Article submitted by Gene Butler, Growth Coach of the Central Region.
Religious emblems programs have been part of Scouting’s “Duty to God” for many years and support the Declaration of Religious Principle. Although the religious emblems have always been recognized in terms of “program or advancement,” they have been overlooked in terms of “membership” and should be used by local councils to strengthen charter partner relationships, increase membership and manpower, improve retention, and enhance program. Simply put, religious emblems and faith-based relationships reinforce the values found in the Scout Oath and Law.
The religious emblems programs are created by the various religious groups and faith traditions who partner with the BSA to encourage youth to grow stronger in their faith. The BSA has approved these programs and allows the recognition to be worn on the official uniform, but each religious organization and faith tradition—not the Boy Scouts of America—develops and administers its own curriculum and emblems.
Religious emblems signify the work one completes learning about their faith tradition and its customs. These programs are graduated programs that teach youth or serve as ministry through curriculum developed by leaders and educators in their own faith. Most traditions have multiple emblems for each Scouting program that align with requirements for Duty to God Adventures, Scout Spirit, and the Venturing TRUST Award. Similar to other advancement within BSA programs, when youth earn the emblem of their faith, they advance more frequently and are registered longer. Likewise, faith-based units traditionally are more sustainable. By providing an instant and visible connection between Scouting and a faith community, the religious emblems programs can help councils reach diverse groups and specific geographic areas or communities not already being served by Scouting.
Congregations benefit from this program, as well. The religious emblems programs can help a congregation embrace Scouting not as an outside group that meets in its building, but as an integral part of their education or ministry with youth and community outreach. Local congregations will not only be providing religious instruction through the religious emblems programs, but they will also be strengthening the spiritual component of the Scouting program. Furthermore, Scouting’s annual recruitment efforts regularly bring young people and families through the doors of the congregation. Past BSA studies have shown that 17% of all Scouts have their first exposure to faith through Scouting programs chartered to a congregation.
According to the Search Institute, Scouting and Religious Community are two of the 40 Developmental Assets for positive youth development. Both organizations share concern about the same areas of education and ministry: increased participation by families and youth, outreach, and leader development. Understanding that the BSA does not create religious emblems is the key to leveraging religious emblem programs and allows councils to initiate dialogue with local congregations about one of their own resources designed to serve their youth.
Five ways to encourage a faith base organizations to embrace Scouting:
- Ask a religious leader that doesn’t have a Scouting program to consider working with youth of their religion with the Religious Program of their faith.
- Consider a “Ten Commandment Hike” as a public relations event to promote Duty to God and A Scout is Reverent.
- Together We Organize event of the same faith-based organization.
- Scout Sunday promotion. Working with the Council Religious Relationship Committee to promote and identify Scouting activities in the respective faith-based organization.
- Volunteer Recognition. An opportunity for the religious leader to acknowledge their scout leaders who are working with youth in their organization.
Scouting Wire would like to thank Gene for submitting this article.