Christian Alternative To Boy Scouts Celebrates Dramatic Growth

News Image By Warren Cole Smith/ August 07, 2019
Share this article:

In September 2013, more than 1,200 mostly male voices sang the rousing hymn "In Christ Alone" to kick off the first meeting on Sept. 7 of Trail Life USA (TLUSA). This new group wanted to be a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

At that time, Trail Life USA was little more than a hope and a dream, but its leaders had a vision. They sought a youth organization that took those qualities that made the BSA one of the most influential organizations of the 20th century, before it lost its way by relaxing its standards for leaders. Trail Life wanted to include the outdoor adventure aspects of Scouting with a distinctively Christian foundation.

Organizers of the event intentionally chose "In Christ Alone," written by "modern" hymn writers Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, as it was both ancient and modern - contemporary music faithful to ancient Christian theology. The hymn symbolized the differences between Trail Life USA and the Boy Scouts.

"We're here to honor the legacy of the Boy Scouts of America," radio personality Bill Bunkley, master of ceremonies for the event, told the crowd after the singing was done. "But now, quite frankly, we are called in a new direction."

And today, six years later, that dream has become a reality.

Last week, more than 600 Trailmen gathered at a conference center in north Georgia for the first Summer Adventure and Family Convention. Like the first meeting, the week began with the Trailmen and their families singing "In Christ Alone." TLUSA CEO Mark Hancock said, "That hymn has become something of a tradition for us."

Unlike that first Nashville meeting, which outlined a dream and a vision for an organization that existed mostly on paper, last week's event featured practical, boots-on-the-ground workshops. It also celebrated six years of rapid growth. Trail Life USA has grown from just an idea to nearly 30,000 members who gather weekly in 800 troops scattered in nearly all 50 states.

So where have those families come from, and why are they still coming?

In the early months of Trail Life USA, many new members had been Boy Scouts. On January 1, 2014, the first official day of TLUSA, about 200 troops were chartered almost immediately. Many of those early-adopters were former Boy Scout troops. 

Among the high-profile Southern Baptist churches who have quit Scouting is Roswell Street Baptist Church, a megachurch in Marietta, Ga. Birmingham's Briarwood Presbyterian Church, considered by some the "mother church" of the Presbyterian Church in America, has also severed ties with the BSA.

In recent years, though, many new troops have come from churches that had no involvement with the Boy Scouts. And that brings us to the "why?"  Trailmen and their families say they want a quality, Christ-centered program for boys, and they've found it in Trail Life. 

The motto of Trailmen is "Walk Worthy," an admonition that comes from Colossians 1:10, which reads, "Walk worthy of the Lord." While the Boy Scouts - historically, at least - have talked about "duty to God," they have left the definition of God open to interpretation. Trail Life USA is open to boys of all faiths, but adult leaders must sign an explicitly Christian statement of faith.

Speakers at last week's conference reflected the group's emphasis on family-centered spiritual growth. They included popular Christian radio host and author Dennis Rainey and Focus on the Family's Danny Huerta.  

And the workshops also provided signs that Trail Life was no longer a dream, but a vital, growing organization. They included such topics as "Trail Life Connect Data Management System," "Trailmen with Special Needs," and "The Role of the TLUSA Board."

A special guest for the week was American Heritage Girls founder Patti Garibay. Garibay founded American Heritage Girls in 1995 in response to pro-gay developments in the Girl Scouts. Today, American Heritage Girls has nearly 50,000 members and is planning a 25th anniversary celebration next year on the campus of Cedarville University, near AHG's Ohio headquarters. 

Though they have remained separate organizations, American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA often work closely together. Trail Life Chairman of the Board John Stemberger calls Garibay and American Heritage Girls their "big sister" in this work. Many churches now sponsor both AHG and TLUSA troop meetings on the same night.

Trail Life USA CEO Mark Hancock told the group on the closing night that the first six years of TLUSA were merely a prologue to even greater things ahead. "I've been encouraged by this gathering. I'm encouraged by the strength of the leaders here. We've got a very deep bench. It's going to be a good year for us."

Originally published at - reposted with permission.

Other News

September 28, 2020How Should Christians View 2020?

What if the problems tearing our nation apart right now are not truly about racism, police brutality, or equality? What if the central pro...

September 28, 2020Study: Average American Filmed By Estimated 238 Security Cameras A Week

CNBC reports that there will be an estimated one billion security cameras filming around the world by 2021, with somewhere between 10-18% ...

September 28, 2020German Protestant Schools Use Bible Verse For Pro-LGBT Campaign

The Protestant Evangelical Church of Germany - has started the 2020-2021 academic in its 32 schools with a pro-LGBT campaign using scriptu...

September 28, 2020Media Ignores Tens Of Thousands Of Christians Converging On Washington DC

Did you hear about the large Christian gatherings in Washington, DC this weekend? Did you see the news reports about the mayhem? The looti...

September 25, 2020The Biden Plan To Transform The United States Into The LGBTQ Nation

Joe Biden is the furthest thing there is from a moderate candidate. In fact, the reason he is receiving such enthusiastic endorsements fro...

September 25, 2020Wormwood Warning - Why Are So Many Asteroids Having Close Calls With Earth?

The fact that so many space rocks have been headed our way is definitely alarming even if most of them have little chance of impact, espec...

September 25, 2020Christian Employees Fired By Kroger For Not Wearing Rainbow Pins Fight Back

Kroger is being accused of violating federal law for firing two employees who refused to wear a rainbow emblem, which they believe contrad...

Get Breaking News