How To Organize Merit Badge Counseling Meetings (The Right Way)


With over 135 merit badges available for scouts to earn, I’m going to bet that if you’re in Scouting, you’ve had at least one merit badge counseling meeting. Meeting with your merit badge counselor is not only a great way to finish any partial blue cards, it can also be done to start and complete a new badge! 

There is no one ‘right’ way to organize merit badge meetings. However, scouts should work with their badge counselors to plan out a meeting agenda, beforehand, so that neither person’s time is wasted. During a merit badge meeting, scouts should demonstrate skills or explain concepts to their badge counselor. Scouts should not be learning the skills during the meeting.

PS. This article is based on the experiences and research of Eagle Scout, Kevin A and Cole 🙂

The main things to keep in mind when organizing a merit badge meeting will also differ, depending on whether you’re a scout or merit badge counselor. To make this article a bit easier to follow, I’m going to split it up into three parts:

  1. The components of a successful merit badge meeting
  2. For scouts: Scheduling and preparing for a merit badge meeting
  3. For merit badge counselors: Conducting a merit badge meeting

While I encourage you to read the full article to gain the best understanding of what makes a successful merit badge meeting, if you’re short on time, feel free to skip to the section that is most relevant to you (I’d also highly recommend reading the section listing the components of a successful MB meeting). 

Kevin here–While I was a scout, I mostly met with my merit badge counselors to finish up the requirements of badges I’d started during camps or activities. However, you can also use meetings with a merit badge counselor to complete entire badges on your own! Personally, over the course of 3 – 4 months of weekly merit badge meetings, I was able to complete my Personal Management merit badge (a merit badge required for Eagle!)

While there are a few best practices for holding merit badge meetings, because every badge is different, feel free to adapt your meeting plan to your own situation. Remember, both scouts and merit badge counselors have quite a bit of freedom on how to accomplish the requirements of each badge!

As an example, to complete the Citizenship in the World merit badge you might have weekly meetings where you’d use presentations to fulfill the requirements. However, if you wanted to complete the Shotgun merit badge, you might only be able to go to a shotgun range once or twice a month. Therefore, for the second badge, you’d want to try and complete more requirements at once!

These tips are a great starting point for organizing productive merit badge. However, it’ll take more research, communication, and planning on your end to fully flesh out how you want your merit badge meetings to be done. With that being said, let’s get into the details!

How To Hold a Successful Merit Badge Meeting: The Components

Whether you’re a scout or a merit badge counselor, there are going to be a few things you’ll want to keep in mind in order to have the best meeting possible. Following these guidelines will make completing requirements a much smoother process, and will save both scouts and counselors a ton of time and energy.

Suggestion 1: Avoid Holding Merit Badge Meetings During Troop Activities 

While it’s not against the rules to hold merit badge meetings during Troop activities, I’d strongly advise scheduling them outside of troop activities and campouts. You might think that this would be an opportune time, but here are a few reasons as to why it might not be the best idea to complete badge requirements during official troop activities: 

  1. Troop activities are times for the scout to practice group social skills, such as socializing with other scouts and building leadership skills.
    • While merit badges are important for individual development, scouts should really be focusing on building group social skills whenever they have the opportunity. 
  1. Merit badges are designed to expand on a scout’s personal interests and abilities. As such, each scout will be interested in different merit badges. 
    • If you hold a merit badge meeting during a troop activity, the scouts uninterested in the badge you’re working on will not be included in the meeting.
  1. Meetings held during troop activities can take scouts away from their patrols during important times.
    • This can also be distracting to the other scouts. and lead to poor communication within patrols.

Besides, there are plenty of other convenient times to meet with your merit badge counselor! For example, if your merit badge counselor is one of your adult leaders, you could have a merit badge meeting before or after your troop meeting. If you have free time during one of your campouts, you could also do it then!

Suggestion 2: Create a Plan, Beforehand, on How You Want to Tackle Merit Badge Requirements 

In Scouting, we learn that being prepared is of the utmost importance, and merit badge meetings are no different! As an Eagle scout who’s been to countless merit badge meetings, here are my 3 key tips to creating a merit badge meeting plan:

  1. Look at all of the requirements and rank them in terms of how difficult they are to complete. Then, write out the order that you’ll be completing the requirements in.
    • Which requirements are foundational knowledge? (learn these first)
    • Are there harder requirements that need to be done over a period of time?
    • Can I batch some of the more difficult requirements so that we can hold fewer meetings?
  1. Identify which requirements can be completed during a merit badge meeting.
    • Some requirements may not be able to be completed at merit badge meetings, such as doing a task over a long period of time, doing research on several topics, or contacting a person who is not involved in Scouts BSA (just to name a few)
    • Group together requirements that can be done at meetings and those that cannot. That way, you’ll know exactly what you need to work on outside of the merit badge meetings.
    • I used color-coded highlighters on my requirement sheets for this (Amazon affiliate link – a small percentage of sales goes to supporting Scoutsmarts, at no additional cost to you!)
  1. Think of ways you can accomplish the requirements and discuss these methods with your counselors right from the start.
    • What is the best way to accomplish the requirements, make the badge enjoyable, and learn a ton? Can it be done by having an informed discussion with your scouts/counselor, or would a presentation be more suitable? Finding the best method of completing a requirement is a really useful thing to do during your first merit badge meeting.
    • The most important thing is to learn from your merit badge experiences. Scouts and counselors should also discuss the ways that the scout learns best, beforehand.

