BSA maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God—BSA Charter and Bylaws
The Boy Scout Handbook has this to say about reverence: — “A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.”— “Your family and religious leaders teach you about God and the ways you can serve. You can do your duty to God by following the wisdom of those teachings and by defending the rights of others to practice their own beliefs.”
From the BSA Declaration of Religious Principle: “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. . . . [The BSA], therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life. . . . Only persons willing to subscribe to this Declaration of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America shall be entitled to certificates of membership.”
Baden-Powell said: “No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws. So every Scout should have a religion. . . . Religion seems a very simple thing: First, love and serve God; second, love and serve your neighbor.”
The 12th point of the Scout Law is Reverent. Every Scout has a responsibility to be reverent. The BSA has created two leadership positions to help Scouts meet their obligation to be reverent: the chaplain and the chaplain’s aide.
There’s always the question of using this position as a way to give a sidelined youth a leadership position for the trail to Eagle, However, this is a real job with real value to your unit. It is your unit’s way of meeting BSA’s Charter and Bylaws and it gives the Scout true leadership responsibility when done right.
A chaplain’s aide who is coached correctly and does well in the role will also complete merit badge requirements
- 8 of the Communication merit badge
- 2 of the Public Speaking merit badge
A youth’s service as a chaplain’s aide applies toward the “positions of responsibility” requirements for Star, Life, and Eagle ranks. The responsibility attached this leadership position includes encouraging the spiritual growth and awareness of each member of the Scouting unit and assisting the troop chaplain (and adult committee members).
Ideally, the chaplain’s aide should work with an adult member of the clergy or lay minister who agrees to mentor the aide and who understands and agrees with the BSA’s nonsectarian religious principles, so that all Scouts are included in religious observances conducted by the chaplain and the chaplain’s aide. For units chartered by a religious organization, the adult could be the head of the chartered organization or someone designated by the head of the organization.
In Part B of David Gironda’s Duty to God Handbook (1999, Grand Canyon Council), he gives tips for training a chaplain’s aide, which include this checklist:
Chaplain Aide Activities Checklist
- Initial Preparation for Activities
- Attend a Chaplain Aide Training course, and/or read the Duty to GOD Handbook
- Take a poll of unit members, note their Religion and what emblems they earned
- Attend a Patrol Leader Council meeting, draft plans for Religious events
- Plan the prayers to be used at meetings and meals, who will write them (by patrol?)
- Find out how to contact your Unit Chaplain or Executive Officer (EO)
- Set up a meeting with the Chaplain/EO along with the others attending (2-deep)
- When meeting the Chaplain, discuss possible religious events and dates, get input
- Also discuss service projects needed by your members’ Faith(s) ministries
- Finalize event dates/holidays plans, have dates placed on Troop & Pack calendars
- Note events your Chaplain should attend, make sure he knows about them
- Set a schedule for yourself to plan activities for Religious events and campouts
- Religious Emblems Coordination
- Plan and give presentations to tell Scouts (and Cubs) about the Religious emblems
- Make a list of past Religious emblem recipients and who wants to start on them
- Find out who the Counselors/Mentors will be for the Scouts who want to start
- Help set up the meeting schedules for emblem sessions with Scouts and Advisors
- Have someone take an attendance list at the emblem sessions and give them to you
- With the Advisor, make a chart to track progress of attendees by Chapter, etc.
- When emblems are earned, check that they are ordered and can be delivered
- Find out if there is a Council-wide ceremony for a Faith’s presentation of emblems
- Organize a ceremony for presentation of emblems and/or knots by your Chaplain
- Find out if there is an annual Interfaith ceremony in your Council for awardees
- Religious Holidays Coordination
- Have Units help in holy day events at your worship places, special services, etc.
- Make sure anyone who missed an advancement event on a holy day is not penalized
- Plan for a Scout (& Cub) Sunday/Sabbath Service at your worship place (nearest to the Feb. 8th BSA anniversary date)
- The Chaplain Aide Patch, No. 00443, should be worn as a leadership patch on the left sleeve.
Requirements for the chaplain’s aide position.
- be a person of faith who is old enough to be mature and sensitive to others
- be able to communicate well to other Scouts
- have earned the respect and trust of his fellow Scouts
- must be at least a First Class Scout
- must have received or be working on the requirements leading to the age-appropriate religious emblem for his faith
Roles of the chaplain’s aide in Scout unit program operations.
The chaplain’s aide plays an active role in the troop operations, participating in patrol leaders’ council planning sessions. There he ensure that spiritual emphasis is included in troop activities.
He works with the unit’s adult chaplain, to plan and lead an appropriate prayer before or after meals. Together they plan and conducting appropriate religious observances for all members during weekend troop campouts. They also plan and run an annual Scout-oriented religious observance, preferably during Scouting Anniversary Week in February. He helps the adult chaplain (or other adult) recognize troop members who receive their religious emblems, perhaps during a troop court of honor, even if the church or other religious body also holds an award ceremony.
He offers an overview of the religious emblems program at troop meetings at least once per year. He encourages every Scout to earn the religious emblems for his faith. Of course, this will be more meaningful if the chaplain’s aide has earned his own religious emblem or is at least working toward earning it. However, the chaplain’s aide is not intended to lead other Scouts in earning religious emblems. That is the role of an adult counselor selected by the church or other religious body.
The Duty to God religioius emblemsbrochure shows the religious emblems for all faiths that have adopted them, and gives information on where to order workbooks. This brochure enables each Scout to obtain useful information about his own faith’s religious emblems without requiring the chaplain’s aide to know all of the available awards. The chaplain’s aide should advise other Scouts when local churches or other religious bodies offer religious emblems classes or offer to counsel Scouts of their faith.
He leads vespers at the end of troop meetings and on campouts before the Scouts go to bed. This can be as simple as leading the Scout Vespers song and saying the accompanying benediction.
A chaplain’s aide is intended to lead his unit in religious observances when on campouts. The BSA intends that these religious services be welcoming to every Scout. “Know your audience” applies here.
When all Scouts are of the same faith (are members of the same church, for instance), then it is great to conduct a religious service that follows the teachings of that specific faith. However, when a Scout group has youth from a variety of faiths or denominations, care must be taken not to offend any Scout during prayers or religious services. If the group consists of members with mixed beliefs, or if the beliefs of the group are unknown, then prayers should be interfaith friendly.
It is acceptable to have a nonsectarian religious observance that speaks to every Scout’s faith, followed by a second observance that is for a specific faith or denomination. Care must be taken to alert Scouts when shifting from one to the other.
Resources for holding interfaith worship services at Scouting events.
The resource listed below offer several guides that contain prayers, songs, and other elements of an interfaith service. The troop should invest in at least one of these resources for use by a chaplain’s aide who has not yet become proficient at leading religious observances without a prayer book at hand.
These resources also provide guidance for services that are nonsectarian, so a chaplain’s aide doesn’t feel the need to fall back on his own religion for the content of the service.
BSA Reference Materials
- Boy Scout Handbook description of “reverent.”
- The Roles of the Troop Chaplain and the Chaplain Aide
- Manual for Chaplain Aides and Chaplains
- Duty to God religious emblems brochure
- A Scout Is Reverent, No. 34248
- In Our Own Way, No. 34612
- Duty to God Handbook,1999, Grand Canyon Council.
- Beyond Kum Ba Ya: A Resource Guide for the Chaplain Aide, Boy Scouts of America. Author:Nehrbass, Dan, 2008, CreateSpace (available through Amazon).