Chapter 4 – Acclimating the Newcomer: Getting the Newcomer Involved
The purpose of orientation is to welcome newcomers to the SCA, the Kingdom and your local group, and provides them with the BASIC and practical information needed to get started in the SCA.
a. Frequency – If you are fortunate to have a fairly large number of newcomers, it may be an idea to have monthly newcomers’ meetings. If not, conduct them as needed.
b. Location – A central location within your local group is best. As an alternative, you may want to see where the majority of your newcomers live and adjust the location accordingly. Some groups prefer to have meetings at the home of a member, while others prefer a neutral location such as a community centre, church hall, library, scout hall, uni lecture room.
c. Context – Depending on your group culture, you can conduct newcomers’ meetings / orientation sessions in a variety of contexts. Some groups prefer to simply have straight forward newcomers’ meetings, while others prefer to make it more of a social engagement, such as a BBQ (byo).
d. Content – Remember, you want to make your newcomers feel welcome, provide them with practical information that will enable them to get started and answer any questions they may have. Be careful not to overwhelm them with too much information. Below is a suggested outline for the format of an “orientation session”.
- Introduction / Welcome – Welcome the Newcomers and other attendees, state your objective for he gathering and ask Officers etc., to introduce themselves (mundane name & SCA name) and give a brief explanation of what their role is. Be sure to explain that the session / meeting is intended to provide them (newcomers) with information for “getting started”. It is not designed to provide them with everything they will need to know about the SCA, as it will be easier if they assimilate the bulk of that information gradually over time.
- An overview of the SCA and your local Group – Who we are and what we do
- Information on how to get started(a) Attending their first event(b) Garb and loaner gear(c) Heraldry and persona development(d) Overview of the Arts & Sciences(e) Overflow of Martial activities
(f) Courtesy and forms of address
- Question and answer session
- Orientation Evaluation – Ask each newcomer to fill out an orientation feedback form. It is important that you find out what your newcomers want from their association with the SCA. In this way, you can better meet their future needs and along the way, improve the quality of future sessions.
e. Who should attend? – In addition to the newcomers, some groups invite all members to attend, while others prefer to limit the attendance to newcomers, officers and selected presenters. In order to make your newcomers’ meeting go more smoothly, be sure to let your members know what the format is ahead of time; solicit “presenters” well in advance and make sure they know what they are expected to cover. Additionally, you may want to remind the members of your group to engage the newcomers in conversation at appropriate times during the meeting.
2. Helping Newcomers attend their first event – Some newcomers are a bit apprehensive about attending their first event . . . especially alone. Since you probably won’t be able to attend every event, ask for volunteers to either accompany, or if that is not feasible, to meet the newcomers at the door (feast) or watch out for them at a tourney. Be sure your volunteers understand what is expected of them . . . if possible, your volunteers should keep the newcomer company and explain the various activities during the event, sit with them at a feast and introduce them to other members.
3. Continuing Education & Involvement
a. Regular A&S Classes – Ask your local artisans to conduct “beginners classes’ several times a year on a variety of subjects. Beginner sewing classes are especially popular with newcomers.
b. Martial Activities – Encourage interested newcomers to attend regular archery or fighter training. Ask your local Knight Marshal or Archery Captain to coach the newcomer, or recommend someone else who can.
c. A Helping Hand where needed – Other clubs, civic organisation, etc., have long recognised the need to provide newcomers with additional encouragement and support help fit into the organisation. Many of these organisations assign someone to serve as a new member’s mentor until they feel comfortable enough to participate on their own. If you decide to establish a sponsorship program in your local group, do you best to match mentor and newcomer by geographical location, personality type and common interests . . . if possible.
1. Individual mentors may be designated to assist their assigned newcomer in getting involved in local group / SCA activities by:-
a. Bringing the newcomer to his / her first event
b. Helping their newcomer obtain garb and other items needed for SCA participation
c. Being available by telephone or email to personally answer questions, or referring the newcomers to someone who can
d. Providing advice on how to get started with particular SCA activities
2. Project mentors may be designated to assist a small group of newcomers in completing a project to benefit the local group, foster teamwork, develop new skills and cultivate a sense of belonging.
d. Non-SCA Social activities
Many groups enjoy having non-SCA social activities such as a BBQ, a bad movie night, a bowling night or skating night. This is an excellent way to promote camaraderie within your local group and provide an opportunity for members to get to know each other in the “real world” environment free from titles, politics, etc. Be sure to invite your newcomers to attend.
4. When does a Newcomer stop being a Newcomer?
Each individual is different and therefore there is no specific timeline or pattern of behaviour that marks their progression to a higher level of participation. Generally speaking, a person who attends activities and events on a regular and recurring basis and on their own initiative, is considered to be a regular member.