Outline: Running a Court of Honor

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A Boy Scout Court of Honor is typically a big deal because it's a time to recognize all the work each Scout and the Troop has done over the past few months, including merit badges, rank advancement, and trips--like camping or hikes--all in front of the Scout's families. Plus, there's usually a meal or snack. Unfortunately, a COH can easily become an overwhelming planning task, lose focus, run too long, and otherwise become less fun.

I've participated in a number of Court of Honor's during my Scouting career and would like to think I have some good ideas about how to run them. What follows is a rough outline of the process I like to follow to put one together.

Planning

Of course, the planning part is always the most work! The key is sharing responsibilities.

  • Having a snack or meal at the Court of Honor is a good way to increase attendance and give everybody some opportunity to talk before all the awards are presented. Approach the Committee Chairmain to task a Committee Member(s) to coordinate the food stuff. It's not difficult: assign different patrols different items ("Bear brings main dishes, Antelope brings desserts," etc). Make sure to have drinks, napkins and utensils, too!
  • Be sure to invite everyone. Obviously, the Scouts and parents, but also be sure to invite your Charter Representative. If you meet in a church, invite the Pastor/Father. Past Scoutmasters always like to be invited, too.
  • Plan an opening, closing and entertainment. At a Patrol Leader's Council meeting, let the Scouts know that they need to help plan the Court of Honor. I like to assign one patrol the responsibility of coming up with an opening, another patrol the closing, and the remaining patrols entertainment.
    • The opening ceremony should be special; something more than what goes on at an ordinary Troop meeting. This can be as simple as the Scouts walking in from the back with the flags, to something more elaborate like an actual flag-raising ceremony complete with a bugler in the background (which went over very well, by the way).
      • For the flag raising we built a flagpole. It was simple: a long (14 foot?) hardwood dowel--typically used in closets to hang clothes on--was purchased, along with a pulley and a little rope. The pulley was screwed into the end of the dowel, which fit into our normal flag stands.
      • When planning the opening, be sure the Scouts include the Pledge of Allegiance, Scout Oath, and Scout Law. The Outdoor Code would also be a good thing to include. There should be someone to lead everybody through this--probably the Senior Patrol Leader--but the Patrol that plans this should choose: maybe their entire patrol wants to lead it. Make sure they invite everyone to stand for the Pledge, and thank everyone for coming.
    • The closing ceremony is done much the same as the opening. If you're doing a flag raising at the opening, lowering the flag at the closing would make the most sense. An easy option is something like Scout Vespers. Again, the planning Patrol gets to choose, including who leads it.
      • Scout Vespers (sing to tune of "Oh Christmas Tree")
        Softly falls the light of day,
        As our campfire fades away.
        Silently each Scout should ask,
        "Have I done my daily task?
        Have I kept my honor bright?
        Can I guiltless sleep tonight?
        Have I done and have I dared,
        Everything to be Prepared?"
    • I think it's important to plan some entertainment for during the meal. It gives everyone a way to be involved and helps to keep the focus on the idea that this is a Scout event and a big deal, not just some dinner. The patrol responsible will probably immediately come up with two ideas: songs and skits. I would also suggest stories (something from Scouting Stories, perhaps) and jokes.
  • Lastly, I think a rank advancement ceremony is important, as it lets you specifically recognize the Scouts who have advanced and their parents--after all, it really is the focus of what the whole night is about. I've created some rank advancement ceremonies you can use. I like to try and involve the other adults who have helped the Scouts reach a new rank.

Of course, there are other things that need to be taken care of: getting the necessary patches being the most important of them!

