A colleague recently shared an article of interest titled “How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home”. That article, in full, can be reviewed by clicking HERE.
The blog author interviewed Phil Vischer (the creator of “Veggie Tales”) and the article begins with a thought provoking statement:
“We end up teaching the wrong thing because we have the wrong objectives.”
- The Aims of Scouting are: Character development, Citizenship training, and Personal fitness.
- The mission of 4-H: 4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults.
- The mission of Trail Life USA is: to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure.
- The mission of Christian Service Brigade is stated as: Building godly men of today and tomorrow.
- The mission of the US Naval Sea Cadets is “…to encourage and aid American youth to develop, train them in seagoing skills, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred virtues.“
I could go on listing mission statements from many youth organizations — each suggesting notable, laudable goals for our Nation’s youngsters.
The differences between the objectives suggests that the ultimate outcomes realized will be different, and; therefore, attract different leaders and a different audience.
Therefore, it should be important for leaders, volunteers and parents to carefully examine what outcomes they’re trying to achieve for the children under their care — to be certain that the program’s objectives align with expected outcomes.
For most Christian families, raising their children to understand their Christian faith and live a life that mimics the life of Jesus is important:
- We are called to protect the children who are put in our care, to raise them in the Word (Dt 4:10, Dt 6:1-9, Dt 11:19, Ps 78:4-6, Ps 127:3-5, Pr 22:6, Eph 6:4, Col. 3:21, Heb 12:9-10).
- We also have a responsibility to counsel youth based on scriptures (Isaiah 1:16-17, 2 Timothy 2:22-26, 2 Timothy 3 and Titus 2:6-8, et.al.) whether the issue is lying, cheating, stealing, extra-marital sex exploration, or substance abuse, et.al. The goal is to help them maintain purity, increase wisdom and stature (Ps 1:1-3, Jeremiah 17:5-8) and therefore, to be prepared for their ultimate vocational calling.
So, enrolling their children in a program that truly aligns with their family goals is vitally important, or else a different outcome would be likely.
In the blog article “How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home”, Phil Vischer states:
“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible [or the scout law] says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible [or the scout law] says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . .
And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel [& scouting ideals?] . And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore.
The concern is clear — we can have the best of intentions (to raise moral, responsible, polite, trustworthy, courteous children who never know hunger, fear, turmoil, etc.) and fail miserably to achieve them because our desired outcomes were frustrated by misaligned or inappropriate objectives.
Phil asks “what are our objectives?“
Do you teach your kids [scouts] “be good because the Bible tells you to” or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters.
I want my kids to be good. We all do. But as our kids grow up, the truth of the gospel can easily get lost somewhere between salvation (where we know we need Jesus) and living life (where we tend to say “I’ve got this”). My experience is that the vast majority of parents [or scout leaders/volunteers] are encouraging moral behavior in their kids so that God will bless their (usually self-centered) pursuits. It’s the American Dream plus Jesus. And it produces good, moral pagans.
Consider the key objectives you have for your kids. Seriously, take a minute to think about what would deem you a successful parent [or scout leader/volunteer]. If your goals are focused on your kids’ behavior, their happiness, or their accomplishments (but don’t include a dependence upon Christ and a submission to His will and work), then you might want to make some adjustments.
I’ve met many very well intentioned men and women in scouting who proclaim that they’re Christian Scout Leaders who have built a “faith-based unit” that incorporates the gospel message into their devotionals and scoutmaster minutes (including myself who had bought into this idea).
What I’ve seen from my own unit and from others, is the teaching of morals based on Scouting Ideals. And that’s not bad at all — it’s just incomplete from a “Christian” viewpoint.
We could assume that the boys will hear the rest of the story at home or church. Some may. Some may not. “We’re just sowers — God will do the rest.” However, are we setting up some of these boys to hear the words from Matthew 7:21-23?
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
Now, to be clear, I’m NOT suggesting that BSA, as a “non-sectarian“, “religiously pluralistic” organization SHOULD be teaching Christian doctrinal issues during troop meetings. BSA isn’t a Christian organization.
However, for well meaning associations and organizations that ring the periphery of BSA to suggest that a decidedly Christian message that leads to salvation can and will be presented through BSA is to confuse objectives.
This confusion can lead both adults and youth to unintended destinations:
- For adults, they may get sucked into creating new curriculum (and long-winded blog articles, if I look candidly in a mirror) to introduce ideas that simply do not exist in scouting handbooks or leaders guides (nor were intended to be).
- For youth, it may be the adoption of healthy morals without a real understanding of why these choices matter, and that there’s still an issue of reconciling God’s grace and confession of sin through the mechanism of Christ’s death and resurrection.
- For parents, it may be the completion of various workbooks that touch the surface of beliefs, but are no substitute for the responsibilities of fathers and mothers on the raising of children (Dt 4:10, Dt 6:1-9, Dt 11:19, Ps 78:4-6, Ps 127:3-5, Pr 22:6, Eph 6:4, Col. 3:21, Heb 12:9-10; et.al.)
- For chartering organizations, it can lead to either overstepping (proselytizing specific practices regardless of personal convictions) or failing to engage (being a landlord instead of a curriculum/ministry partner)
This sort of disconnect between intentions, objectives and outcomes could happen in many youth programs — not just BSA, TLUSA, CSB, CCC, but most any faith-related ministry.
