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Scout Sunday

Scout SundayScout Sunday in the United Methodist Church is the second Sunday in February (Feb. 9 in 2014).

In a good year, in a effective and aware church, this Sunday can bring together two groups that I consider among the best in the world.

(Yes, I know they both have their issues. Yes, I know they are both torn over the “gay issue.” For the record, I think they are both wrong. There, I’ve got that out of the way.)

Now, back to my point:

More than a half million youth meet in nearly 7,000 UM churches each year as members of one of the Scouting organizations the Methodist church has designated as official “Civic Youth-Serving Agencies/Scouting Ministries.” The Methodist church is second only to the LDS church in Scouting membership.

Scout Sunday can go a long way in cementing and publicizing the relationship between the Scout unit and the church. It can be a memorable day for troops and groups (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, Big Brother Big Sisters) sponsored by and meeting in a church. It may also be a special day of recognition for parents, some of whom will be members of a church and some of whom are searching for a faith community.

Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other youth may be invited to lead various parts of the service; Scouts can serve as greeters and ushers, and time can be set aside for various awards.

Pastors who have been working with young people may use Scout Sunday to present religious (P.R.A.Y.) awards. The Scout leader or youth director may nominate scouts or UM youth for the Good Samaritan Award for anyone between the ages of 6-30 who demonstrates the qualities of the Good Samaritan described in Luke.

VenturerPastors may also use Scout Sunday to honor adults who lead the scouting program. Adults may receive the Cross and Flame Award. The Shepherd Church Award was established to recognize churches for utilizing scouting as a ministry.

Or, the church can just ignore these young men and women, their mentors and families.

Scouting Ministries includes four youth-serving agencies the United Methodist Church promotes as outreach ministries: Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, Camp Fire USA and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Remember those half million kids meeting in the churches? Surveys show that 50% come from un-churched families. So, if your church has a Scout troop or Venturing crew of 12 youth, and half of them are unchurched — Well, 6 kids (6 families, with, say, three members apiece) + meeting in the church, and members of your church interacting with, mentoring and getting to know those individuals = say, 18 new members.

But I’m a former English teacher, so maybe my math’s not that good.

But if your church is simply “sponsoring” a troop or crew (maybe only paying the recharter fees to keep the troop active) and not using this opportunity to interact and build relationships between the Scouts, their families, Scout leader, church leaders, church members, pastors and others — you’re all missing out.

The mission of the church is to reach out to those within the community, receive them as they are, relate them to God, nurture and equip them, and send them back into the community in order to make the community a more loving and just place in which to live. (I borrowed that from the United Methodist Men — thought it was pretty good)

Boy Scouts

Another mission involves people already “in” the church — involvement with a Scouting program can reach those in the congregation who want to interact with today’s young people in a meaningful way. You know the type of person I’m talking about . . . the Godly man or woman who just can’t sit through another sermon on the necessity of tithing, but who will gladly donate their time to share interests with youth . . . the woman who just can’t stand another “Women’s Studies Group” about “Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food” (I did NOT make that up!) . . . the young adult who loves Jesus, but doesn’t care for Religion (with a capital R) . . . the older man or woman who would love to share some of their hard-won experience and skills, but their own grandchildren would rather sit at the game console.

Maybe you, personally, don’t much care for teenage angst — lucky you: the BSA (the organization I’m most familiar with, but the others are similar) has age groups like Tiger Cubs (age 6); Cub Scouts (ages 7-10); Boy Scouts (ages 11-17) and Venturing (ages 14-20, and coed, to boot). So, if teenagers aren’t your bag, work with the cute Tiger Cubs or another age/sex.

Two things, in closing, to consider:

The youth of your community are NOT tomorrow’s congregation. They are THE congregation. Look around your church — take a quick note of everyone there who is over 60 (you can be generous in this — if you’re not sure, count them as under 60). Now mentally subtract that number from the number present. That’s what your church will look like in roughly 20 years. That’s probably “best-case scenario,” too, because if your church is like most, there aren’t many attending in the 20-40 age range, and some of those small children will stop coming (if that wasn’t true, you wouldn’t be missing the 20-40s now).

Cub Scouts

If your program is working (you have more youth than you can shake a stick at, and they’re taking an active, leading role in your church and connecting with the adult members), GREAT (and I want to know your secret)! If it’s not, then take a look around — is your “youth program” sitting in class on Sundays, passively listening to the sermons in “big church,” occasionally going on a youth trip or mission (and coming back all fired up, but with nothing to do when they get back home), and better seen than heard? Then look at Scouting:

  • a value-based program that teaches values, promotes good citizenship, and provides good adult role models.
  • a program that develops leadership (what church doesn’t need up-and-coming leaders?)
  • an educational program that builds self-esteem and a sense of pride in accomplishment, along with multiple life skills.
  • a program that encourages service to the community. An important part of Scouting is doing service for others. Scouts do countless hours of service conducting food drives, road and park cleanups, and conservation work, to name a few. By doing service Scouts develop a pride in their communities (church and secular), a pride that will carry into adulthood.
  • a program that can be a vehicle to bring youth and adults together. Scouting can be a neutral topic, one in which adults and youth can participate together. 

And, on top of all this, it’s fun! But, as has often been stated, it’s “A game for [youth] under the leadership of [youth] with the wise guidance and counsel of a grown-up who has still the enthusiasm of youth . . . A purposeful game, but a game just the same, a game that develops character by practice, that trains for citizenship–through experience in the out-of-doors.” (Handbook for Scoutmasters, 1936)

— Cliff Coan

UMC Scouting Ministry Specialist

Ten Reasons to Consider Scouting as a Ministry

Outreach
The ministry of Christ revolved around the profound concept of reaching out to others.
Evangelism
Statistics indicate that of all the youth who join scouting through the church, 25 percent are United Methodists, 25 percent are members of other denominations or faiths and 50 percent come from unchurched families. Therefore, Scouting is one potential entry point for persons to join the church, which then has the opportunity to introduce, nurture and strengthen a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Intergenerational
Scouting and civic youth ministry offers opportunities for older adults as well as youth to participate.
Coeducational
Some scouting programs exist for both girls and boys.
United Methodist Men (UMM)
UMM have a historical commitment to scouting and civic youth ministry.
Mission
Many mission opportunities are made available through the five youth agencies.
PRAY Awards (formerly God and Country Program)
The God and Country Series is an age-appropriate study series that focuses on discipleship, family, and service.
Develop Servant Leaders
Each youth organization had inherent “building blocks” that the local church can transform into effective ministry.
Intentionality
The scouting program can be an effective, intentional outreach ministry of the local church.
Make Disciples
Considering one or a combination of the previous reasons, a local church may develop a consistent list of prospects for the Lord. Nurturing children, teens, and families through outreach and evangelism and incorporating them into the life of the church may have tremendous, eternal results for the youth, their family and the Church.

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