For Scouts: Scheduling and Preparing For a Merit Badge Meeting

As a scout, you’ll be learning a ton of information on your path to completing your merit badges. This makes it even more important to stay organized and be proactive in keeping your merit badge counselor in the loop. By meeting with your badge counselor right after you learn the material, you’ll better remember the knowledge needed to complete your requirements!

While learning about a new subject for a merit badge may seem overwhelming, just remember that you don’t need to do more than what’s specified by the requirement. For instance, in earning the Citizenship in the World merit badge, you might be tempted to do a deep dive into the history of a country to learn about their politics. This isn’t necessary!

Instead, figure out what’s necessary to complete a requirement, then do exactly that! Afterward, if you’re still interested, you can do further research. As an example, let’s look at requirement #4 for the Citizenship in the World merit badge:

Citizenship in the World Requirement #4) Do TWO of the following:

  1. Explain international law and how it differs from national law. Explain the role of international law and how international law can be used as a tool for conflict resolution.
  2. Using resources such as major daily newspapers, the Internet (with your parent’s permission), and news magazines, observe a current issue that involves international trade, foreign exchange, balance of payments, tariffs, and free trade. Explain what you have learned. Include in your discussion an explanation of why countries must cooperate in order for world trade and global competition to thrive.
  3. Select TWO of the following organizations and describe their role in the world.
    1. The United Nations and UNICEF
    2. The World Court
    3. Interpol
    4. World Organization of the Scout Movement
    5. The World Health Organization
    6. Amnesty International
    7. The International Committee of the Red Cross
    8. CARE (Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere)
    9. European Union

Finished reading the requirement? Great! Now you know you need to get two of the three options done — no more, no less. My point earlier is that if you were trying to explain the difference between national and international law, it wouldn’t make sense to start researching countries at that time. Do what you need to do, first!

Also, it’s important to be sure you’ve fulfilled a merit badge’s prerequisites before starting. Click here to see my full explanation of merit badge prerequisites! Now, using Citizenship in the World requirement #4 as an example, I’ll be walking you through the steps of preparing for a merit badge counselor meeting, below:

  1. Find a registered merit badge counselor and reach out to them.
    • Only a registered merit badge counselor can sign off on your requirements, so make sure the counselor you’re going to has completed the “adult council application” to teach the badge.
    • It’s your responsibility to reach out to a merit badge counselor and set up a meeting to start, work on, or complete your merit badge.
    • Think about it this way: Unless your merit badge counseler is psycic, how would they know you need help with your badge? You need to reach out! 🙂
    • You can reach out to a counseler by talking to them in person and suggesting a later time, or by emailing/texting them your request (ask your parents for help).
  1. Give some background on what you’d like to accomplish in your merit badge meeting.
    • Are you finishing off a partial merit badge? If so, what requirements have you already done? Let your badge counselor know the answers to these questions when making your meeting request.
    • The more information your merit badge counselor has about your situation, the better they can help you complete the merit badge! 
  1. During the start of your meeting, review with your counselor the requirements you’ll be completing.
    • Before immediately demonstrating your skills and explaining the knowledge requirements you’ve earned, first clarify with your counselor the requirements you’ll be going over.
    • Since you’re given the option to choose between several requirements, speak with your merit badge counselor to see which ones may be more interesting for you to complete. 
  1. Come up with ideas on how to complete the requirements.
    • There are multiple ways to complete requirements (they’re designed to be open to interpretation!). Don’t feel like you have to stick to the traditional adult-teaches-child style!
    • For example, for Citizenship in the World requirement 4c, you could come up with a mock global catastrophe and act as the representative for two of the organizations that we listed. How would each organization respond? Would there be any conflict between the organizations? 
  1. After your first meeting with your merit badge counselor, complete the requirements, and fully understand what you’ve learned.
    • You’ll have to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the requirement’s topic, so be prepared to thoroughly explain what you’ve learned! 
    • It’s better to over-prepare than to under-prepare. Don’t give your counselor any doubts about whether you know the information! 
  2. Plan your next steps. 
    • After completing the requirements you’ve set aside for that particular meeting, identify what you’d like to work on next.
    • As a general rule of thumb, to be respectful of your counselor’s time, your merit badge meetings should be kept under a half hour (unless your counselor says it’s alright to go longer).
    • It’ll also be helpful to schedule your next merit badge meeting at the end of each one, until you’ve finally finished your badge!

