I remember the event quite vividly. As my wife and I walked into the local Boy Scout council office to speak to Doug, the local Boy Scout executive, about starting our own troop, my feelings of uneasiness and incompetence overwhelmed me. I had not been a Boy Scout myself; I think I may have spent a year as a Webelos Cub Scout, but that was the extent of my scouting experience. However, unlike me, my son, Daniel, and the other five home schooled boys in Cub Scout Den 633 were about to bridge over from Webelos Scouts to Boy Scouts.
We came to a point of decision. We either had to join another troop or start our own from scratch. It seemed obvious to us that instead of re-inventing the wheel, we should merge into an existing troop. We proceeded optimistically, visiting several Boy Scout troops, hoping to find one that met our expectations of elevated parental involvement and a high percentage of Eagle Scout success. To our disappointment, none met our high expectations. That should not have surprised us, but it did.
Besides these high expectations, we wanted to avoid the horror stories that we had heard from friends and families about the negative experiences of scouting. Moreover, it was a spiritual matter for us—the Cub Scout den came up with the 633 nomenclature based on Matthew 6:33: which says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Last, as a home schooling father, I looked at scouting as an avenue for engaging with my sons, for restoring their hearts to myself (Malachi 4:6), and ultimately to the Lord. So, we found ourselves speaking to Doug.
I think in the back of my mind I was hoping to hear that it was going to be too difficult, too expensive, too time consuming, and that one needed a myriad of outdoor experiences to start a troop from scratch. That was all I needed to hear to start heading out the door. I did not feel qualified. It was enough of a challenge to lead and stay engaged with my own two boys, let alone six of them.
I had no clue how to run a troop. Subconsciously, I wanted to hear anything that would convince me not to proceed with my original intent. However, Doug was very patient with us and answered each question with grace and a smile. He was very encouraging and assured us that we could handle this endeavor and that he would come alongside us every step of the way. (By the way, I am here to say that he kept his word, as a good Boy Scout should.) Without me knowing it, like a cunning salesman, he presented the paperwork, and before I knew it, I was signing on the dotted ine and cutting a check that would seal our fate. With some hesitancy and with mustard-seed-sized faith, Boy Scout Troop 633 was born.
Something from Nothing
I now look back at that day with much thankfulness and with no regret. Just like the Bible story about the boy with the five loaves and two fish, God has shown Himself faithful with the little faith that we had brought to the table. In the short four-year history of the troop, through trial and error and much learning, Troop 633 has grown to twenty-seven boys and has managed to graduate three Eagle Scouts to date. Of the twenty-seven, there are currently twelve boys who have achieved the Life Scout rank—that is a forty-four percent success rate, so far, for Life Scout achievement.
Of the original six Webelos Cub Scouts who bridged from the den, all five remaining scouts have achieved the Life Scout rank, and of those five, two of them are finalizing Eagle Scout projects as I write this article. So far, we have managed to beat the odds, and if the five from the original six reach Eagle Scout, that would mean an eight-three percent success rate for attaining that coveted rank. This success rate is exceptional, considering the national average for attaining Eagle Scout is in the single digits.
I would like to say that the reason for our success so far is that the boys always take the initiative, are highly self-governed and self-motivated, and that the parents of the boys are just plain awesome. Well, the fact of the matter is that the reason for our success, in my opinion, is that the parents, particularly the dads, simply show up and make it a point to engage themselves with their boys. From the start, we wanted to avoid being and recruiting what I termed, “red-taillight parents.” In other words, we expected the parent or parents to stay and not just to drive away, showing their red taillights. In a lot of cases, both parents are involved–the father is a scoutmaster or assistant scoutmaster, and the mother sits on the troop committee or serves as a volunteer for another committee. On campouts, it is not uncommon to have two dads to every three boys present. Additionally, the consistently high parent turnout allows for relationships to be built, values to be shared, and trust to be established. Because of this relational foundation built on trust, on the occasions when I am not present, I can be assured that the parents who are present will nurture, and discipline (when necessary) my boys as I would. This is scouting at its best, and I am proud to know each of the parents and each of the boys of Troop 633.
Why do Scouting
I can go on and on, telling you of the other great characteristics of Troop 633 and its benefits, the how-tos and what-to-do-ifs. I will not though; that is for another article. Frankly, we are not perfect, and we still have our issues and disagreements. We have handled some things incorrectly in the past and will probably continue to do so at times. Rather, allow me to focus on the why and the real reason I think boys (and fathers) need the Boy Scout program. Oddly enough, I do not think the main reason is to reach the rank of Eagle Scout. What is more, I do not think it is to make the boys “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent” (the Scout law). Although these are great goals, they are not the ends in themselves. They are the means to an even greater end.
Do not get me wrong. Of course I want all of the boys to attain the Eagle Scout rank and to embody the Scout law. However, having a rank and abiding by this law do not necessarily make the boys the kind of people God wants them to be. In fact, if we are not careful, we might very well be raising hypocrites. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted an avenue that would allow me to engage with my sons and to restore their hearts to myself and ultimately to the Lord. This was my goal—a goal we, as fathers, should all endeavor to attain. Allow me to elaborate.
The troop has afforded me time to “sit down and walk along the road, lie down and get up” (Deut. 6:7) with my boys when I could ask the tough questions in life and to challenge their worldviews. It has provided me opportunities to challenge their initiative, sense of responsibility, and integrity when meeting certain merit badge requirements. Further, it has allowed me to challenge them physically and mentally so they can build character, grow strong, and grow in perseverance. Last and certainly not least, on a spiritual level it has granted me many occasions for corporate prayer, worship, and reading of scripture and for challenging theological discussion. I am eternally grateful to Doug and the entire Boy Scout organization for allowing this home schooling father to accomplish these important goals.
A Challenge for Dads
Allow me to challenge you fathers who have sons. What is your reason for participating in scouting (or anything, for that matter)? Do you have an eternal perspective? Are you embodying the kind of example—in your heart as well as in your actions—that Christ expects of you in front of your boys? Are you preparing them for a great life here on earth and an even better life in heaven? Are you being the spiritual leader of your home and training your boys to become the same when they have families? These are tough questions, I know. My hope and prayer is that as you engage your boys, whether in scouting or not, you would do so in such a manner that would make them strong, build integrity and godly character, and ultimately turn their hearts to the Lord.