Outdoor Adventure vs. Vacation Bible School

IMGP6938When I met a very diverse group of men and women at the first Trail Life National Conference, one of the most commonly asked questions at the breakfast table, lunch line and dinner table was: is Trail Life going to be about the scouting methods (with emphasis on rugged outdoor skills) or some form of “Sunday School/Catechism Class”?

Some of the folks were concerned that there would be so much emphasis on faith matters that:

  1. The outdoor adventure component would be weak or even non-existent
  2. The demand for troop leaders to become defacto ministers, pastors or priests would become a detraction from recruiting leaders who were not well versed in the Bible or doctrinal matters

At the same time, I heard questions raised as to why the organization wasn’t taking this opportunity to inject more spiritual development such as requiring bible verse memorization as part of rank advancement.

All in all, as we sat through the sessions outlining the program and how it would be organized, most of these concerns fell by the wayside and the folks grew in courage and IMGP7151confidence that Trail Life USA would indeed, raise the standard in meaningful ways.  That we could have the best of both concerns and adjust the volume on each depending on the season-of-life of the individual unit.  Simply put, it didn’t have to be all about one at the exclusion of the other.

While everyone agreed that spiritual development is critical for young men (i.e. self-control, courtesy, respect for authority while also being mentally alert and using critical thinking skills, etc.) we also knew that a strong outdoor program that highlighted real adventure, backpacking, boating, and more would bring excitement and enthusiasm (i.e. FUN) to the mix.

I left the conference with heightened confidence that the program would flourish because there is a range of opinion, and that we’re stronger for it. Additionally, while there is a IMGP6443range of troop programs throughout our organization, we’re also in alignment with principal goals and mechanisms to reach them – a real complementary fit.

In this context, we can celebrate the notion of “honoring our legacy while raising our standard” – being the best program that we can be without trying to define it by what came before (although it’s hard not to make the occasional comparison — informally or not).

The only thing we may be missing is YOU. If you’re on the fence about Trail Life USA or have questions, please do not by shy. Instead, be brave and speak up. Our area point men and national staff are happy to provide insights into our program, and we have a convenient unit locator map, too.

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