The Order of the Arrow has more than 160,000 active members located in lodges affiliated with over 270 BSA local councils. As of August 2018, there is now an OA lodge in every council across the United States.
Unit elections are permitted in Scouts BSA, Venturing, and Sea Scout units. The Order of the Arrow membership requirements are as follows:
- Be a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America.
- Have experienced 15 nights of Scout camping while registered with a troop, crew, or ship within the two years immediately prior to the election. The 15 nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of at least five consecutive nights of overnight camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. Only five nights of the long-term camp may be credited toward the 15-night camping requirement; the balance of the camping (10 nights) must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps of, at most, three nights each. Ship nights may be counted as camping for Sea Scouts.
- At the time of their election, youth must be under the age of 21, and hold one of the following ranks corresponding to the type unit in which they are being considered for election: Scouts BSA First Class rank, the Venturing Discovery rank, or the Sea Scout Ordinary rank or higher, and following approval by the Scoutmaster, Crew Advisor or Sea Scout Skipper, be elected by the youth members of their unit.
- Adults (age 21 or older) who meet the camping requirements may be selected following nomination to and approval by the lodge adult selection committee.
While there are three levels of membership (called "honors") in the Order of the Arrow, all members—regardless of honor—are considered equal.
The induction ceremony, called the Ordeal, is the first step toward full membership in the Order. During the experience, candidates maintain silence, receive small amounts of food, work on camp improvement projects, and sleep apart from other campers. The entire experience is designed to teach significant values. All candidates for membership must complete the Ordeal.
Candidates selected as of January 1, 2023, will have 18 months from the date of election to complete their Ordeal. Candidates selected for membership prior to January 1, 2023 continue have 24 months to seal their membership under the temporary COVID-19 membership eligibility policy.
After 6 months of service as an Ordeal member and fulfilling certain requirements, a member may take part in the Brotherhood ceremony, which places further emphasis on the ideals of Scouting and the Order. Completion of this ceremony signifies full membership in the Order.
After two years of exceptional service as a Brotherhood member, and with the approval of the national Order of the Arrow committee, a Scout or Scouter may be recognized with the Vigil Honor for their distinguished contributions to their lodge, the Order of the Arrow, Scouting, or their Scout camp. This honor is bestowed by special selection and is limited to one person for every 50 members registered with the lodge each year.
Membership News and Updates
The section below is a resource to assist lodges and chapters, and keep them informed of changes made to policies, publications and other information as it relates to membership and operations within the Order of the Arrow.
Membership Policy Change
The National Order of the Arrow Committee passed a resolution that changes their membership policies to align with changes approved by the Executive Board of the BSA. The new OA membership policy provides for OA elections in all Scouts BSA troops, Venturing Crews and Sea Scout Ships effective February 1st, 2019 and allows election of both male and female members of their units to the Order of the Arrow. The new eligibility requirements and other relevant membership policy information can be found at the top of this page.
This change in policy has resulted in numerous questions regarding how current policies and practices will be impacted at all levels within the OA. This site is intended to be the single point of reference to find answers to those questions as we navigate through this transition. Arrowmen are encouraged to visit it frequently to remain current as new information becomes available.
For supplementary information regarding the change to the Order of the Arrow membership requirements, please read this article.
Youth Protection Policy
Youth protection policies for Order of the Arrow events with female youth present are the same as with any Scouting event with female youth present and are specified in the Guide to Safe Scouting.
Recognizing the uniqueness of conducting Ordeals, guidance has been developed to assist lodges in the application of these policies in the conduct of Order of the Arrow Ordeals. This information is available here.
Youth Protection policies require that at least one registered adult female over the age of 21 be in attendance at any meeting or event in which a female youth member is present. Lodges should be working now in anticipation of this requirement to ensure provisions have been made for appropriate adult female participation to ensure female youth members are always afforded the same opportunities in the OA as their male counterparts.
Youth Leadership Opportunities
All leadership positions in the OA are open to female OA members on an equal basis with their male counterparts. All OA youth members, regardless of Scouting program source, are eligible to run for section chief. Regional and National Officers continue to be chosen from those elected as Section Chiefs.
