Monday, 20 August 2018

C Columns

Trail Life, USA Blazing New Trails for Boys of All Ages

By  Daniel  Bobinski

The  scenario:  You  have  a  boy  and  you’ve  either  had  him  in  Boy  Scouts  or  you’ve  been thinking  about  it.  But,  as  a  Christian,  you’re  having  a  difficult  time  reconciling  the  actions  and  direction  taken  by  the  Boy  Scouts  organization  over  the  past  few  years.  What  options  exist?  

If  you’re  not  aware  of  the  news,  here’s  some  background.  The  original  Boy  Scout  manual  talks  a  lot  about  honoring  God.  It  still  does  today,  but  the  spirit  behind  those  words  seems  to  have  dissipated,  and  many  Christians  have  become  dissatisfied.  My  neighbor  summarized  the  situation  rather  succinctly.  He  said,  “After  allowing  homosexual  scout  masters  and  transgender  scouts,  now  they’re  going  to  bring  in  girls?  This  no  longer  seems  like  an  organization  focused  on  teaching  boys  to  become  men.”  

If  your  perspective  is  similar  to  that  of  my  neighbor,  you  may  be  wondering  what  options  exist  for  Christian  families.  The  good  news  is  that  a  Christian  version  of  scouting  has  been  around  for  five  years  now,  and  they’re  growing  rapidly.  The  organization  is  called  Trail  Life,  USA,  and  it  was  formed  by  a  group  of  Christian  Scoutmasters  after  the  Boy  Scouts  announced  changes  in  their  membership  standards  that  violated  some  basic  Christian  tenets.  The  western  regional  point  man  for  Trail  Life,  John  Falk,  who  happens  to  live  here  in  the  Treasure  Valley,  was  among  the  men  who  helped  found  the  new  organization.  I  recently  had  the  opportunity  to  interview  him.  

Falk  told  me,  “I’m  committed  to  the  values  I  learned  in  scouting.  I’m  an  eagle  scout,  as are  my  four  sons.  In  2013,  when  there  was  a  change  in  [Boy  Scout]  membership  standards,  I  was  privileged  to  meet  with  a  group  of  men  from  across  the  country.  We  wanted  a  new  program,  but  we  had  some  decisions  to  make.  Did  we  just  want  an  alternative  scouting  organization,  or  did  we  want  to  make  it  a  Christ-centered  ministry?  Our  decision  was  to  make  it  Christ-centered.”  

That  initial  meeting  was  in  May  of  2013,  and  the  men  worked  fast.  In  January  of  2014,  Trail  Life,  USA  launched  nationwide  with  500  chartered  troops.  And,  according  to  Falk,  things  haven’t  slowed  down  much.  “Sometimes  it  feels  like  our  train  is  moving  along  at  60  MPH  and  we’re  just  laying  track  down  ahead  of  us  as  the  train  is  moving.  But  God  is  providing.”  

According  to  the  organization’s  website,  “Trail  Life,  USA  is  a  program  focused  on  turning  boys  into  godly  men.  Our  firm  conviction  is  that  this  can  only  be  done  by  allowing  a  boy  the  opportunity  to  interact,  work  with,  and  be  mentored  by  and  with  other  Christian  men.  All  direct  contact  positions,  other  than  in  the  Woodlands  Trail  program  for  younger  boys  5-10  years  old,  must  be  filled  by  men.”  

Falk  elaborated,  saying,  “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.”  

 Trail  Life’s  motto  is,  “Walk  worthy,”  based  on  Colossians  1:10,  which  says,  “so  that  you  may  live  a  life  worthy  of  the  Lord  and  please  him  in  every  way:  bearing  fruit  in  every good  work,  growing  in  the  knowledge  of  God.”  

Trail  Life,  USA  operates  a  little  differently  than  the  Boy  Scouts.  Many  Boy  Scout  troops  simply  connect  with  churches  as  a  place  to  meet.  With  Trail  Life,  the  organization  is  literally  a  ministry  of  the  church,  similar  to  an  AWANAs  program.  But  the  charter  organization  doesn’t  need  to  be  a  church.  According  to  Trail  Life’s  website,  “Charter  Organizations  can  be  churches;  parochial,  private  or  Christian  schools;  or  other  faith-based  non-profit  groups  that  agree  with  our  Statement  of  Faith.”  

