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A new adventure program for young men designed as an alternative to the Boy Scouts of America could have a chapter in the White Mills area next year.
Trail Life USA is a national Christian character, adventure and leadership program founded this year. Like the Boy Scouts, it focuses on honing skill sets through outdoor experiences and helping young men grow into positive role models.
Ron Heller is one of the men working on a troop in White Mills that could be sponsored by White Mills Christian Church. Heller said those developing the local troop are filling out the required paperwork needed to establish the charter and searching for adults to lead the program.
“We’d like to get going around the first of the year,” Heller said. He said he was unaware of any other troops under development in Hardin County but expects churches will show interest in sponsoring troops once Trail Life settles.
Tim Dennis, minister of White Mills Christian Church, said the church is exploring its option for a Trail Life troop. He said a more realistic launch of the program could be summer of next year.
“What we want to do is do what’s best for the children,” Dennis said.
The emergence of Trail Life USA comes after the Boy Scouts relaxed its membership
policy to allow the acceptance of youth regardless of sexual identification or preference. Gay adults still are prohibited from joining the Scouts as leaders.
Several churches around the country that sponsored Scout troops severed ties with the organization, including Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, because of their opposition to the policy change.
Heller has been involved with scouting for decades and said he would not disparage the program. However, he said there are some concerns from churches about the policy on homosexuality. Heller said he views it as a small start to the lowering of moral standards.
Trail Life USA, he said, will focus more heavily on Biblical ideals than the Boy Scouts and will try to improve on the impact that program has made through the decades.
“We’re not trying to destroy scouting,” Heller said, “We just want to take it to another level with higher standards.”
Trail Life’s motto is “Walk Worthy” and aspires to be the top national character development program that produces godly husbands, fathers and citizens, according to its website.
Trail Life requires its adult leaders to sign a statement of faith and will not accept into its ranks youth who openly perform or promote forms of sexual immorality, meaning gay youth would have to stay silent about their homosexuality or risk expulsion.
“In terms of sexual identification and behavior, we affirm that any sexual activity outside the context of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful before God and therefore inconsistent with the values and principles of the program,” states Trail Life’s membership standards.
Heller said Trail Life has programs roughly equivalent to the levels of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts as the youth are broken up into grade levels. Members of Trail Life USA often are referred to as trailmen.
Scouts who want to become trailmen can transfer if they would like, he said. He expects the local chapter to start primarily with middle school students, gradually filling out rosters for younger children and high school students.
One avenue where Trail Life will break from the Scouts is the utilization of expensive camps. Heller said the White Mills chapter would seek out local church camps as another option and will have an advantage because it can tap into its direct relationship with White Mills Christian Camp.
Both Dennis and Heller said the church will continue to sponsor Boy Scout Troop 244 for the time being, primarily because there are multiple scouts closing in on the Eagle Scout designation. Dennis said he would not want to take this accomplishment away from any of the young men because they invested so much time and work into gaining the rank.
But Heller foresees a time rapidly approaching in which the troop is dissolved and the Trail Life troop replaces it. Heller said there are around 70 boys in the Scout troop now, and it would make sense for those low in rank to consider the transition to Trail Life.
“We’re going to try to get it started,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.