You’re feeling good about checking items off your troop leader to-do list: you’ve taken your volunteer trainings, opened a troop bank account, and reached out to some local experts as potential activity partners.
But one more important task needs addressing ahead of your first troop meeting: figuring out how you’re actually going to conduct the meeting. What should you say? What should you do first? And, for that matter, what will you have time to accomplish?
Though you might have already found suggested meeting agendas and activities in the Volunteer Toolkit, you’ll want to reference these tried-and-true tips from our volunteer experts to make your first meeting a success!
Formally open the meeting.
Introduce a well-loved Girl Scout tradition as you open your first meeting! Many troop leaders start their meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Girl Scout Promise and Law, or favorite songs.
“We began that first meeting, as we have every meeting since, with a friendship circle,” says Denise Montgomery of Girl Scouts San Diego. “We introduced ourselves and said how excited we were to be the girls' troop leaders and how much we look forward to all of the wonderful things we would be doing together.”
And if you've captured the undivided attention of your younger girls, use it to your advantage! “My recommendation would be to teach the Girl Scout quiet sign and the ‘I'm a Girl Scout Daisy’ or ‘Brownie Smile Song,’ so when the girls get restless you can stop and sing the song,” shares Julie Fuqua, a troop leader from Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska.
Kick off with a fun activity.
The sky is the limit here! Depending on your girls’ ages, be ready with a fun ice breaker, game, discussion prompt, or hands-on activity. “We told the girls that we had our very own troop number, and together we created a banner for our troop where every girl made something and was represented on the banner, so our activity was hands-on and had a theme of belonging,” remembers Denise.
Show your girls what sisterhood means.
Fostering a spirit of community, whether your girls all know one another or are meeting for the first time, will set the tone for the rest of the year. “Our first troop meeting included several Daisies, and part of our discussion centered around how we are all Girl Scout sisters and how we should be kind to each other,” says Cheryl Lentsch of Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. “Games and introductions, along with a few gentle reminders, helped the girls understand and remember how to show courtesy. This also helped me learn more about the girls’ personalities.”
"I think one of the most important things we discussed with our Daisies was that this troop was a special place for the girls to be friends, be together, help each other, and grow together,” says Silvia La Falce of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. “That while we met at school and right after school, this was not school; that we were going to learn new things and try new things together, but without grades and in a nonjudgmental way.”
Explain what it means to be girl-led.
Feeling heard is empowering, and your girls’ confidence will skyrocket as they learn to speak up and take ownership of their decisions. No matter their ages, it’s up to you to let your girls know that their voices matter!
“I started with first-year Brownies, so when talking to them about what girl-led means, I made sure to let each of them know that she has a voice in what we do as a troop,” explains Jenni Carner from Girl Scouts of Western Ohio. "I let them know it was majority rules, and if something wasn't their choice, there would be other opportunities to choose.”
“Girls at any age know what it means to make their own decisions,” advises Kat Schukneckt of Girl Scouts Wisconsin Badgerland. “Daisies love knowing that they get to decide what fun activities the troop will do during the year. Brownies can begin to decide which badges they’ll earn. Juniors can choose which badges they’re going to lead the troop in earning and how they’ll spend and save the troop money. Cadettes and above can decide on future trips and activities. Every grade level loves knowing that they’re in charge of the troop and the leaders are there to help them along.”
What do your girls want to explore or learn about this year? Most troop leaders use this first meeting to get a sense of their girls’ interests and share the possibilities for the year ahead. How much of the hands-on planning your girls will do depends on their ages, but encourage all of them to voice their opinions, and let them know you’re open to their ideas!
Be flexible and have fun!
Let's be real: nothing ever goes according to plan when you have a troop of go-getters, so be ready to roll with the changes! “As the meetings went on, I learned to be more flexible, because little girls do not understand that we have 10 minutes for our snack,” says Maranda Oliver of Girl Scouts Wisconsin Badgerland. “They are on their time, so I always brought [coloring books] so they could still talk and be entertained while everyone finished.”
“You want the girls to be comfortable with you and have fun, but you still want to maintain control of the meeting,” advises Lara Cordeiro of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio. “Have some practical things that you really want to do, but if it doesn't seem to be working out, cut them short and shelve some of the ‘boring’ stuff for later or even for the next meeting.”