Many of America’s first Scout units were in churches with ministers serving as their leaders. Over 102 years later, 70% of all Scout units are faith-based. Whether a Cub Scout Pack (boys in grades one through five), Boy Scout Troop (boys completing fifth grade and above), or coed Venture Crew for high school, scouting offers a unique partnership with churches to make a positive difference in the lives of children, youth, and families. And, when used in conjunction with the P.R.A.Y. Religious Emblems Program (formerly the God and Country Program), pastors report entire families being reached and discipled for Christ.
Here is a step-by-step process for starting a church scouting ministry:
1. Begin with the clear understanding that the local church owns the Scout unit(s). Similar to a franchise rather than a “sponsorship,” Scout units are intended to support the ongoing mission of the chartering organization. This mission obviously includes outreach, evangelism, and discipleship.
2. Contact the local Boy Scout Council office and express a possible interest in having Scout units. In turn, a scouting volunteer or professional – perhaps even a team – will come to the church to make a presentation. The team will likely include a new unit organizer who is committed to being a resource to church leadership throughout the formative process. Later, a new unit commissioner (someone experienced in operating effective Scout units) will be provided for ongoing encouragement and counsel.
3. To move forward, the church membership votes to adopt Scouting as an integral ministry.
4. Once scouting is approved, a unit organizing committee is selected from within the church family.
5. The church’s unit organizing committee selects and recruits key unit leaders as well as the ongoing unit committee. To best ensure that scouting is a church ministry, key leaders should be active members who feel this is a fulfillment of their personal mission. [Note: The chartered organization representative must be a member of the congregation. This person is an ongoing link between the church and Scout council.]
6. Once enlisted, the key leadership team is equipped by the district training team. (Districts are geographic subdivisions of the Scout council). Much of this basic training is available on-line.
7. The unit committee, assisted by the new-unit organizer, plans and organizes the program.
8. When the unit’s program has been planned, it is time to recruit youth members.
9. All unit leaders and Scouts complete the appropriate registration forms.
10. The first meeting of the unit is conducted by the well-trained leadership team.
11. After unit launch, a charter presentation is made to the church family. This document affirms the relationship between the church and scouting.
12. Moving forward, churches can visibly support the unit(s) in many ways. For example: including weekly meetings in the church calendar, linking to unit websites, observing Scout Sunday each February, providing service project opportunities at church, attending Scout unit recognition events, and providing a unit chaplain (staff or key layperson).
R. Chip Turner is a Southern Baptist who serves as national chairman for BSA religious relationships