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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,916
May 10, 2018
Trail Life USA - Better Than Boy Scouts
By Mike McManus

Faced with declining membership, the Boy Scouts of America have decided to start accepting girls as members, and to change their name to Scouts BSA. Membership has plunged from nearly 5 million in the 1970s to 2.6 million in 2013 and 2.3 million now.

The first 3,000 girls have become Cub Scouts.

Andrea Bastiani Archibald, the Girl Scouts' Chief Girl, is horrified, saying the initiative will "result in fundamentally undercutting Girl Scouts of the USA."

What's the alternative?

In 2014, a new organization for boys only was created called Trail Life USA. It already has 20,000 boys in 41 states, and 7,000 male volunteers. It is a Christian outdoor adventure program that emphasizes and teaches biblical moral values. It is focused on "turning boys into godly men."

"We talk about the Lord around the campfire. Troop meetings start and end with prayer," said Mark Hancock, President of Trail Life.

My son Adam, who is active with his 8-year-old son, Honor, told the story of a teaching by Darin Poston two weeks ago on courage. He gave the example of Israel sending 12 spies into Canaan, 10 of whom were scared and did not want to attack. Caleb and Joshua were courageous, and said with God on their side, they could be victorious. However, the cowards were persuasive and God punished Israel with 40 years in the wilderness. Then Joshua took a new generation across the Jordan River."

Mr. Poston, father of Noah, then asked, "You see some kids bullying another kid on the playground. Do you join them so they don't pick on you? Or do you stand up for the boy being bullied and tell a parent or teacher? What's the right judgment

He also posed this issue: "You see some kids smoking. Do you join them, or do you say, you do not smoke?"

Trailmen are asked to define courage and to give an example of courage at home. Webster's dictionary states that "Courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger or pain despite one's fears."

Boys memorize the Oath of Trail Life: "On my honor, I will do my best to serve God and my country, to respect authority, and be a good steward of God's creation, and to treat others as I want to be treated."

There are four primary values: purity, service, stewardship and integrity.

On Purity: "God calls us to lives of holiness, being pure of heart, mind, word and deed. We are to reserve sexual activity for the sanctity of marriage - a lifelong commitment before God between a man and a woman."

On Service: "God calls us to become responsible members of our community and the world through selfless acts that contribute to the welfare of others."

There are Membership Standards. Here is one: "We welcome boys whose parents are seeking a faith-based outdoor adventure program that places an emphasis on character development, leadership and moral purity, and who aspire to live in accordance with the values expressed in the program's Oath and Creed."

About 60% of the boys in Trail Life are being homeschooled - though homeschoolers are only 1% - 2% of American kids. Their parents are already making a major sacrifice of time and energy on behalf of their children. To learn more go its website:

Incidentally, there is a parallel organization of Trail Life for girls called American Heritage Girls. It was started in 1995 by Patti Garibay who wanted to form a Christian alternative to the Girl Scouts. Why? Girl Scouts allowed individual Scouts to use wording appropriate to their own beliefs for the word "God" in the Girl Scout promise. It also banned prayer at meetings.

American Heritage began with 100 girls but grew to 8,000 in 210 units by 2005. Today there are 1,000 Troops with 43,000 members. They take an American Heritage Girls Oath: "I promise to love God, Cherish my family, Honor my country, and Serve in my community."

Girls also commit to an American Heritage Girls Creed: "As an American Heritage Girl, I promise to be: Compassionate, Helpful, Loyal, Perseverant, Pure, Resourceful, Respectful, Responsible, Reverent."

Troops must do three community service projects per year. The American Heritage Girl program emphasizes life skill enhancement, developing teamwork and building confidence, social development and leadership, character development and spiritual development.

To learn more, go to American Heritage Girls inspired the creation of Trail Life USA.

Clearly, both organizations provide a welcome Christian alternative to Scouts BSA and Girl Scouts.


Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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