“There is no such thing as a typical Scout charter arrangement or relationship,” says Greg Nelson, UM Men scouting director for Missouri. “Each unit is as unique as the church by which it is chartered.”
In an effort to recruit Scout troops to join a UM Men August retreat, Nelson found some units had dissolved. Others had changed charter organizations. Still others were led by non-Methodist Scouters.
During sessions of the Missouri Annual Conference, Nelson spoke with pastors and lay persons about their scouting ministries.
“We met a number of visionary Scout leaders and pastors who see scouting as a ministry,” says Nelson. “Some churches were strong supporters of their chartered Scout units, fully integrating their church with scouting, and that was clearly reflected in their active P.R.A.Y. awards programs. One troop near Kansas City was awarded the Bishop's Award of Excellence at the conference.”
“At the same time, we met even more folks who had never considered the idea of scouting as ministry. Many pastors were not even sure if their church chartered a unit or not, and didn't know who the scoutmaster or cubmaster was –– if they had units.”
Maybe next year
Nelson found that the weekend for the UM Men retreat was about the same time as the start of many Missouri School Districts.
“This made the participation of most of the boys and their families even in my home troop a challenge,” said Nelson. “Many families make a last family trip in the last week before school starts, and those that don't are hard-pressed at this time of year. It's a certainly a bad weekend to ask families to do something new.”
Nelson also found that most troops schedule their outings a year in advance. “Proposing a change in that schedule is not recommended,” he said.
The scouting ministry specialist ended up taken only four Scouts and four Scout leaders to the retreat. However, the eight of them organized a campfire, cleared and marked the trail up a nearby mountain to an “old rugged cross,” and participated in a Sunday morning sunrise hike up the same trail.
“Those of us who made it for the sunrise were rewarded with a glorious cloudless sky and the sun popped up just as we finished ‘Sing Alleluia to the Lord,’ and we shared communion in front of that cross as the sun rose,” said Nelson.
“Now it’s back to the drawing board, so that come next September, we can build on what we learned at the retreat,” he concluded.