The underlying principle which you will find applies in all circumstances is that female OA members are to be provided the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Use of Gender Neutral Terminology
In general, OA publications and ceremonies have been updated to incorporate broader use of gender neutral terminology so that all members feel equally welcome. The use of "Arrowmen," "Brother," and "Brotherhood" will continue as focus group discussions we have held with female Scouters and youth recommend we do not change the use of those terms.
Use of American Indian Clothing
Any rumors that suggest the OA is distancing itself from the use of American Indian regalia are false. What we are doing is strengthening our policies to ensure when American Indian clothing and other regalia are used that we ensure it is respectful of the American Indian cultures in our local area and of those we are emulating, particularly with respect to the introduction of female youth as ceremonialists and as dance competition participants. Guidance clarifying the use of American Indian clothing has been published and is available here.
Female Youth Participation in OA Ceremonies
Female youth members must be accorded the same opportunity as male youth members with respect to participation in OA ceremonies. The frequent question we hear is can females be chief. The short answer is there are numerous examples of female chiefs in American Indian culture and that in itself is not a limiting factor; however, we must still satisfy ourselves that we are being respectful of the cultures we are emulating. If a conflict exists that cannot be resolved, the principle of equal opportunity takes precedence and the lodge/chapter will have to shift to a format of conducting OA ceremonies in alternative authorized clothing. Currently the only authorized alternative is to conduct OA ceremonies in complete field uniform. A second option is being explored and, if approved, will be announced on this page.
Unit elections under the new membership policy are authorized beginning February 1st, 2019 when the revised membership policy took effect. Elections held in Venturing and Sea Scout ships on that date or after should be scheduled and conducted in the same manner as those held in troops. Lodges and chapters should prepare their election teams for the need for more thorough explanations of the OA since many of these Scouts may have no prior knowledge of our Order.
Youth may be eligible for election in more than one unit. To be eligible for election, the youth must normally meet the applicable requirements of the BSA program in which they are being considered (Venturing, Sea Scouts or Scouts BSA). The one exception might be in meeting the camping requirement.
There has been some confusion over what camping qualifies in meeting the membership requirement for camping. Three factors apply:
- Camping must be under the auspices of an approved BSA program.
- The decision on what specific camping meets the spirit and intent of the camping requirement rests with the unit leader of the unit in which the youth is being considered for election.
- It is preferred that camping requirements be met as part of the unit in which the youth is being considered for election (i.e., troop, crew or ship); however, extenuating circumstances may exist (e.g., in cases where a youth did not have an opportunity to meet the requirement with the unit), that make it appropriate for unit leaders to consider other BSA camping experiences (e.g., a Venturer counting camping nights completed with a troop or camping nights completed while serving as a staff member at a council camp or national high adventure base). In each case, the unit leader must satisfy themselves the spirit and intent of the requirement was met (i.e., it was indeed qualifying outdoor camping).
- The term "ship nights" refers to nights during with the individual slept overnight on their ship. The ship need not be underway during that period for the nights to qualify.
Once elected in any unit, a youth is no longer eligible for election in another unit. In the rare instance a youth was elected in a second unit because they were not yet notified of their election in another unit, the lodge will determine the unit of election based on the unit with the earliest date of election.
OA Unit Representatives
The former OA Troop Representative Program is being renamed the OA Unit Representative Program and is being expanded to allow for OA Unit Representatives in Venturing Crews and Sea Scout Ships. Clarifying guidance on this program has been published in the OA Unit Representative Support Pack.
The Unit of Excellence Award criteria is being updated to align it with the new OA Unit Representative Support Pack guidelines and was published simultaneously.
Frequently Asked Questions
This section of the site is devoted to responding to questions not specifically addressed in the information provided above. Questions can be sent to: @email.
Lodges should be taking a serious look at this issue now. If their adult female membership or engagement is inadequate to support the introduction of female youth, that should become a priority issue for the lodge and council to address.
The only requirement is that Youth Protection policies are followed that require a registered female adult, 21 year of age or older, to be present at all meetings and activities where female youth members are present. That said, we should be providing female adults the same opportunity as their male counterparts to serve in these adult leadership positions.
