Throughout the pandemic, participation in a youth scouting group founded in response to disputed changes within the Boy Scouts of America has increased.
Trail Life USA CEO Mark Hancock reported that 65 new troops have been formed so far in 2021, with over 100 more in the works.
"So far this year, we have seen a 70% increase in new members over this time last year and a 30% increase over the same period the prior year," he said. "Just this year, we have seen over 65 new troops started as men across the nation have stepped up to lead and make a difference in the lives of boys in their churches, their families, and their communities."
Why it's founded
Trail Life USA was founded in part as a reaction to the Boy Scouts of America deciding in 2013 to allow openly homosexual males to join while keeping the organization's prohibition on openly gay scout leaders, a decision that was widely criticized.
As a result of this move, many churches, which had previously been a substantial source of funding for the Boy Scouts, decided to cut their affiliations with the well-known scouting organization.
Subsequently, the Boy Scouts of America announced other reforms, such as the acceptance of openly homosexual scout leaders beginning in 2015. It also allowed girls to join, sparking a lawsuit by the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
As Hancock explained to CP, Trail Life membership originally "came largely from individuals who had participated in the Boy Scouts" and "churches have come to see Trail Life as a distinct program."
A ministry of the Church
Hancock, who has served as a "Youth and College Pastor, Associate Pastor, Homeless Ministry Director and Global Event Director for an international ministry" explained that Trail Life USA is "a Christ-centered program that utilizes the outdoors to draw boys and their families into a closer relationship with their Creator."
"It is a significant distinction," he said, "and we are seeing unprecedented growth. Churches are attracted to our model as a means to engage men, connect fathers and sons, impact families and grow the Church."
The Christian scouting organization has just staged its National Backyard Concert and Campout event.
According to Hancock, around 20,000 individuals participated in the event. During Memorial Day Weekend, 15,000 more tuned in to watch the online broadcast.
"As Trail Life USA, we realized that boys would need a safe outlet for their rough-and-tumble, adventurous nature," said Hancock. "Many people appreciated our approach, and we saw growth last year. As things have begun to open up this year, families are flocking to the program."
How they work
According to their website, boys from Kindergarten through 12th grade are involved in a Troop setting under the supervision of male role models. Trail Life USA partners with churches and parents across the country to develop godly and responsible young men. This is also highlighted in their vision which states that they seek "to be the premier national character development organization for young men which produces godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens."