Labor Day has come and gone, the State Fair doled out its last cheese curds and fried pickles, and kids are brushing off their notebooks and pencils as they head back to school. Sorry, folks, but summer’s over. But despair not, because the wane of these hot months also signifies the beginning of something else awesome—another Girl Scout year! Here at Girl Scouts River Valleys, we’re in the thick of back-to-troop season. Whether this is your first year leading, or your twentieth, we recommend holding a family meeting to kick off the year. Read on for reasons why you should hold a family meeting, and some tips on running one.
The What & Why of Family Meetings
So, what’s a family meeting and why do you need to have one? A family meeting is a chance for you to meet and connect with your girls’ families. As we’ve discussed many times before, conflict most often stems from lack of communication or miscommunication. Setting up expectations for girls and families from the very beginning ensures that everyone’s on the same page and makes a smoother year overall. If you’ve recently opened your troop to additional girls, now is also a great time to get to know your new families and introduce them to the rest of the troop.
What Should You Talk About?
- Troop meetings (a.k.a., the nitty gritty of scheduling and calendars). For returning troops, confirm if the troop meeting times, dates, and location still work for your families. Just because you’ve met on Tuesday evenings in the school library for the past five years doesn’t mean you have to be locked into those details forever. Figure out what works best for you, your girls, and your families for this upcoming year. For new troops, decide on the frequency, duration, and location of your troop meetings.
- Troop funds. For returning troops, share a financial update—how does the troop bank account look? Do you anticipate needing to ask for troop dues this year or did your girls sell enough snacks, magazines, and cookies to cover expected expenses? Are there any big-ticket items (like a special field trip or council event) on the horizon that parents and guardians should be aware of? For new troops, it’s common to ask for troop dues to help offset initial costs for things like uniforms, books, and extra supplies. Let your families know that financial assistance is available for those who need it.
- Communications. For all troops, confirm how you’ll be sending out important information and updates to families. Some troops send group texts through apps like GroupMe, Slack, or WhatsApp, while others stick to email or a private Facebook group. The Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) also has an option to generate customized emails to families. Whichever option you pick, make sure that families know that it’s their responsibility to read through all correspondence from you and to respond when necessary.
- Ask for support. Take the time to remind families that you need their help and talents to ensure the success of the troop—plus it’s also fun! As you plan out your year, request volunteers to assist with specific tasks, meetings, or events. (We have some tips and a handout on asking for troop volunteers.) Create a sign-up list, then plug in who’s responsible for what and when in a shared calendar or in VTK.
If you need a few additional pointers on conducting your family meeting, be sure to check out this handy article. We hope your family meeting also builds excitement and energy for the amazing Girl Scout year ahead. Dream big and challenge yourselves—what new adventures will your troop embark on? We can’t wait to hear about them!
Lily Yu – Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time by leading her daughter’s Daisy troop (who’s more excited to work on petals and Journeys—it could go either way!). In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family.