“The news story also quoted Baptist state newspaper editors extolling virtues of the organization that incorporates Scouting-like activities including camping, earning patches for camp crafts and even an equivalent to the Cub Scouts’ Pinewood Derby. The Royal Ambassador focus, however, is to develop and train future missionaries and missions supporters under a motto of “We are Ambassadors for Christ,” taken from the Bible passage 2 Corinthians 5:20.”
Royal Ambassadors, also known as RAs, was founded in 1908 by WMU as a companion organization to Girls in Action – also known as GAs. Within seven years, the organization had formed more than 500 chapters with 4,500 members and grew large enough to require the hiring of a full-time convention-wide RA secretary in 1943.
In 1954, WMU turned the program over to the Brotherhood Commission, a Memphis-based SBC agency dissolved in 1997 through a merger that created the North American Mission Board. By 1960, RA enrollment numbered 220,000 boys in 13,000 Southern Baptist churches.
According to Baptist Press, about 3,000 churches across the country today have RA programs, and many have more than one RA group. By comparison, the Boy Scouts of America claims 114 million members and more than 33,000 adult volunteers.
In 2011, NAMB announced a partnership turning day-to-day operation of the Royal Ambassador program to WMU as part of NAMB’s “Send North America” strategy focused on evangelism and church planting.
Royal Ambassadors isn’t the only alternative Scouting organization on the scene. Boys Brigade, a popular Christian youth organization in the UK founded in 1883, predates the Boy Scouts of America by 17 years.