Espirit de corp. A strong sense of acceptance and belonging. Commitment to the ideals of the group and the other members. These are some ways of describing a sense of Company spirit.
Practically this will be seen more on a Section level. But once established, Boys should be encouraged to also value the other Sections of the Company, and then the wider BB family.
Your local BB Company should be where Boys feel they are cared for and encouraged to care for others – to catch a glimpse of what true Christian love is about. Your BB Company is not just an educational and recreational program for the Boys – but a team (that they are a valued member of) with ideals and activities that should be celebrated.
The success of a BB Company should be largely seen in how much the Boys value it. A Boy will often only value a group, if it values him first.
Think about each Boy in your Company (Section). What would their answers be to:
- Is there a sense of team or family here? How do I see that?
- Am I a part of this team without trying too hard to fit in? I know what is acceptable and valued behaviour within the Company?
- Do leaders and other Boys care or notice if I am here? How do I see that? How do I see leaders and other Boys caring and noticing others?
- Is my participation in the program and in the activities noticed? Valued? How do I see that? How do I see others valued for their participation?
- Are there opportunities for others to recognise my abilities and achievements? For me to discover new abilities and achievements?
- Do they appreciate me, even if I am not very successful in whatever activity or task assigned? How do I see that? How do I see that with others?
- Does the program and the people involved encourage me to grow and develop further, to be more positive and prosocial, to celebrate myself, others and life?
- My opinions of the group and the program count to the leaders and others?
- My efforts can make a positive and useful contribution to the smooth operation or success of the Company?
- I feel good when my team succeeds, has good fortune or grows?
- I can see the benefits for myself and my friends of being involved with the Company?
No matter how great your program is, in terms of activities, Boys are likely to be distracted occasionally by outside events (eg family commitments, extra-curricular school activities, friends parties, holidays, sporting events, concerts, outside BB friends, etc). This should not be a great concern to any Company who has established strong relationships with those Boys. The answer many Boys that are committed to BB will say as to why they enjoy BB is “I have great friends here.”
Building Company Spirit
1. Build relationships
The first step to building Company Spirit is to place an emphasis on the relationships between leaders and boys; and boys and boys. Sure Boys will judge a program also on the quality of the program, but the relationships are very important for both Junior and Senior Section.
Leader & Boy
Spend time with the Boy: Often outside the Parade Night is the most effective way. Visiting him at his home (with prior notice to parents) and seeing his room is highly significant for him. Outings and camps are excellent. Involvement in activities and games (but not dominating or surpassing the Boys in games). Squad outings.
Be approachable: During times in the Parade Night when their attention isn’t required elsewhere. Ask them questions about their week, what they are currently interested in, favourite things, what they are looking forward to…
Ask about hesitancies & absences: If they are hesitant about something, ask them about it? If they are absent, ask them about what caused it?
Encourage them to get involved in all things BB.
Remind them that you are there for them.
Be a positive example and encourage standards.
Boy & Boy
Encourage Squad/group team spirit: Hold inter-Squad competitions. Highlight and reward positive interactions. Run activities that highlight different gifts and strengths, that involve cooperation, and encourage people be silly sensibly (break down masks kids have). Have compulsory Squad/ group outings (maybe twice a year) – where the Boys have some / total control (within reason) over what they want to do – eg video nights, sleep-overs, attending the footy, go-karting, cycling outings.
Encourage friendships in and out of Brigade: Run activities that involve grouping (determined by you) of people. Encourage visitations, and follow up phone calls, letters and cards by NCOs. Promote interest groups within Brigade that bring together people of similar tastes – Music listening club, cycling / skating group, computer group, band (musical instrument players), chess, reading club, etc.
2. Give a vision for Brigade
You then have to give them a vision for Brigade: why should they be excited about BB?
- Why should they be proud of being a part of Brigade? Why should they value the elements of the BB method? How are they rewarded for showing interest in these areas?
- Why should they be proud of being involved with your local group?
- Tapping into their interests: Find out what Boys are or could be interested in and consider how that interest may be used for Brigade (eg musical instrument playing, computer skills) or how that interest could be pursued in Brigade. Inspire them about the opportunities Brigade offers to pursue whatever interests they have.
- Show them how their opinions count. Taking surveys, inviting them to put comments in a suggestion box, asking them directly or through the NCOs about different things, reporting results back to the Boys (so they feel their opinions are acknowledged), making a big deal about new ideas implemented that were proposed by Boys (even if an Officer thought of it first).
- Set Company goals: Set some goals as to where you want the Company to be in by the end of the year and also in a couple of years. Invite Boys to comment or add to those goals. Make the goals realistic. And make them goals that the Boys could feel were important too. Keep Boys updated as to progress towards any goals. For ambitious plans – set them for more long term (3-5 years). Never be afraid of growing your Company more – don’t limit God because of your lack of faith in your own resources.
