moving from Brigade Secretary to kit boy.

Many of us have or have had a variety of roles in the Brigade. The movement relies on volunteers taking on a range of positions in Companies, Battalions and wider afield. In the different roles held, I have attended some pretty dire meetings, and run some too. I guess, like most of us, after a particularly excruciating experience I have returned home wondering what the point of that was and making a mental note to be busy on the date of the next meeting. But staff meetings in Companies are important. They build staff teams; ensure everyone feels valued and keen to contribute and mean that the children and young people have the best possible experience.

Get together as a staff team –
The Challenge: Formally and socially come together to plan,to share and to celebrate.

So, what’s the best way to ensure staff meetings deliver positive outcomes that make a difference and improve what we offer children and young people?

The critical question to start with is, ‘What are we seeking to achieve?’

Obviously, the Brigade Object is paramount, but how does the advancement of the Kingdom manifest itself with different age groups and what else are we trying to accomplish with those who join the Company?

When I returned as a Company Captain in 2011, I called a meeting of the whole staff – any adult volunteer that worked in any section in any capacity. I think they were expecting a planning meeting in age groups for the new session, but I simply posed the question, ‘What are we seeking to achieve?’

It’s a change of mind-set

It’s a change of mind-set away from what we do to why we do it. It took some time to move away from simply thinking of activities, both traditional and new, to occupy the members, to think about why we were gathering them together in the first place. But perseverance paid off and we created the following list. We agreed the purpose of the Company was:

To create:

  • An atmosphere to help young people experience and explore the Christian Faith
  • A place where any young person can feel valued and important
  • An opportunity for young people to try out new activities. Things they wouldn’t normally do.
  • A place where young people are given responsibility
  • An opportunity to experience new challenges
  • A place where we recognise individual achievement
  • The development of a strong group identity
  • An environment where young people take responsibility for each other and develop an awareness of the needs of others
  • A place where young people are listened to and have a say
  • A place where young people have fun

Try doing this in your own Company or Section and see what you can come up with as a Staff Team.

Once the list is created, programme planning focuses on what do we do to meet these objectives.

Programme Planning –
The Challenge: Make sure you are planning at least a term ahead.
Look to bring in new activities to your programme which will help towards ensuring attendance and a high-quality programme. Consider what skills you will need to make this possible.

How do you go about creating an atmosphere where children and young people can explore the Christian Faith?

This question leads to a much more meaningful discussion than simply planning the devotions rota. It considers methods of communication, modelling of life-styles, reviewing and reflecting on what brought us to faith and how we share that with the young people. This doesn’t mean that you will end up changing what you do, but it links the faith aspects of the programme to the whole evening and doesn’t compartmentalise God to the opening service.

Other objectives may be easier to consider such as ‘An opportunity to experience new challenges’:

If you have agreed as a staff team that this is an entitlement for your children and young people in all age groups, think about the different ways this could be achieved. If you have a Company band, this will provide challenges for those who opt to join it. Introduce new games as well as repeating old favourites. Are you able to offer a residential activity and are the programmes and activities reflective of the age groups? Here, of course, you can meet other objectives. Giving responsibility to the Seniors for younger members (tent commanders/leaders) and involving them from the very start in what activities they want the camp to offer. Sometimes such as with a residential, staff may require additional training to be able to offer this activity. Therefore, plan ahead if any leaders need to attend a specific training course such as Holiday Leadership or Campcraft. Many Companies offer the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the Queen’s Badge as vehicles to offer challenge, taking responsibility and skill development with the older members.

It doesn’t mean that you have to change everything

You will understand the concept of what I am saying. It doesn’t mean that you have to completely change your programme. On the contrary, in our case it confirmed the importance of some tried and tested old favourites for our staff, but we had considered again why we were doing them. Knowing why we are doing something is critical. And it isn’t necessarily a formal part of the programme and may never get written on the plan.

Greeting each young person as they arrive, asking about their week and taking an interest in their life outside BB shows we value them as individuals. Making young people feel valued is vital and the relationships we build often determine whether a young person stays. It provides the very fabric on which we share our faith and delivers a model often far more powerful than the words we say.

I do appreciate that with the pressures of everyday life, it’s difficult even to get everyone together to plan a set of activities. But, if you can, reflect on what you are seeking to achieve and work with the young people to create a programme that moves towards delivering this.

It’s time well spent and a meeting with a purpose.

Check out our resource ‘Delivering a Quality Programme’ which provides further advice and support on programme planning at

Find out more about Raise the Bar and find support and ideas to help you take on the challenges at

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