Today’s kids are bom­bard­ed with choic­es when it comes to extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties. 

Their options range from mar­tial arts to music and choir pro­grams, com­pet­i­tive danc­ing to a mul­ti­tude of sports (one for each sea­son) to an explo­sion of edu­ca­tion­al and non-prof­it STEM clubs.

Many ben­e­fits come because of the­se extra activ­i­ties, but the demand for children’s time has caused some researchers and child health experts to won­der if we are stress­ing our kids out by over plan­ning their after-school time. 

On the oth­er hand, we have a more seden­tary cul­ture with some kids who nev­er get out, who prefer to spend all their leisure time indoors with video games and movies, surf­ing the web and tex­ting their friends.

Some kids even balk at vaca­tions and events such as Dis­ney­land, pre­fer­ring to stay home and bat­tle it out on the next release of Des­tiny or some new gam­ing sys­tem.

The dichoto­my of over planned kids again­st seden­tary do-noth­ing kids is more strik­ing than ever. It can make a par­ent won­der if youth devel­op­ment pro­grams such as Scout­ing are worth pur­su­ing with so many oth­er things com­pet­ing for their time in such a wide range of inter­ests. To some, Scout­ing just seems bro­ken. Just how ben­e­fi­cial is Scout­ing for today’s youth? Why would a par­ent wish to enroll their youth in this pro­gram, and what would moti­vate them when there are so many options?

The TUFTS Camp Study

That’s what a Tufts’ researcher, Richard Lern­er, attempt­ed to find out in his land­mark study in the Philadel­phia begin­ning in 2012. Lern­er looked at the effects of Cub Scout­ing on youth by com­par­ing them to non-Scout youth over a two and half year peri­od. While many activ­i­ties seemed ben­e­fi­cial or pro­vid­ed an out­let of fun, adven­ture, and friend­ship for kids, they want­ed to see if pro­grams such as Scout­ing had a last­ing impact on val­ues-devel­op­ment as com­pared to non-Scouts. Some of the­se val­ues includ­ed:

  • Hope­ful­ness
  • Obe­di­ence
  • Cheer­ful­ness
  • Trust­wor­thi­ness
  • Reli­gious Rev­er­ence

The results of the study were rather strik­ing as you can see by the graph­ics list­ed below:

tufts 1tufts 2






This study was reviewed at the Boy Scout Top Hands con­fer­ence in the sum­mer of 2015. While received well, there was a con­cern that the pub­lic wouldn’t be able to access or digest the results.

That’s when Dr. Ben Call of Pocatel­lo, Ida­ho began con­sid­er­ing the study and devel­op­ing some tools to tell the sto­ry to dif­fer­ent audi­ences. Being in a heav­i­ly reli­gious pop­u­la­tion, Dr. Call was inter­est­ed in the reli­gious ele­ment of the study, results that hadn’t been empha­sized dur­ing the release. In work­ing with Dr. Lerner’s team, they expand­ed the results pre­sen­ta­tion to include some of the most telling evi­dence for the val­ue of Scout­ing among reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties.


In this slide, reli­gious rev­er­ence is defined as 1) a desire to pray and 2) enjoy­ing read­ing sto­ries from my reli­gious faith. The big take­away was the marked dif­fer­ence in the down­ward decline of reli­gious rev­er­ence between Scouts and non-Scouts among reli­gious insti­tu­tions. There was also a slight increase for Scouts in reli­gious rev­er­ence when they were spon­sored by non-reli­gious intu­itions such as a civic club. If par­ents are com­par­ing the kinds of activ­i­ties that can attract their youth, Scout­ing may provide some great ben­e­fits (if done cor­rect­ly), to the val­ues they wish to instill in their youth, includ­ing build­ing the tes­ti­monies of their faith.

One oth­er ben­e­fit to note was the com­par­ison between Scout­ing and Sports. While sports may provide great social val­ue for youth, the study not­ed that it also had some neg­a­tive side effects.

tufts 5

tufts 6






When com­bined WITH Scout­ing, sports pro­grams showed the great­est ben­e­fit for sports-ori­ent­ed youth, with the abil­i­ty coun­ter­act some of the neg­a­tive side effects of doing sports only.


Charles Dahlquist, the cur­rent BSA Coun­cil Com­mis­sion­er and past LDS Stake YM Pres­i­dent has also used this pre­sen­ta­tion to great effect. He states:

So, why should I enroll my son in Scout­ing?”  The Tufts Uni­ver­si­ty study and this won­der­ful pre­sen­ta­tion pro­vid­ed by Dr. Ben Call and the BSA Grand Teton Coun­cil answer that ques­tion in a straight­for­ward man­ner, — which also answers the ques­tions par­ents may have about sports and how the ben­e­fits of involve­ment in Scouts AND sports ben­e­fit their sons.  The sta­tis­tics relat­ed to the impact of Scout­ing in faith-based units in the area of spir­i­tu­al devel­op­ment are par­tic­u­lar­ly sober­ing and help­ful.  I give the pre­sen­ta­tion “two thumbs up” and encour­age all vol­un­teers and pro­fes­sion­als to view at least the short­er ver­sion – and, if you want more – the longer ver­sion.  It is crit­i­cal for those involved in mem­ber­ship and fund rais­ing with­in the BSA.” 


With so much at stake today, with all that vies for the atten­tion of our kids, it may sur­prise some, but Scout­ing, when run prop­er­ly with strong sup­port from lead­ers, sim­ply works! We must help par­ents in our com­mu­ni­ties under­stand that it’s more than just camp­ing, sil­ly songs, and mer­it badges. It is a proven and effec­tive pro­gram that changes lives while sus­tain­ing reli­gious rev­er­ence.

For more infor­ma­tion on the study, videos and pre­sen­ta­tions can be viewed at

Peter Brown
he is Chief Financial Officer and Business Manager at Grand Teton Council, Boy Scouts of America. In other councils he has been Council Program Director, IT Director, Webmaster, and Camp Director for several camps and High Adventure Bases. He is a CPR instructor and marketing whiz.

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