Looking back on more than thirty years as a professional Scouter, I have organized my share of new units. Sadly many of them come and go, but church chartered units seem to stay around.
As an example of this, I was coaching an entry-level District Executive in a rural Utah community that had both a Catholic and Methodist Scout troop. The community also had a dozen or so troops chartered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Catholic church had a great Scoutmaster, but too few boys and the Methodist church had boys but not a leader. Together they began an experiment that combined units for 15 more years of service, helping youth from both faiths and serving others throughout the community.
The Church of Jesus Christ had its own way of carrying out the Scouting program as chartered partners with BSA for a century to meet the needs of its boys in three separate programs. That left the door open for a very traditional troop at our Catholic/Methodist unit, serving boys from 10 1/2–18; their program made me want to be a young Scout again.
Scouting units are church-owned and -operated
That is not to say the church owns their youth or their Scouts, but they do own their programs and Scouting allows for some adaptation for churches, as mentioned above. So while units in The Church of Jesus Christ had packs, troops, teams, and crews, other churches might just have a pack or troop, like our Catholic/Methodist unit in Price, Utah.
In either case, the church has total authority to direct the unit’s program in the best interest of their youth. In other words, as BSA puts it, “The unit is church-owned and church-administered. The unit can be uniquely Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, etc., as long as the stated principles of Scouting are not violated.”
BSA Religious Principles
Article IX, Section 1, Clause 1, of the Charter and Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America states, ‘‘The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.’’
The following is BSA’s declaration of religious principle:
- All those registered with BSA must subscribe to the religious principles stated above in the Charter and Bylaws, and in the Scout Oath or Promise and Law.
Chip Turner, Chairman of the BSA’s Religious Relationships Task Force, explained that “by signing the membership application, each leader has already acknowledged the Declaration of Religious Principle which affirms a belief in God, calls for an appreciation for the faith of others and acknowledges the importance of faith in citizenship development.
“Moreover, this same Declaration of Religious Principle is now included in the youth application form which is to be signed by the parents. All signatories are also reminded that the BSA is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training.”
These appear as part of the joining requirements on both the adult and youth application and include:
- Duty to God
- reverence toward God
- fulfillment of religious duties, and
- respect for the religious convictions of others.
- Scouting does not define what constitutes a person’s duty to God or any particular practice of religion but leaves this responsibility to parents and religious leaders.
- Scouting also does not require membership in any specific religious organization to join but does require a pledge to do one’s ‘‘duty to God.” Still, the BSA encourages joining in the religious programs and activities of organized faith groups.
- Religious leaders of any faith, writes BSA, “expect us to know and live up to these principles by exemplifying them in our daily lives.” And in program planning “this philosophy must run through the specific Cub Scout, Scout BSA, and Venturing programs as they relate to the religious organizations chartered to use the Scouting program.”
Outreach for Your Church
Just think of the outreach potential your Scouting units could provide to unchurched young people and their families in the community. These families might be hesitant to attend your regular church services but quite glad to join your church-sponsored Scouting group.
To reach your community with a message of faith requires boldness and willingness to get out where people are. Scouting is a tool for that kind of outreach and a great opportunity for these youth, as well as for your existing church members’ children and teens!
Scouting will not automatically grow your congregation, but when Scouting leaders are chosen carefully by you, with the help of a Scout committee of parents, you may find them serving as Sunday School teachers or youth worship leaders. This happens when Scouting is made an integral part of your youth ministry; positive results are naturally predictable.
Scouting offers a wealth of opportunity to help your church, and youth and families in your community. To learn how to organize a Scout unit in your church, contact your local Scout Council.
Other articles in this series include:
- Scouting provides outreach opportunities for your church
- Scouting provides age-appropriate ministries
- Scouting provides more leadership opportunities
- Scouting rewards religious learning
- The Scouting unit is church-owned and-operated.
- Scouting teaches duty to and reverence for God