In Boy Scouts, we claim to be a faith-based organization. Scouting is not just survival techniques and fun camping. Scouting is also not just starting a Scout group hoping for church membership increase (although that does happen). Nope. Scouting is an organization that is spiritual from the roots up.
Baden-Powell stated clearly: “There is no religious ‘side’ of the movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.” Yet, while it is widely known that Boy Scouts of America believes in reverence toward God and in doing our duty to God, these tenets are also widely accepted without investigation. Most of us assume that everyone understands what we mean by reverence and duty to God, but do they?
What do “Duty to God” and “A Scout is Reverent” mean for Scouters and Scouts just beginning to understand the BSA organization, the world and its issues? To start answering that question, check out the Bryan on Scouting issue when Chip Turner, the Chair of the BSA Religious Relations Committee, responds to that question in “About the ‘belief in God’ requirement in Scouting.” This article might be good for sharing with the Patrol Leader, Chaplain’s Aide, pastor, Christian educators, parents, sponsoring organization and other Scout leadership to stimulate thought and, perhaps, focused discussion as to what these mean to them and how they are showing reverence and duty to God.
With [Scouting in] England now acknowledging atheism as a faith-based practice—and no longer requiring people to pledge to the Queen (as we would to the flag of the United States of America), all of us are due a thoughtful analysis of what ‘we’ say believe and how we carry that out in our oaths, laws, and even the ordering of Scout meetings. The National Association of Presbyterian Scouters (NAPS) recommends reading and opening the topic for discussion with church and troop leadership. What do your Scouts think it means to be faith-based in Scouting and life? What does it mean to be reverent and to do one’s duty to God?
With all youth and Scout leaders getting their annually required medical checkup, perhaps it is time we do the same in terms of these basic Scouting premises. Perhaps it is time for a Fall Faith check-up? Many are surprised that Scouts do not even know which church sponsors their group or even that there is a connection besides where they meet. Some do not even know the name of the church where they meet. Some sponsoring groups do not know the role and joys of being a sponsor. Ignoring these vital elements is as unsafe a practice as ignoring one’s physical checkup.
So, a challenge: investigate what your Scouts, leadership, and sponsoring organization see as the role of faith in their scouting participation. Ask and Train all participants regarding “Being Reverent,” “Duty to God,” and what it means to be “Faith-based.” NAPS is interested in the responses you receive from your sponsoring organizations and, more importantly, from the Scouts themselves. What does it mean to be faith-based?
There are many helps, like that provided by Chip Turner in the above article, and some in the resources section of the presbyterianscouters.org. NAPS and other BSA organizations are willing to help. Let us know what you see as needs and what you have found to be helpful in dealing with these issues. There are some exciting projects going on in this area. Some are doing so much in this area that they have asked us to reissue the Spiritual Growth Certificate for recognition of church members, Scouts, Scouters, and groups that have completed a training program answering these and other faith aspects of Scouting and Presbyterian commitment.
What is your group doing? What could you do in this area of Christian discipleship? Some of you have done remarkable things in the last year alone. From an individual wanting help in starting a P.R.A.Y. set in his church (very successful now) seemingly alone in creating the program, to the church helping Scouts to have a full program on faith and spiritual development. Asking CE’s, pastors, vestries, presbyteries, church members, parents, Scouts and others to help you investigate the relationship of their faith and Scouting can create a very powerful base with prayer, study, and involvement.
Please let NAPS share your journey, the searches, trials, and successes: keep NAPS as an active member of your team. Keep us posted via firstname.lastname@example.org and the presbyterianscouters.org website and Facebook.