Starting Trail Life USA and American Heritage Girls Troops
By: Alex Campbell
The chapel glowed with the amber radiance of two majestic Christmas trees – but the minds of the children were not on Christmas. The pulpit arose from a stout canopy of surrounding poinsettia flowers – but the attention of the parents was not on the pulpit. Tonight, the chapel of Christ Reformed Church was hosting the Trail Life USA and American Heritage Girls year end programs and everyone’s attention was fixed upon the achievements nobly earned by the boys and girls of Troop SC-1776.
Having begun in the spring of 2016, this was the second big year-end awards ceremony at the church. The journey began several years ago when the Session of Christ Reformed Church authorized Pastor Alexander Campbell to visit various Boy Scout Troops in the Anderson, South Carolina, area and to determine if the church should start a Boy Scout Troop of its own. The question that they sought to answer was this: Is there an existing scouting program that would reflect the ethos of our church or do we need to start our own program?
In some ways, the answer to that question became easy due to the national controversies surrounding the Boys Scouts of America. Due to mounting pressure from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights groups, The Boy Scouts reversed its long-standing policy against having openly homosexual members in 2013. In 2015, the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America voted to end the policy banning homosexual adult leaders. This decision was followed by a decision last January that allowed transgender children to join. The Girl Scouts of America have shown similar reversals of previously-held Biblical morals over the years by joining with groups such as abortion provider Planned Parenthood. These decisions mean that the ethos of many Bible-believing churches would be compromised by hosting a national scout troop.
The problem is this – while churches and other organizations host American Boy and Girl Scout troops, the troops themselves are subject to the authority of the national organizations, not the church. This is where Trail Life USA (TLUSA) and American Heritage Girls (AHG) are different.
Both TLUSA and AHG were started by Christian leaders from the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who were concerned over the direction of the organizations. TLUSA and AHG contain all of the great aspects of scouting such as merit systems of reward, fun and informative outings, parental involvement, patriotism, hands-on learning opportunities and more. The big difference is that both of these organizations are unashamedly Christian and, unlike scouting, the troops actually become a ministry of the local church. Therefore, the church retains authority over many of the aspects of the programs. The local church controls the ethos of the troop.
After meeting with some officials of TLUSA and AHG, officers and parents of Christ Reformed Church visited Devenger Road Presbyterian Church in Greenville which was a fellow ARP church that had already started programs of their own. Church leaders were encouraged by the quality of the Devenger Road ARP TLUSA and AHG programs and decided to form troops of their own. Christ Reformed Church would begin the first TLUSA and AHG troops in Anderson County, SC.
At first, the paperwork required to begin a troop seemed a bit overwhelming but it is manageable. Potential leaders are required to go through criminal background checks and training on sexual assault, etc. to insure the safety of the children. There are fees involved with starting the troops but the troops quickly become self-funding. By the end of the first year, Christ Reformed Church had over 30 children enrolled in troops.
For information on starting TLUSA and AHG troops, go to the following helpful websites:
- Trail Life USA: https://www.traillifeusa.com.
- American Heritage Girls: https://www.americanheritagegirls.org.
A bit of effort goes into starting and maintaining a troop but the effort is worth it. Your church can have real, positive impact on dozens of young people while having a great time doing it!