As Scouting Ambassadors we must remember that in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) seventy percent of our charter partners are churches, but most churches do not have Scout groups. Yet, nearly all are working on community outreach to get their message and services known. They are also working to halt the general decline in church attendance among their congregations, especially among Millennials, many of whom now have Scout-age children. Scouting can help.
Close after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Methodist Church is the organization that most often charters packs and troops. Cliff Coan in the Scouting Ministry in the United Methodist Church, wrote, “Nearly one-half of the 371,400 scouts who meet weekly in 6,700 United Methodist churches are from unchurched families.” A third of the youth in our area are also unchurched.
Coan explained that more 1.5 million family members are affected by Scouting ministries in the United Methodist Church. These ministries, he says, “provide local congregations the opportunity to mentor children and youth in the community in the areas of spiritual and character development through service projects, Bible-based resources such as religious- emblem awards provided by Programs of Religious Activities with Children (P.R.A.Y.), citizenship training, and by teaching new skills, connecting children to nature, providing leadership opportunities, and building healthy peer and intergenerational relationships.”
When you call on or visit a faith leader, take your full-time District Executive. As you explore their interest in Scouting let them know you both will be there to help. You can explain someone from the District will be assigned as the new unit organizer to help them get going. Tell them that they will help assemble a steering committee, select leaders (that they will orient and train), help to plan and organize an appealing program, and then they will help to recruit families to Scouting.
Scouting Provides Age-Appropriate Youth Ministry for the Whole Family
Explain that all they have to do is appoint a church liaison who will be their Chartered Organization Representative (COR) and they will help select and approve the adult leaders. Of course, they will need to make sure the pack or troop has a place to meet, which brings us back to the church building.
Assure them Scouting stands ready to serve their families and many others in the neighborhood. And even if the church has a fine youth organization of Bible study, training, and mission education, chances are that program mostly attracts young people already in the congregation. Scouting offers a distinctive outreach element to help extend the church’s ministry to the larger community and it often appeals to unchurched youth.
In his article, in the Scouting Ministry in the United Methodist Church,Coan offered ten reasons to consider Scouting as a ministry of local Methodist churches. But, his reasons look pretty good for most faith groups.
- “Outreach. The ministry of Christ revolved around the profound concept of reaching out to others.
- “Evangelism. Statistics indicate that of all the youth who join scouting through the church, 25 percent are United Methodists, 25 percent are members of other denominations or faiths and 50 percent come from unchurched families. Therefore, Scouting is one potential entry point for persons to join the church, which then has the opportunity to introduce, nurture and strengthen a relationship with Jesus Christ.
- “Intergenerational. Scouting and civic youth ministry offer opportunities for older adults as well as youth to participate.
- “Coeducational.” Scouting serves the whole family. Cub Scours and Scout BSA serve both girls and boys in separate, side-by-side groups and the Venturing program (for youth 13-20) is fully coeducational.
- Coan continues by explaining that “United Methodist Men have a historical commitment to scouting and civic youth ministry.
- “Mission. Many mission opportunities are made available through the five youth agencies.
- “PRAY Awards (formerly God and Country Program).The God and Country Series is an age-appropriate study series that focuses on discipleship, family, and service.
- “Develop Servant Leaders. Each youth organization has inherent ‘building blocks’ that the local church can transform into effective ministry.
- “Intentionality. The Scouting program can be an effective, intentional outreach ministry of the local church.
- “Make Disciples. Considering one or a combination of the previous reasons, a local church may develop a consistent list of prospects for the Lord. Nurturing children, teens, and families through outreach and evangelism and incorporating them into the life of the church may have tremendous, eternal results for the youth, their family and the Church.”
What is Scouting’s value for outreach?
Youth are drawn to Scouting’s action-packed and skill-oriented adventures, but Scout units are church-owned and church-administered. That means the church makes it what they want it to be. Reassure them that they will have complete authority to direct the program in their best interests.
Packs, troops, and teams (units) can be uniquely Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, or whatever faith, but it can also be mixed-faith just as long as the stated principles of Duty to God are not violated. Imagine the outreach potential of a unit whose sole purpose is to reach unchurched young people in your community. What an opportunity for young people, their families, as well as for the church’s own members!
Scouting is a constructively competitive program that balances between scholarship and practical application. Conservation skills are learned through outdoor activities, teaching young people about Christian stewardship, which makes them familiar with God’s creative work.
Because Scouting offers fun and adventurous programs, kids want to join. But while they are having fun they grow in character and in citizenship, they develop leadership and fitness, including learning their duty to God.
Rev. Dr. T. S. Pitts, Progressive National Baptist Convention Interim General Secretary, stated: ” Of all the programs that mentor youth, Scouting offers a great opportunity to really transform and change the world.” This means it will fit into a church’s mission and outreach.
Scouting Resources for Your Church
Scouting delivers a youth ministry unparalleled leadership development courses and its camping facilities are among the Nation’s best. Scouting pledges to respect the aims and objectives of a church while they make these resources available:
- Adult leader training which will be a legacy for your congregation and community.
- Program resources and other Scouting support services.
- Criminal background checks on adult leaders approved your church
- Camping and other outdoor opportunities
- Administrative support, and professional staff to assist you in developing a successful Scouting program.
- Provide primary general liability insurance to cover the church, its board, officers, employees, and Scouting members and volunteers for
authorized Scouting activities, indemnifying your church in accordance with the resolutions and policies of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America
The Most Rev. Gerla Gettelfinger, Episcopal Liaison for the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, said, “I can’t think of any other program or opportunity that gives us the rich resources and availability that Scouting does.”
For the youth themselves, there is fun and adventure as they learn and grow leadership skills. The advancement program offers individual growth and as Thomas S. Monson, past President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “I can’t think of any program or any activity which is better than the merit badge program.”
The Rev. Jerry Cannon, Pastor C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church says. Scouting “lays a solid foundation for what the church is about, but most importantly for the development of young men” and now young women too as Scouting has moved to serve entire families.
During Scouting activities lead by a volunteer leader of faith, a young person may be helped with personal and spiritual needs. This guidance may range from answering simple questions to guiding discussions, to serving as a role model for the child who needs one. Every youth program in the church has an important role in guiding the development of young people, yet lack of time often hampers that effort.
In an average church program that meets weekly, it amounts to 45–50 hours a year. But Scouting offers more than 300 hours of time together camping, hiking, and other activities. And this has been credited, in part, as a reason for the number of Christian conversions reported in Scouting units operated by churches.
Other Scouting Religious Resources
Among the groups chartering Scouting units, faith communities are the largest program sponsors. BSA offers myriad resources here.
For other articles in this series see: