This week, Advertiser content editor Craig Borland reflects on the challenge facing the Boys' Brigade in Helensburgh after it issued an appeal for new adult leaders.

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The Boys’ Brigade is a very different animal now to the one it was when I was part of it as a youngster.

I went to my local group, or ‘company’, regularly until I was about 13, when it was wound up after reaching the stage where you only needed the fingers of one hand to count the number of boys attending – and by which time, in the case of my group at least, the old staples of marching, discipline and working towards badges had fallen by the wayside, and our weekly Friday night gatherings were more about games, five-a-side football and a general catch-up on the last seven days.

(Should any of my old officers happen to be reading this, I'll say that that is not a criticism: I always looked forward to 'BB night', though not quite as much as I looked forward to the prospect of a bag of chips on the way home.)

Today’s BB is much more interactive than ‘my’ version was in the early 1990s. Its website describes ‘programme activities’, engagement with communities, leadership training and even the prospect of volunteering abroad, none of which I can remember from my own experience.

That doesn’t mean the BB of 2020 doesn’t face challenges, though. And as we report this week, the challenge in Helensburgh is – or at least will be, once lockdown restrictions are eased – not a lack of boys, but a lack of adult leaders.

READ MORE: 'It may not be possible to continue': Boys' Brigade in Helensburgh needs new adult leaders

The BB in Helensburgh is far from the first to have faced that problem – and it won’t be the last. Youth clubs, adult interest groups, even officially constituted bodies like community councils, regularly find that when those who have served for years, or even decades, decide they have had enough and want to take things a little easier, the group – whatever it might be – just ceases to function, because no-one else wants the responsibility.

In the case of adults working with young people, I can understand why that might be so, at least to a degree, because becoming an adult leader is a very different prospect now to what it was in my days in the BB.

The paperwork that must be completed, and the boxes that must be ticked, before the green light is given to a new adult helper as a fit and proper person to work with children, is frequently fearsome and, to many, off-putting.

READ MORE: Top honour for two Helensburgh BB members at annual presentation night

But that paperwork – derided though it may be by lazy thinkers who see only another example of ‘health and safety gone mad’ – is all there for a very good reason, as a moment's careful thought will attest, and anyone who seriously has the wellbeing and welfare of young people at heart shouldn’t be put off by it for a second.

I sincerely hope the BB’s appeal for new adult leaders in Helensburgh will bear fruit, and that the organisation – and every other group which exists to provide opportunities for young people – will be part of the Helensburgh scene for a long time to come.

Adults who really should know better have always found it easy to sit on their backsides and moan about “kids these days”.

But you only get out of any enterprise what you put into it, and while it may be much harder to actually get up and do something, it's also much more useful, and rewarding, to mould the children of today into the adults we’d all like to see at the heart of our communities 20 or 30 years from now.

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