So if you’ve arrived at this page, you’re really determined to find a program “other than” Boy Scouts of America for your son(s).
I can’t claim to be an expert on “other than” organizations, but I am aware of a wide range of youth-serving organizations that include outdoor activity, awards programs, leadership training, service projects, etc.
Some of these could be called direct “alternatives” to BSA in that they embody many of the same program characteristics, processes, methods, and leadership styles. https://app.box.com/comparisons
Others are less closely linked to the traditional scouting model as initially developed by Lord Baden-Powell in the UK, but still offer strong program ‘distinctives’ for families — perhaps a tie into military preparation or a stronger emphasis on faith development, etc.
I found most of this information (below) on a couple of web sites and news articles (links below).
I don’t claim that this is a complete or exhaustive list — there may be many more. Any information presented here is not intended as endorsement or advertising. It’s offered as free information, gathered from those organization’s own web sites or wiki sources — if it’s not correct, it’s a genuine mistake. Please investigate at own risk, and follow up directly with these organizations if you have questions or interest.
Here are some quick links you may wish to investigate:
Program Name: US Naval Sea Cadet Corps
Age Range/Grade Levels: programs available from age 11 thru 17.
Faith Distinctive? Secular
Web Site: http://www.seacadets.org/
Overview: “The Navy League Cadet Corps (NLCC) is for boys and girls, at least 11 but not yet 14 years old, who are interested in the sea and ships, and our nations seagoing services. The Navy League program is designed to introduce young people to maritime and military life, and to prepare them for later entrance into the Naval Sea Cadet Corps.”
“The Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC) is for American youth ages 13-17 who have a desire to learn about the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. Sea Cadets are authorized by the Secretary of the Navy to wear Navy uniforms appropriately marked with the Sea Cadet Corps insignia. The objectives of the Sea Cadet program are to introduce youth to naval life, to develop in them a sense of pride, patriotism, courage, and self-reliance, and to maintain an environment free of drugs and gangs.”
Program Name: Civil Air Patrol
Age Range/Grade Levels: programs available from age 12 thru 18.
Faith Distinctive? Secular
Web Site: http://www.gocivilairpatrol.com/
Overview: (From Wikipedia) “It performs three congressionally assigned key missions: emergency services, which includes search and rescue (by air and ground) and disaster relief operations; aerospace education for youth and the general public; and cadet programs for teenage youth. In addition, CAP has recently been tasked with homeland security and courier service missions.
Program Name: AWANA
Sponsoring Agency: AWANA (they are their own 501(c)3 non-profit agency)
Age Range/Grade Levels: programs available from age 2 thru High School.
Faith Distinctive? Christian Non-Denominational (serves 100+ denominations)
Web Site: http://awana.org
Overview: Awana (derived from the first letters of Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed as taken from 2 Timothy 2:15) is an international evangelical nonprofit organization founded in 1950, headquartered in Streamwood, Illinois. Awana helps churches and parents work together to develop spiritually strong children and youth who faithfully follow Jesus Christ. Programs offer a proven approach for evangelizing and discipling kids in the church and community. Each week, nearly two million kids ages 2 to 18 participate in Awana. This includes 1.07 million in 102 countries outside of the U.S.
Disclamer – Our troop’s chartering organization, FBC Hackensack, also offers AWANA for K-6 ages. It is well supported and my own sons participated in AWANA while growing up.
Program Name: Christian Service Brigade
Sponsoring Agency: CSB Ministries
Age Range/Grade Levels: Tadpoles (ages 4-5), Tree Climbers (ages 6-7), Stockade (ages 8-11), and Battalion (ages 12-18).
Coed? No, but partners with GEMS for girls.
Faith Distinctive? Yes, statement of faith provided and participating churches and leaders are assumed to agree with and follow this statement of faith. (http://www.csbministries.org/site/statement_of_faith/)
Web Site: http://csbministries.org/
Overview: Founded in 1937, CSB describes itself as “…a discipleship ministry dedicated to engaging, encouraging and equipping godly men to raise up godly young men to lead and serve in family, church and community.” They wear a uniform that mirrors a BSA uniform, and are grouped into 4 age levels: Tadpoles (ages 4-5), Tree Climbers (ages 6-7), Stockade (ages 8-11), and Battalion (ages 12-18). Stockade even offers a Pinewood Derby equivalent called the “Shape N Race” derby. The highest honor available to CSB members is Herald of Christ. CSB also partners with GEMS Girls Clubs (GEMS is Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior).
Program Name: Royal Ambassadors / Challengers
Sponsoring Agency: WMU, Southern Baptist Convention
Age Range/Grade Levels: Grades 1-6 / Grades 7-12
Faith Distinctive? Offered through Southern Baptist Convention to participating churches
Web Site: http://www.wmu.com/index.php?q=children/royal-ambassadors/welcome-ras
Overview: Royal Ambassadors (RAs) is a Bible-centered, church-based, Southern Baptist missions education organization for boys in grades 1-6. The RA Motto, “We are Ambassadors for Christ,” not only gives the organization its name, but also gives the boys and leaders a lifestyle goal. This Motto is taken from Scripture, specifically 2 Corinthians 5:20. Royal Ambassadors leaders utilize activities that are designed to help boys learn about God’s mission, participate in missions experiences, pray for and give to missions, develop and use mission skills, and learn about and support the missions work of their church and denomination.
Web Site: http://www.wmu.com/index.php?q=students/challengers/welcome-challengers
Overview: Challengers is a missions organization for teen boys ages 12–17 or in grades 7–12. During a meeting, Challengers participate in missions experiences related to praying for missions, doing missions, learning about missions, and developing a missions lifestyle. The experiences embrace these six elements of Challengers: biblically-based, action-oriented, relationship-based, learner-focused, accountability-based, and missions driven. Each month Challengers focuses on the work of a missionary in North America or an international country. Students learn through age appropriate Bible studies and hands-on activities. Many activities in Challengers help students learn about cultural aspects of the missionaries’ work. Students learn by hearing mission stories and using Bible thoughts related to missions. Challengers are given the opportunity to pray for missions, give to missions, and do missions. Some meetings may be devoted to working on or to planning special projects. Leaders can encourage boys to develop their leadership skills by guiding them to participate and accept leadership according to their age and experience.
Program Name: Calvinist Cadet Corps
Sponsoring Agency: Self-governed
Age Range/Grade Levels: Kingdom Kids (ages 4 and 5); Junior Cadets (boys in grades 1-3); Recruit-Pathfinder-Builder (boys in grades 4-6); Guide Trails (boys in grades 7-9); Voyagers (boys in grades 9-11)
Coed? Only “Kingdom Kids” appears to be coeducational (ages 4 and 5) but there is an affiliation with GEMS girls clubs (http://www.gemsgc.org/)
Faith Distinctive? From their web site — The basis of the Calvinist Cadet Corps is the Word of God (the Bible) according to the concept of the same as expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, and the Belgic Confession. Participating churches must subscribe to their constitution (available online). Founded in 1952 in Grand Rapids, MI. As of 2010, it was estimated that the program serves 4000 men and 18000 boys in approximately 600 clubs (unverified).
Web Site: http://www.calvinistcadets.org/
Overview: From their web site — The Calvinist Cadet Corps is an independent (non-denominational) youth ministry organization whose purpose is to provide the local church with a ministry program that will enable them to effectively share Christ’s love with boys from their church and community. Founded in 1952, the Corps has more than 600 clubs throughout North America. We encourage any evangelical Bible believing church to consider using our ministry programs. The organization uses the title “Calvinist” to honor the Protestant reformer, John Calvin, who devoted his life to the religious education of God’s children.
Program Name: Pathfinders
Sponsoring Agency: Seventh-Day Adventist Church
Age Range/Grade Levels: Ages 10-15
Web Site: http://www.pathfindersonline.org/
Overview: Program includes advancement activities called “honors” which have been described as similar to scouting merit badges. Additionally, there are scheduled meetings, community service, outreach activities and camping. There is a uniform included in the program that bears some similarity to BSA styled uniforms (i.e. includes neckerchief)
Program Name: Royal Rangers
Sponsoring Agency: Assemblies of God
Age Range/Grade Levels: Grades K-12
Coed? No, but Assemblies of God has a parallel curriculum for girls.
Faith Distinctive? from their web site “…must be sponsored by a church affiliated with the Assemblies of God or the Pentecostal Charismatic Churches of North America (PCCNA). Other denominations and churches, including independent churches, may qualify if approved by the Assemblies of God district superintendent from the geographic district where the church is located. (Determined on a case-by-case basis)”
Web Site: http://royalrangers.com
Overview: From their web site: Founded in 1962 with approximately 250,000 members in the USA. “Royal Rangers provides boys with fun activities in five areas of interest, which we refer to as our “core competencies”: Outdoor Activities, Sports, Trade Skills, Technologies, and Arts. Many activities in Royal Rangers involve earning merits [merit badges], which are awards based on the development of skills in one or more of these core areas.” The program includes a uniform similar to a BSA style uniform. The program features patrol groupings similar to scouts. They also emphasize community service and outreach.
Program Name: Campfire USA
Sponsoring Agency: (Same)
Age Range/Grade Levels: ages 5-17 for out-of-school-time programs
Faith Distinctive? Inclusive Program (all welcome)
Web Site: http://www.campfireusa.org/
Overview: CampFire offers programs in three broad areas: Environmental and Camp Programs; Out-of-School-Time Programs; Teen Service and Leadership Programs
Program Name: Navigators USA
Sponsoring Agency: (Same)
Age Range/Grade Levels: Junior Navigators = ages 7-10; Senior Navigators = ages 11-18
Faith Distinctive? Inclusive Program (all welcome) “As a Navigator I promise to do my best to create a world free of prejudice and ignorance. To treat people of every race, creed, lifestyle and ability with dignity and respect. To strengthen my body and improve my mind to reach my full potential. To protect our planet and preserve our freedom.”
Web Site: http://navigatorsusa.org/
Overview: from their web site — The Navigators USA was created to provide a scouting experience for boys and girls who either can’t or don’t want to join the existing scouting organization in their local community. Whatever the reason, be it the local leadership, national policies, curriculum issues, gender separation, there should be more than one option for children and parents when it comes to scouting. The Navigators USA is here to teach many of the same skills and values of traditional scouting while emphasizing diversity, inclusion, and group problem solving.
Program Name: Spiral Scouts
Sponsoring Agency: SpiralScouts International was founded by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, who runs the Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary
Age Range/Grade Levels: Rain Drops (ages 3-5); FireFlies (ages 6-9); Spiral Scouts (ages 10-13); PathFinders (ages 14-18)
Faith Distinctive? Inclusive, open to all.
Web Site: http://www.spiralscouts.org
Overview: from their web site — SpiralScouts thrives on child-directed activities based on a globally-oriented philosophy of religious tolerance and interfaith cooperation, personal responsibility, and ecological education and conservation, in order to help our children learn to grow into strong, competent members of society and citizens of the world. In order to foster these skills, we believe that the children should make as many of the decisions as possible when it comes to the activities they do and how SpiralScouts works for them. Adult leaders should facilitate this process, not dictate it.