Execution

  • Opening ceremony
  • Eat!
    • Be sure to say a prayer before starting. Philmont Grace is an excellent choice.
      • Philmont Grace
        For food, for raiment
        For life, for opportunity
        For friendship and fellowship
        We thank thee, O Lord.
    • Don't forget the entertainment.
  • Recognition and Awards--this is where the Scoutmaster steps in to get things rolling
    • Be sure to thank the Committee Member(s) for organizing the food, and everyone else for coming.
    • Briefly, explain that the Troop has done a lot and Scouts have worked hard, and everyone is here to recognize them. Judiciously use your Assistant Scoutmasters to make this move along as fast as possible. You've probably got a lot of stuff to hand out, and it gets boring quickly for the Scout/parent/sibling who has to sit there and wait for his one patch.
      • Start with event and participation patches and recognition. For example, you probably received patches from the Fall Camporee--hand them out now. If someone other than the Scoutmaster ran these events, have them come up to read the names of the Scouts who went and mention when it was (but they really don't have to detail the trip at all). Another Assistant Scoutmaster should be handing the patches out. Give Patrol participation ribbons to the Patrol Leaders and Troop participation ribbons to the Senior Patrol Leader.
      • Next, move on to merit badges. The Scoutmaster should briefly explain that these are required to advance at the higher ranks, and that the silver border is for required ones. Also briefly talk about how the Scouts get to do them: sign up at Troop meetings, contact the counselor, etc. Basically, you want the parents to know how their son can do these if he isn't.
        • Before the meeting, sort all the merit badges into piles of who gets what and put them in a ziplock bag along with a little paper naming the badges. That way, when you call a Scout up you can say "John earned Cycling, Camping, Pioneering and Family Living" and move on to the next Scout. Have an Assistant Scoutmaster there to hand the Scoutmaster the next bag of merit badges. This is much faster than calling Scouts up one at a time for one merit badge at a time.
          • Also be sure to sort the bags by the number of patches. Call the Scout who only earned one merit badge first, then work your way up to those who earned 3 or 5 or more.
      • Lastly, rank advancement. Again, briefly discuss rank advancement, when the Scouts work on it, and the amount of effort that goes into it. Be sure to start with the Scout rank and work up to Life. I think it's good to include the parents in this. Assistant Scoutmasters should be at the front to shake the Scout's hand, and perhaps play a part in the ceremony, too.
    • There's probably already been a lot of clapping, but be sure to mention that all the Scouts deserve a round of applause for all their hard work, and that even though some Scouts didn't advance rank they've still been working hard on it.
  • Turn the meeting over to the patrol in charge of the closing ceremony. Be sure to thank everyone for coming, and the committee and adults for all the time they put into the Troop. Ask for help cleaning up, too.

In many ways this is a rather simplistic view of all the work that needs to go into a Court of Honor. This outline can still help you to organize and create a smoothly-run COH. You're welcome to pass along any tips you have, too--just leave a comment.

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Older Comments (35)

Dan & Sherree & Patrick currently uses Facebook for comments. Older comments are still here for readers, though. Read old comments »

WOW! This is a really cool website. The site has a lot of useful info, an awesome layout to easily nagivate through, plus a terrific stone design. Keep up the good work!

P.S.~ The outline for the Court of Honor was really thorough and succinct. Awesome!

Good work on the site. Helped me out doing my COH for Eagle, got me started on the right path.

Thanks,
Dan Santoro

Thank You!!!!!
I am a new Scoutmaster of a small, but growing troop. This info was a trmendous help. I am sure our upcoming Court of Honor will be a very special event.

Mark Goff
Assistant Scoutmaster
Troop 147 LaCrosse, KS

THIS IS GREAT!! I'm also a new Scoutmaster of a small, but growing troop. This was definitely helpful. Our past COHs were candlelit Troop Meetings with cookies at best.

Now that we're advancing some to First Class (and all other ranks below for younger scouts), I wanted to up-the-anty on these and this IS what I'll be doing as it's set up to be special from the start.

Thanks!
Joe Malanio
Scoutmaster Troop 76
Shohola PA

Great site, Great Info ... would be great to see a "printer friendly" button

Thank you for walking me thru the Court of Honor procedure. I want this to be differnt thatn what we have had in the past. Also, I have just been called to this duty by my church. It is a bit overwhelming and you have helped me. Keep up the posting and share ideas. Please!!

