New Scout Group Honors Christian Values

Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014 01:57 PM

By Andrea Billups

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A new Christian-focused scouting group formed as an alternative to the Boy Scouts of America has gotten off to a rousing start since its launch on Jan. 1.

Trail Life USA has seen an "explosion" of interest, forming more than 500 troops in 44 states, the group's founder John Stemberger, an attorney and president of the Florida Family Policy Council, told Newsmax.

Stemberger said a new group for boys was needed after the Boy Scouts of America decided to allow gay members to remain in its ranks.

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"We see this as more than just a boys' program. We see it as a glimmer of hope to restore our country and to build leaders for tomorrow," Stemberger said.

"We want to see a shift in our culture back to sanity, back to responsibility, and back to building men who are going to actually lead — lead their family, lead their spouses, lead their culture and society."

Stemberger said the group's goal is "to turn boys into men" and "to make them productive and godly husbands, fathers, citizens, and leaders.

"There is something magical about the outdoors for the boys, hanging with other men around a campfire — without the iPads, the iPods, the gaming. There are so many who grow up without a father. That is one of our long-term side goals — to do strategic outreach in inner cities where high rates of fatherlessness continue.

"We are excited to rebuild an institution that has taken a philosophical turn we don't think is compatible with the training of young men."

The new organization will offer education and adventure programming for boys from Cub Scout age through 18, partnering with groups like the American Heritage Girls in an effort to bring families together around a similar worldview. Leaders are required to sign a statement of Christian faith, not attached to a particular denomination, but with each troop stressing "its own denomination-specific customs and theology," the group's website notes. Most troops will be chartered around a church.

"As a Christ-centered organization our faith is woven throughout the program without being necessarily 'religious' or 'churchy,'" the program materials read. "From religious requirements and youth-led outdoor worship to more in-depth discipleship opportunities, adult and youth members receive Biblical instruction and training in righteousness."

Stemberger said the group seeks to be inclusive, allowing male members who are from different faiths or even non-believers to join.

According to its inclusion policy, "all boys are welcome irrespective of religion, race, national origin, or socio-economic status. Our goal is for parents and families of every faith to be able to place their boys in a youth program that endeavors to provide moral consistency and ethical integrity in its adult leaders."

The Trail Life USA website says, however, that Mormons "would not participate in our program because of our specific Statement of Faith, which holds a belief in the Trinity, which is not in step with Mormon theology."

While Jewish youths are welcome as members, those adults who do not recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah are not candidates for leadership roles and Jewish organizations would be precluded from chartering a Trail Life troop, the materials read.

The organization also is clear about its beliefs on sexuality, noting that a relationship outside marriage is sinful. Its policy on homosexuality puts it at odds with the Boy Scouts of America, where gay members are now welcome, although gay troop leaders are still not allowed.

"The basis for the program's ethical and moral standards is found in the Bible," Trail Life USA states. "In terms of sexual identification and behavior, we affirm that any sexual activity outside the context of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful before God and therefore inconsistent with the values and principles of the program."

To a youth who is unclear or struggling with thoughts about his own sexuality, the group notes in its materials that it will seek to support him, offering up prayers and "Biblical understanding."

"We do not exclude a boy who confides to a leader that he has experienced some same-sex attraction and wonders what that means. Same-sex attraction is not in itself a sin, as it is rather a temptation," the rules read. "It is what you do with that temptation in thought and in action that is sin.

"We would counsel a boy that he should not allow this feeling to turn into lustful thoughts or consideration of a gay lifestyle. We would also counsel a boy that we cannot always control our thoughts on our own, but that by the power of Jesus Christ we have the power to overcome sin in our lives," the group said.

Woody Youngs has been involved in scouting for 22 years, and is excited after making the switch from leading a Boy Scout troop to Trail Life USA.

Youngs heads Troop IN-0364 at the North Park Baptist Church in Evansville, Ind. His troop number is tied to a favorite verse of scripture, Ezekiel 36:4, which reads, "Hear the voice of the Lord."

Youngs told Newsmax: "America has been in a culture war for a long time. This offers the youth of America a Christian worldview that otherwise I believe is lacking or at least not being presented as strongly as it should be to affect them for the rest of their lives."

Youngs, who is Southern Baptist, says his church has always treated its scouting groups as an outreach ministry. He describes Trail Life as a well-thought-out program that offers boys guidance they can lean on throughout life.

"It's in a Christian mentoring environment. Trail Life has taken the position of honoring the legacy of Scouting but raising the standard," Youngs said. "They have allowed us in Trail Life to have a Christ-centered program that you can really use to enrich the boys' understanding of faith in their day-to-day life."

His troop — both parents and youths — gathers on Monday nights for a quick dinner. That's followed by a flag ceremony, announcements, and an "application story" that sets the stage for the rest of the meeting. Then after prayer, members split up according to age groups.

"It’s a powerful opportunity and I think that's why we're just seeing so many inquiries, non-stop," Youngs said. "I believe that parents and leaders and churches all across the nation are looking for an organization that offers a Christ-centered worldview, something that balances the secular worldview that gets taught in school. It's not scouting with a God overlay but it's Christ-centered from the inside out."

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