Boy Scouts Celebrate a Century
BY CARRIE MADREN
This summer, more than 43,000 Scouts and leaders will come together for a week-and-a-half’s worth of scouting and fun as the Boy Scouts celebrate a 100th anniversary.
The National Jamboree, July 26 through August 4, brings troops together at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., a 76,000-acre military training site, every four years. Scouts can earn awards and merit badges as they participate in activities such as air-rifle shooting, archery, pioneering, jamboree band, fishing and CPR training. There’s also a 5K, corporate raising and lowering of colors, sub-camp activities and of course, evening campfires followed by taps.
At the Jamboree, scouts are organized like military troops into camps and sub-camps. Scouts and their leaders camp out in tents; Jamboree staff stay in military-style tents that sleep 10. Ken Lyons, retired pastor of Severna Park UMC and the current Scouting Ministry Coordinator for Baltimore-Washington Conference, says he’ll be a sub-camp chaplain — one of 117 chaplains at national Jamboree and one of 20 Methodist chaplains — for kids from the Midwest.
Getting from Point A to make a program at Point B — at a 76,000-acre military base — isn’t easy. “The amount of hiking is incredible — troops might do an hour’s worth of hiking to get to some of the sites,” Lyons said.
To celebrate a century, the Boy Scouts established its first-ever international Good Turn Project, and this year it will be Nothing But Nets, a partnership with the United Nations Foundation, the United Methodist Church and NBA Cares. Nothing But Nets distributes mosquito nets in Africa to help prevent malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. That means that individual and troop projects will focus on educating the public on how to eradicate malaria by supporting Nothing But Nets. For their efforts, a special patch — bearing the United Methodist cross, as well as an angry mosquito — will be awarded.
Among Sunday worship services will be one hosted by the United Methodist Church. Over 6,000 Scouts are expected to attend, and Bishop Thomas Bickerton, national spokesman for the Nothing But Nets campaign, will deliver the sermon. The offering will go towards Nothing But Nets.
In addition, the Office of United Methodist Scouting Ministries will again host an exhibit booth during the Jamboree to let troops and leaders know about opportunities. Every scout who visits the booth or attends the worship service gets a United Methodist Jamboree commemorative copy of the New Testament and Psalms, a traditional gift given by the United Methodist Church. Since 1993 United Methodists have distributed over 120,000 Bibles to Scouts at high adventure bases and jamborees.
A Joint Venture of Faith
Boy Scouts and United Methodist have a long history together: the United Methodist Church is the second largest sponsoring organization of the Boy Scouts (the largest sponsor is the Mormon church), said Lyons, who’s been a scout since he was eight-years-old.
Across the country, more than 370,000 children and youth learn the ropes of scouting in units chartered by United Methodist churches. Most of the 370,000 youth are enrolled in 11,400 troops or packs in 6,700 United Methodist Churches. Within The United Methodist Church, the United Methodist Men serve as the main sponsors.
It’s a United Methodist connection that makes sense: Boy Scouts is a faith-based group, and there’s focus on character building and moral choices.
“In many churches, the scouting units have more kids than Sunday school and UMYF,” saidLyons. “There’s opportunity for in-house evangelism: half of the kids [in scouts] have no church home.” Typically, the hardest part of growing a church congregation is getting people to walk through the doors. Because Boy Scouts is faith-based and meets in the church building, churches have opportunity for new members already in the building. In addition, certain Sundays like Scout Sunday and patriotic Sundays involve the youth in worship.
Scouts can also earn religious awards, such as the upcoming Boy Scouts’ God and World Award. One youth serves as a chaplain’s aid and is responsible for doing a meditation or seeing that it’s done. Scout units can also pray together, and there’s an official adult chaplain (often clergy or a leader in church or synagogue). Every church, likewise, has a scouting coordinator to make the connection between church and unit.
Service to the church is a big part of scouting, too. “Scouts are some of the most active in terms of work teams or on-site VIM groups,” Lyons said. “It’s common for a scout troop to help paint or clean outside of church.” Many eagle scouts choose a church-related project — such as a memorial garden at a church or an interpretive trail at a church camp — to complete their requirements.
Though scouting is interested in boys having a religion, the organization doesn’t promote any one religion, according to Lyons. The pledge is to “do my duty to God and my country.”
Scouting is important within the Conference, says Lyons. Each year, the Boy Scouts host a table at the Baltimore-Washington Conference’s mega-youth event, ROCK. And, for two years, Lyons and two professional scouters led break-out sessions on scouting and leadership.
Of course, scouting units wouldn’t be possible in the first place without willing adult leaders. Most adults that run scouting are volunteers who want to help kids build a better faith, character, leadership and teamwork, says Lyons, helping kids to think of the person and do a good turn or deed daily. “Some people think that’s corny but to a scout, it’s not,” he said. “We take that seriously.”
In return, adult volunteers find a peer group with something in common — desire to help kids — and can learn from each other while polishing leadership skills.
Make the Connection: Churches can contribute to the Jamboree Bible Project at 615-620-7262 or www.umscouting.org.