- Convince them that their involvement counts: If you are unable to find out their efforts contribute to the achievement of the vision, let them know how much you value their companionship in the progress towards the vision and just the enjoyment their participation.
- Inform them of the personal gains of involvement and the achievement of the goals: the new experiences, the fun times, the benefits of achievement of the goals, the lessons learnt in the process, the lack of substance of alternatives, the sense of achievement, etc.
3. Reward efforts and achievements
There should be a number of awards recognising boys who put efforts in as well as those that actually achieve particular things. These should all be considered a big deal.
Some awards are:
- Best Boy for a Section
- Best Boy within certain age groups – in particular for each of the first year of a Section; and Juniors in Senior Section.
- Encouragement Award – you can have a number of categories of these – most improved, most enthusiastic, most involved, most encouraging to others, etc.
- Best recruiter for a Section – the boy that manages to get the highest number of boys to join the Section or made the most effort to do so.
- Best fundraiser.
- Best Squad / Group / Team – Usually based on the average scores of the group members for the Best Boy Competition. Other Group competitions may deserve a separate prize or award – eg Squad drill, inter-Squad challenge competition.
- For Anchor Boys and No. 1 Section you may try to award each Boy with an award of a positive aspect of them that you noticed throughout the year – eg friendliest award, soccer award, fastest boy award, singer award (however try to avoid the usual ‘quiet achiever award’ for the shy ones).
- Other awards dealing with different aspects of the program or the Company or Section – best memory verse memoriser, etc.
- The Junior Section Achievement & Senior Section Award Scheme – Don’t forget about commenting on Boys efforts in working towards and achieving these awards.
- Promotions – Appointing boys to leadership positions like ‘Leading Boys’ and ‘NCOs’ should be celebrated and highlighted.
For awards it is usually best to have a mid-year, second-half of the year, and an overall year award. Think about trophies, plaques and certificates (most newsagents and stationery shops have really nice paper you can make certificates out of – actually present it in a frame to make it even more special). For overall year awards think about having perpetual trophies and plaques – this helps set a sense of history as well as celebrates past (and indirectly future successes). For Anchor Boys and No. 1 Section you might want to even consider small intermediate prizes for the different terms.
Some awards may suit a prize or reward instead of a physical award – Bibles and other devotional materials, chocolates (the 750g and 1kg blocks of chocolate are great), dinners, outings, etc.
In addition to the trophies, certificates and rewards – you should also consider giving appropriate devotional or other Christian related things (a great way to encourage Boys to pursue looking more into Christian issues or growth – look at the children’s and youth sections in Christian bookshops for ideas) to supplement whatever awards you are presenting.
Don’t undervalue the benefits of just saying positive things to Boys during the course of the Parade Night program and other Brigade events. Boys will notice and pick up on continuous attention by the leaders to what they are doing, as well as the notice of just who they are. After all you’ll notice the Boys realising this is a way of relating in BB and are likely to do more themselves.
Obviously you have to modify comments you say to suit you personally, but the following are suggestions: “Good effort. Great try. Looks like you put a lot of work into this. That was really nice how you encouraged him in that. You’ve still got a good chance for the Best Boy competition.”
4. Highlight the Company’s history and present
If you don’t know your Company’s history, find out more about it. Make a point of celebrating it’s age, past Boys involved, past Queen’s men, past achievements, notable historical points, etc. Look through your Company records. Your Church records may also provide more information. The State Office also has some information on each Company – you are welcome to always send information to the State related to your Company to add to your Company’s archive with the State.
Some Companies may even want to set up a temporary or permanent display highlighting various points of the Companies history within their church. A website is another place where historical detail can be accessed and viewed. This may include an honour board for Queen’s Men, Duke of Edinburgh Award Achievers, Officers, NCOs, Boys that have graduated from BB (went through Senior Section), Leadership attendees, etc.
Highlight the BB service of your current leaders and NCOs, especially their long term commitment to it.
Develop mechanisms that highlight being part of or promoting the Company – Company clothing items (t-shirts, tops, shorts, caps, cloth badges, competition singlets, bandanas); Company flags and banners (even if the Boys construct these from cloth from a fabric store, spray or fabric paint or permanent markers, and a broom handle); Company handshakes (usually incorporating the BB handshake); Company chants and songs; and Company mascots.
Opportunities where boys can celebrate, highlight or promote their involvement in the Company should also be pursued – eg church parades; special segments in normal church services promoting BB; running occasional displays in and out of the church setting highlighting achievements or aspects of the program of the church; and inter-Company activities and competitions. Yearbooks, newsletter and videos of BB events can also reinforce the Boys positive memories of being involved with the Company.
All these convey to the Boy how much BB can or is a positive part of their life.