No, a youth member can participate in an election held by any unit in which they are determined eligible by their unit leader, regardless of whether they were qualified in another unit. As a reminder, each unit is entitled to hold only one election annually.
Once elected to the OA, you may wear the lodge flap on any authorized BSA uniform.
Youth Protection policies apply to all OA communications. As a reminder, protection of privacy must also be maintained (e.g., email should only be used for official OA communications and listings of email addresses should be protected).
Each unit election is an independent event. A member may be elected in any unit in which they are qualified by that unit leader regardless of the fact they may not have been qualified or elected in another unit. Once elected in any unit, the member is no longer eligible for election in another unit.
The current Venturing shirt has a pocket that accommodates standard OA flaps.
The crew determines its programing and hence the degree to which they emphasize rank advancement. If the youth are interested in becoming OA members, we would expect they will push the unit toward implementing the rank program. If asked, OA members should support and encourage all units to provide rank advancement and leadership opportunities for their youth.
If American Indian clothing cannot be used without offending local tribes, alternative authorized clothing will have to be used.
Yes, provided the American Indian clothing is culturally acceptable and female youth were given equal opportunity to participate as ceremony members (e.g., female youth should never be made to feel they should not participate because doing so would require the lodge to not use American Indian clothing in their ceremonies).
No. There is no need to do so.
The OA will follow whatever policy is promulgated by BSA regarding youth protection. No policy is anticipated that would single out OA youth for any special youth protection training beyond that they receive in their units.
The two programs are separate and have been providing youth leadership opportunities to their members for years. No change is anticipated.
No. Guidelines for four new dance styles appropriate for female dancers are being developed for use in OA dance competitions. Those will be the options judged for female dances in OA dance competitions.
You must have an adult female 21 years of age or old in order to conduct the meeting if a female youth member is present. Lodges/chapters must ensure adequate adult female participation is included to avoid this type circumstance from developing.
Yes. Camping that has taken place within the two years immediately prior to the election will be counted beginning February 1, 2019. This camping must have taken place while an individual was registered with the BSA as a program participant and must be while participating with a BSA Venturing Crew or Sea Scout Ship.
Yes. As long as you are under the age of 21 at the time the election is held. If you are over 21, you will need to go through the adult selection process.
Yes. We continue to work with BSA National Supply to help ensure that the current OA lodge flap shape and size will be accommodated.
No. The rank achievement must correspond with the unit in which the scout is being considered for election. In a Scouts BSA troop it is First Class or higher, in a Venturing Crew the Discovery rank or higher, and in a Sea Scout Ship the Ordinary rank or higher.
The decision on what specific camping meets the spirit and intent of the camping requirement rests with the unit leader of the unit in which the youth is being considered for election. It is preferred that camping requirements be met as part of the unit in which the youth is being considered for election (i.e., troop, crew or ship); however, extenuating circumstances may exist (e.g., in cases where a youth did not have an opportunity to meet the requirement with the unit), that make it appropriate for unit leaders to consider other BSA camping experiences (e.g., a Venturer counting camping nights completed with a troop or camping nights completed while serving as a staff member at a council camp or national high adventure base). In each case, the unit leader must satisfy themselves the spirit and intent of the requirement was met (i.e., it was indeed qualifying outdoor camping).
No. The rules for ceremonial clothing are as follows and in this order of priority:
- Female members must have the same opportunity as males (i.e., be able to perform any of the characters in the ceremony).
- There are to be no deviations from the published ceremonies. Ceremonies are to be consistently delivered in all lodges/chapters in the BSA. All Arrowmen experience the same ceremonies.
- If for any reason the above two criteria cannot be met using American Indian clothing as ceremonial clothing, the lodge/chapter should conduct their ceremonies in authorized alternative ceremonial clothing (currently only full Scout field uniforms are authorized).
- Lodges/chapters who use alternative ceremonial clothing remain authorized and are encouraged to participate in other Order of the Arrow American Indian related activities.
Ceremonial competitions held at section and national OA events should be conducted in the clothing used in lodge/chapter ceremonies in their home areas (i.e., use of authorized alternative clothing in such competitions is appropriate and will receive the same consideration as ceremonialists using American Indian clothing).