- If you want to “share the gospel” with children, then do so, but you may be better equipped to do it within a ministry whose objectives include “sharing the gospel“!
- Don’t try to insert your own objectives into a National program whose objectives are similar, but distinctively different than your own (moral behavior is not the same as Christian salvation). Conversely consider how this statement sounds to the “non-sectarian scouters” in your local area – “If you are staying within BSA to evangelize, then don’t be LUKEWARM, be HOT or be COLD: evangelize without any compromise.” How would that sentiment be received by your DE, REC or even Council Exec? Would they support your “on-fire-evangelism”? How is that attitude received at internet scouting forums, facebook groups, linked in forums? Do you really think BSA will tolerate “evangelism without compromise?”
- You may think you can change the youth program to suit your objectives — and may be partly successful at your local unit level, but you ought to recognize that such a move will cause dissension above (and possibly sideways) by not aligning with their “corporate goals” (which are already firmly established and set by board members and appointed delegates, not volunteers/leaders/parents)
- If you’re currently committed to a program, make certain that your aims and their aims are in perfect alignment. If not, you’re spinning your wheels, or worse, leading others to unintended destinations.
- If you’re a Christian resolutely committed to BSA for leading children to salvation, you may be introducing a conflicting goal to an organization that is going in a different direction. If you’re only interested in modeling “moral behavior” while camping and hiking, then lead onward, but be aware that your spiritual message (as a Christian) is incomplete and could (inadvertently) lead boys to grow up thinking they’re going to heaven because they’ve earned it thru good turns, or because they’ve been a morally upright man.
- If you want to minister, disciple, mentor youth towards salvation and then in spiritual growth, consider a ministry program that aligns with these objectives — there are many with this objective that also productively emulate the best qualities of scouting (i.e. leadership development, camping/outdoors, service, adult association, uniform, advancement, personal growth, et.al.)
Addendum #1: Self-Diagnostics for Christian Scout Leaders
- Have I compromised my faith by idolizing my involvement in BSA (i.e. has my “1.5 hours per week” become more of a religion to me than my actual faith practice)? (1 Cor 10)
- Am I happier and more excited to be at scouting events than Bible Study, Church or Sunday School? (Matthew 6:21)
- Do I actually testify as to my beliefs while scouting at district/council events, round table, summer camp, camporees, etc. or do I hide my candle under a bushel for fear my scout buddies won’t tolerate my testimony (Acts 17:22-33)
- Does the BSA practice of non-sectarianism equate to “all faiths are equally valid paths to God?” and if so, can Christians reconcile that with scriptures (John 14:6, etc.)
- Is the issue of same-sex attraction a moral, ethical, spiritual issue or merely one of “distraction” as BSA characterizes it? (Romans 1:18-32, et.al.)
- I sign a contract with BSA each year that affirms my commitment to the Declaration of Religious Principle, and that I’ll uphold EACH of their policies regardless of my beliefs. Does that constitute unequal yoking (2 Cor 6:14-17) or can I just ignore those verses?
- Is BSA helping me win my race, or has it become a distraction – am I closer to God because of BSA or in spite of BSA? (1Cor.9:24)
- 1 Cor. 10:31 tells me to do ALL that I do to the glory of God — are my BSA activities, discussions, and ideals consistently glorifying to God or are they compromised by BSA social norms (behaving differently around other scouters to fit in with their expectations, speech, rough humor, biases and discouragement of “proselytizing”)?
- Is the focus of our unit meetings merely on the “highly practical, but temporal, things of earth” or do we genuinely celebrate and understand matters of eternity?(John 12:25; James 4:4; James 4:13-15; Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15-16; Col. 3:2; Philippians 4:8; 1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13; Philippians 3:19-20; Ps 73:1-3 & 17)
- Am I satisfied by (and is God accepting of) my possibly compromised participation within BSA for modeling moral behavior, as opposed to presenting the message of salvation by grace because of Christ’s death and resurrection? I recognize that this may lead to young men growing up with false expectations of eternal life because they’ve lived a “good life” or have “done good things” to earn God’s favor as an acceptable payment for original and active sins committed during their life. I bear responsibilities and possible consequences as outlined in: Mark 9:42; Matthew 5:19; James 3:1; Hebrews 13:17.
Addendum #2: Related Articles
- (Re)Discovering Your Duty to God
- Acting on Our Duty to God as Scouters
- Is the Purpose of Scouting to Build Membership at a Church?
- Christian Youth Programs Versus Interfaith Camping Programs
- Holy Huddles, Batman!
- Considering a Transition to Trail Life?
- Selecting an Alternative to BSA for Your Family
- Reflections on Fathers Day
- The Bookend Ideals: Duty to God and A Scout is Reverent
- Advice to Christians and Churches Involved in Boy Scouts – Reformation21 Blog
- The Boy Scouts and America’s growing rebellion against God (“Thoughts En Route” Blog)
Addendum #3: Organizations similar to scouting, but genuinely faith-based:
- Trail Life USA,
- Christian Service Brigade,
- Catholic Troops of St. George,
- National Conference of Synagogue Youth
- Pioneer Clubs,
- TBE Youth Programs,
- Royal Rangers,
- B’nai B’rith Youth Organization,
- Calvinist Cadet Corps,
- Royal Ambassadors,
- Federation of North American Explorers,
- Pathfinders USA, et.al.