Another  difference  is  the  leadership  structure.  In  Scouts,  the  Scoutmaster  is  in  charge.  In  Trail  Life,  whoever  manages  the  ministry  is  called  the  Charter  Organization  Leader  (COL),  and  the  Troopmaster  reports  to  the  COL.  Also  in  Trail  Life,  members  are  called  trailmen,  not  scouts.  

If  your  church  is  interested  in  getting  a  troop  started,  know  that  five  adults  are  required  to  start  a  troop,  and  you’ll  want  at  least  5-8  boys  involved.  As  far  as  the  timeline  needed  to  get  up  and  running,  Chris  Stevens,  COL  of  one  of  the  troops  in  the  Treasure  Valley,  says  that  it  took  about  three  months  for  his  troop  to  become  operational.  Stevens  says  they  had  an  open  house  for  interested  kids  and  their  parents,  and  from  there  their  troop  developed  pretty  quickly.  “You’ll  want  two  or  three  people  on  your  board  who  are  ‘in  it  to  win  it,’”  Stevens  says.  “People  who  are  willing  to  help  fill  gaps  and  encourage  parents  to  stay  involved.  If  you  have  those  two  or  three  people  who  will  make  things  happen,  you will  have  a  lot  easier  time.”  

Stevens  also  says  parents  transferring  their  children  from  Boy  Scouts  into  Trail  Life  don’t  need  to  be  concerned  about  their  sons  losing  any  badges  or  rank  achievements.  “Trail  Life  has  a  system  that  transfers  Scouting  achievements  into  the  Trail  Life  system.”  

Currently,  the  Treasure  Valley  has  two  chartered  troops:  Boise  Church  of  Christ  in  Boise,  Valley  Life  Community  Church  in  Meridian,  and  Calvary  Chapel  in  Mountain  Home.  There’s  also  one  unchartered  troop,  Calvary  Chapel  in  Nampa.  They  have  all  their paperwork  approved  and  they’re  ready  to  go,  all  they  need  is  someone  to  fill  the  Troopmaster  role  (you  can  contact  Calvary  Chapel  if  you’re  interested).  

If  you’re  interested  in  getting  your  boy(s)  involved  in  Trail  Life,  just  contact  either  the  Boise  Church  of  Christ  or  Valley  Life  Community  Church.  However,  if  your  church  or  organization  is  interested  in  starting  a  troop,  simply  visit  Trail  Life,  USA’s  website  (traillifeusa.com) and  select  “Start/Find  a  Troop”  from  the  main  menu.  There  you’ll  find  an  explanation  of  the  process,  and  if  you  fill  out  an  inquiry  form,  John  Falk  will  get  in  touch  with  you.  

Also,  know  that  you  really  need  only  one  person  from  your  church  or  organization  to  be  the  Charter  representative.  Other  troop  leaders  can  come  from  anywhere.  But,  as  ChrisStevens  says,  you’ll  want  guys  who  are  in  it  to  win  it.

“You  want  to  instill  quality  over  quantity,”  Stevens  says.  “It  shouldn’t  be  a  drop-off  program.  Dads  need  to  be  involved.”  

Stevens  didn’t  hesitate  when  I  asked  him  if  he  had  anything  to  say  to  parents.  “This  is  a great  program,”  he  said.  “Programs  like  AWANA  have  their  advantages,  but  if  you’re  looking  for  something  more  outdoor,  where  boys  are  actually  hitting  the  trail  and  doing  outdoor  activities  along  with  survival  skills,  Trail  Life  is  something  to  consider.”  

Daniel  Bobinski,  M.Ed.,  runs  two  businesses.  One  helps  teams  and  individuals  learn  how  to  use  Emotional  Intelligence.  The  other  helps  companies  improve  their  training  programs.  He’s  also  a  homeschooling  dad,  a  best-selling  author,  and  a  popular  speaker  at  conferences  and  retreats.  Reach  him  at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or  208-375-7606.

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