And there you have it! These are the main things you’ll need to keep in mind to be prepared for your merit badge meetings. Remember to be respectful of your counselor’s time, and to come to each meeting as prepared as you can possibly be. With that, you’re now set to earn any merit badge you desire!

For Merit Badge Counselors: Conducting a Merit Badge Meeting

According to the BSA, merit badge counselors should be “both a teacher and mentor, as the Scout works on a merit badge and learns by doing.” Therefore, I’d recommend taking a “hands-off approach” by letting scouts study the requirements on their own. Later on, you’ll be able to teach them the nuances of the discipline as you review requirements, together!

Since each Scout is different, remember that it’s your job as a counselor to make sure the Scout learns in a way that is best for them. After each merit badge meeting, ideally, scouts should have a plan in place with a self-created timeline to finish off their next set of requirements.

For a closer look into how to organize and conduct a merit badge meeting, as a counselor, we’re going to use Citizenship in the World requirement #4 as an example again. Here are the steps that most merit badge counselors take to conduct a successful meeting:

  1. Make sure that you’re qualified to teach the merit badge, and that you’ve completed the official BSA counselor application with your local council.
  1. Wait for the scout to reach out to you to set up a merit badge meeting. 
    • It’s up to the scout to reach out to you and set up a time to meet. This teaches scouts to take initiative and become more organized!
    • However, if a scout needs a small nudge (especially for scouts who’ve recently joined) don’t be afraid to reach out once or twice to encourage them to work on their badges.
    • Most merit badge meetings should be shorter than half an hour, but if it’s convenient for you, you can allow the meeting to run longer. I’d recommend setting a timeline at the start of the meeting.
  1. When first meeting, review every one of the requirements with the scouts.
    • Look through the entire list of requirements together. For the Citizenship example (see the previous section in bolded italics), since the scout can choose which two requirements to complete, encourage them to choose the ones they find the most interesting.  
    • Feel free to let the scout know where your expertise lies. For example, say you know a lot about worldwide organizations due to your interest in global politics. You could let the scout know that requirement 4c might be their best option, as you’d be able to have a more detailed conversation about that topic. 
  1. Ask the scout how they plan to best accomplish the requirement. Decide on a method.
    • Have them up with several ideas on how they could fulfill the requirement.
    • The option you both decide upon should take into account your teaching strengths, the scout’s learning strength,  and the time the requirement will take to complete (e.g. don’t choose a method that’ll take months to complete unless the requirement is specifically designed that way). 
    • For example, to complete Citizenship in the World requirement 4a, you could have a scout who’s a visual learner create a Venn diagram comparing international and national law.
    • If the scout is an auditory learner, they could compare international law and national law verbally, then you both could discuss the differences and similarities, together. 
  2. Check the scout’s knowledge of the requirement after they’ve learned the information 
    • This assessment could be anything from having a simple discussion with the scout about the information, to testing their knowledge of the topic by asking questions. Go with what you think will help the scout retain the most knowledge.
    • It is hard to know when a scout has not learned enough information to complete the requirement. It’s up to you to judge whether they have a sufficient understanding of the topic.
    • If they weren’t fully prepared, reschedule the meeting for a later date and clearly explain to them what’s expected the next time around. Be charitable, but make sure the scout is fulfilling each of the badge requirements in good faith!
  3. Plan your next meeting and clearly outline next steps.
    • After completing the requirement, discuss with the scout what requirements they’ll be completing next.
    • Have them take initiative in this process by thinking up a few options.
    • Afterward, schedule a tentative date for the next meeting, and ask them to reach out to you with a reminder a few days beforehand. This will teach them to set reminders and stay organized!

With that, you should now be fully prepared to hold productive and educational meetings with scouts completing their merit badges! Did I miss anything? Do you do anything differently that you’d suggest I include in this article? I’d love to hear from you! Send me a message over at cole@scoutsmarts.com. 🙂

Conclusion 

If you organize your merit badge meetings well, you’ll spend less time figuring out what to do and more time learning and enjoying your merit badge experience! Merit badges not only offer the ability to learn about subjects that interest you, they could even lead you to possible career opportunities. That’s why it’s so important to make the most of each merit badge!

If you liked this article, you also might like my difficulty rankings for all 13 Eagle-required merit badges. Also, I’d highly recommend signing up for my newsletter, The ScoutSmarts Scribe for Scouting tips, freebies, and weekly notifications whenever I post a new article. No spam, guaranteed!

With that, I wish you the best of luck in organizing your future merit badge meetings. As we all know, being prepared is vital to success, and now you’re better prepared to have awesome and productive meetings with your merit badge counselor! Come back to ScoutSmarts soon and, until next time, best of luck on your Scouting journey. 🙂

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content for this website because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making this world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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