Great outline and information. After having run a dozen court of honors it is getting hard to come up with new ideas.

Wow this really helped me prepare for the COH I had to do for Communications. Thank You.

I glanced over your site. Nice. I will really check it out when I have more time. I am looking for the PROPER way to do a flag ceremony for Girls Camp. It is really important to me that they know how to do it correctly. Can you suggest where I look for it?
Thanks you,
Nancy

I read your ideas just before going to a COH tonight and I just got home. I'm an OLD grandpa and former scout master with fading memory. Your site helped me appreciate the evening. Thank you.

What can i say,thanks alot. I'm the new troop SPL and was unsure how to exacute and plan the CoH but this web site helped alot. Thanks again

I am also a new troop SPL and I have the task of planning a troop COH for the Communications merit badge. This site helped a lot for planning a new and different COH. Thanks again!

thanks great info our last coh was a little dry tomorrows will be better! asm troop 108 mabelvale ar.

This site is really well organized! Thank you for taking the time to put your ceremonies in writing, this helps everyone!

Lori Olson
ASM Troop 332 Wildomar, CA.

Great site for info. I appreciate it all. I am an Eagle scout and I have four other brothers who are Eagle scouts. Boy Scouts was a huge part of our lives, I guess I never realized all the extras our scouts leaders did to keep the meetings running smoothly. I now appreciate it more. Thanks for the hints.

I am a first time spl for my troop, my new scoutmaster took over just before i became spl. My scoutmaster wants me to set up a coh for meritbadges only... and my troop has never really been formal in showing ranks and badges, we only do eagle ceremonies, so this is the first coh we have done in years, he wants me to plan it. i found this outline very useful.

Great Website I just took my Troop Woodbage part I. I'm looking forward to using these materials in my Troop with thier CoH

Thanks
YIS
Steve

We have been invited to a Court of Honor honoring a friend's son. Do we need to take a gift?

No.

thanks that will help me organize the next court of honor and get my next rank advansment to tenderfoot

Hi I am from Troop 331 Thanks a lot this helped me plan the Court of Honor

This website is a very good source of help, thanks to its simple design. I have to plan my first opening for a COH on a short 6 day warning. I also have to plan with 2 other people who can be frustrating at times. =S Wish me luck please.

Thanks so much for all the great information! Our troop has never done a CoH ceremony. You just made my job a lot easier! Thanks again from SM Cathy Oryszak Troop 88 Mineral City, OH

really helpful but i think it wouldve been easier to read in a outline format instead of a bullet format

I really like the info that I read here. I was looking for some last minute help and I think I found it.

Thanks for the ideas. It helped as we were getting our BSA 100th Celebration Dinner/COH agenda together -- Mark Dau, Committee Chairman, Troop 121, Clinton, NJ

Wow thanks this is Just what I needed to find. Being the SPL of a brand new troop and having 5 years of scouting behind me. I was put incharge of This court of honor at the end of this month. WIth this I can easly run this without worrying about freezeing up and doing everything randomly! THANK YOU FOR THE GREAT INFO!

Jason Sellers
Current SPL of troop 376 Van Texas
Former Patrol leader and Historyen of Troop 854 Canton Mi.

Thank you so much for your info! I am a new Scoutmaster and I am trying to learn how to do alot of things with scouting. and this really helped me in planning a court of honor

Thank you very much for info. I am doing my first Court of Honor tomorrow and was wanting to find a website just like this. I have only been a Scoutmaster for 8 months so I am excited and nervous.

What is appropriate guest attire for a COH and what is an appropriate gift if there is only one person being honored at the COH

Thanks for the information. I am wondering about calling an Eagles Nest at a COH, should that be done at every COH? Or just at and Eagle COH? thanks

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