For as long as I can remember, my family was active in Boy Scouts of America (BSA). I recently shared a post about my brother’s former Scout Master passing on to glory. If you missed it, please click HERE. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll remember THIS post. It recalls our emotional decision to leave BSA. The decision wasn’t easy. We had every intention of seeing all three of our boys being honored with the title of Eagle Scout.
My oldest son loved BSA. He had earned the most belt loops and was the top popcorn seller in two separate districts in both Maryland and Washington (gotta love military moves!). However, we decided as a family early on that our guide to parenting would be God’s inerrant Word. We do not treat others with affliction who believe differently than we do. The Bible condemns such actions. However, the Bible also tells us to stand firm on God’s Word.
Recently I posted HERE, HERE, and HERE on Teaching our Children Diligently. Not only do we need to teach them diligently inside the home, but also outside the home, including their extra curricular activities. That’s when we made the very difficult decision to walk away from BSA. For Clay, it was a bit easier. He was never involved in BSA as a child and he’s one of those retired military men who show no emotion. On the other hand, I grew up tagging along to many BSA events and meetings with my brother as a scout and my parents on the committee in Troop 63 in Melissa, WV. Needless to say, I had a much harder time walking away.
When we are obedient to God, He is passionate to our pain and listens to the desires of our heart, according to His will. A few weeks after leaving BSA, we learned about Trail Life USA (TLUSA). TLUSA was started by a group of leaders who also walked away from BSA. These leaders desired an organization to teach and train boys into young men who walked worthy in the Lord. These leaders desired an organization whose core value was to help “teach boys diligently” and contribute to training them in the way they should go. In 2013, the first ever National Conference for Trail Life USA was held in Nashville, TN!! We soon learned that TLUSA Troops were springing up all over the United States. At the time, however, we lived in a very liberal area. Olympia, Washington, after all is where the Festival of Species is held every year (please don’t Google that. There are things that cannot be unseen.). Living where we were, we weren’t sure how soon a Trail Life Troop would be founded. However, we were surprised to be put in contact with a guy who was starting things out in the area. Clay met with him at a coffee shop (because there’s a coffee shop on every corner in Washington) and they instantly hit it off. Clay agreed to become the first Chaplain for the Trail Life Troop right there in liberal USA. God can move mountains and believe me when I say He is everywhere!
So how is Trail Life different than BSA?
“Trail Life USA is inclusive of boys, regardless of religion, race, national origin or socioeconomic status, and accept boys who are experiencing same-sex attractions or gender confusion,” read a statement from Trail Life USA. “However, it will not admit youth who are open or avowed about their homosexuality, and it will not admit boys who are not ‘biologically male’ or boys who wish to dress and act like girls.”
The program is set to function around a structure that parallels that of the Boy Scouts, but with a focus on both “sexual purity” and adherence to “a standard statement of Christian values.” Trail Life USA will also incorporate values and beliefs of the American Heritage Girls, a Christian-based Girl Scout Alternative formed over a decade ago. TLUSA hopes to be a Christian alternative for the Boy Scouts of America. Trail Life USA is an outdoor scouting-like program designed for boys ages 5-17 that focuses on adventure, character and leadership. Awards and recognition from the Boy Scouts (not to be confused with the Cub Scouts) are also transferable. There are strict background checks and a statement of faith that must be signed by adult leaders.
We made this transition from BSA to TLUSA three years ago. My oldest son told me recently that he is glad that we left BSA. Although the organization was wonderful for him when we were involved and emotional when we left, I couldn’t have said it better myself when he told me, “God has made it very clear to me that when one door closes, another door will open. We just have to trust Him to open the right ones.” Excuse me while I cry. What happened to my chubby little baby?
Part of being in Trail Life is working out of a handbook that is much like the one used in Boy Scouts. The handbook focuses on the American Adventure, the Outdoor Adventure, and the Spiritual Adventure. In the handbook is found a list of Trail Badges that are required and also electives that a child can do in order to obtain rankings and awards that are given at the “Court of Honor.”
My oldest attended Summer Adventure with our Trail Life Troop this Summer. Unfortunately, Clay couldn’t take off work, but my Dad was ready and willing. TLUSA emphasizes and teaches biblical moral values and requires all adult members to agree with, sign, and abide by the Trail Life USA Trinitarian Statement of Faith and the Statement of Values. The program is unapologetically Christian. However, the program is designed and intended to be presented without being “churchy” or “religious,” focusing on outdoor adventure, character, and leadership development. TLUSA centers around Colossians 1:10, “… that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;…”
Having said that, my dad isn’t saved and I explained this to the Troop Master prior to the trip. He was perfectly fine with that, hoping that the group of Godly men could plant some seeds. I haven’t seen my dad so relaxed since he traveling with my brother on their Summer Adventures with Boy Scouts. Dad thoroughly enjoyed his time, loved seeing his grandson in his element with his friends, and, most importantly, I know some seeds were planted during this trip! Trail Life isn’t just about training boys to love Jesus, it is equipping them to share the love of Christ with the world – including a proud Grandpa.
One of the recommended books currently from Trail Life USA is The Dangerous Boys Book. Stressing an importance for young boys in this digital age to learn the skills of old. Knots, fishing, compass reading like finding the true North, fishing, building treehouse, and much more. Check out Trail Life USA if you are looking for a wonderful, Godly organization for your young men. In the end, raising up true, Godly Men is what means the most to us. It’s what makes Trail Life USA so important.
PS. Thank you to our Troop Master for some of the pictures in this post. 🙂