Ask anyone who attended the National Order of the Arrow Conference in 2015, and they will most likely tell you it was one of the best weeks of their life. Turn to anyone who wished to go but was unable to, and they might have a different answer. NOAC 2015 presented substantial challenges for our Order given the fact that close to 20,000 Arrowmen registered to attend a conference that could only accommodate 15,000. Lodges were asked to reduce contingent sizes to given quotas based off of registered lodge membership and contingent leaders were requested to maintain a 3 to 1 youth to adult ratio. How would these numbers be cut down? Who would get to attend the national conference? Two lodges, Unali’yi Lodge, based out of Charleston, SC, and Colonneh Lodge, based out of Houston, TX, stepped up to the plate and developed creative solutions to that tough question.

Alex Jernigan, who was the lodge chief for Unali’yi Lodge in 2015 and is a Vigil Honor member, shared how his lodge selected its youth members with priority on preserving the future of the lodge. The first group of youth selected to attend was the sitting lodge executive committee, comprised of the lodge chief and other officers. The lodge officers and committee chairman are often the core of the lodge program and it’s important for the key lodge leadership to attend to learn about their role while soliciting ideas to help make the lodge better. Alex’s thought was that these youth would benefit the most from attending the event with leadership training and character development, and this would serve the most immediate benefit to the lodge. 

Next, Alex and his lodge chose to take the Arrowmen that had demonstrated the commitment and passion to become the next lodge leaders. Learning opportunities at an event like NOAC are plentiful and would provide a great way to keep these excited Scouts energized. Clint Takeshita, the vice chairman for national events on the National Order of the Arrow Committee, commented on why lodges should consider bringing seasoned Arrowman: “Learning is a continuous process and every opportunity to expose your leaders to formal training and to experience the OA outside of the council should be leveraged.  There’s no better opportunity for that than NOAC.”  Finally, the rest of the youth spots were filled with newer Ordeal members who possessed great excitement for the organization and, although perhaps were not yet leaders, would be critical for the sustainability of the lodge.  Takeshita mentioned that it is important to bring new Arrowmen, “It never fails that in every new group of Ordeal members, there are always a handful of Scouts who take a particular interest in the OA.  While they may not yet have a formal role, they attend events and are most likely future lodge leaders.  It’s important for a lodge to maintain a steady stream of  youth leadership and these active new Arrowmen should be identified and encouraged to attend.  Allowing these enthusiastic Arrowmen to see the scope of the OA at the national level can be an eye-opening and even a life-changing experience for them!” Although NOAC 2018 will be different in magnitude and scope than that of previous years, lodges are encouraged to consider this example and possible similar ideals in the selection of their youth contingent members.

The process for selecting adult contingent members was somewhat more trying during NOAC 2015, but then Colonneh Lodge Adviser Andy Chapman was able to navigate this problem with his methodology on achieving these aims the fairest way possible. “To resolve the issue, I recruited an adult selection committee made up of the lodge contingent leader and four other adults not going with the contingent,” Chapman explained. “Those five adults on the committee voted and determined who was selected to go.” Criteria for the selection was decided on and applications were distributed to the interested adult members of the lodge. After different levels of review including meetings with the lodge adviser and council Scout executive, Colonneh Lodge had a fair, complete list of adult contingent members. “The committee’s two goals were, first and foremost, put together an adult contingent that will lead to the best possible experience for the youth,” Chapman said. “Secondly, include the adults that will have the greatest positive impact on the lodge in the future.” To see more on this process, including a sample application from the adult committee, please read this article

The two processes listed above are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor do they apply to every lodge. In preparation for NOAC 2018, lodges are encouraged to consider these methods and how best they can adapt them to their lodge’s needs. Lodges are encouraged to share their best practices with other lodges on how they are building their NOAC 2018 contingent. 

See also:

Gertin, Forrest, and Stephens, Donnie. “Centennial Update: Colonneh Lodge Creates Committee to Select Adult NOAC Participants.” Order of the Arrow, BSA. Boy Scouts of America, 26 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 July 2017.