Ken Steppe and Chaplain’s Aide Alexander Spanenberg serve sacrament elements to Scouts attending the United Methodist Communion Service during the 2013 National Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.
Former ‘Tenderfoot’ becomes scouting ministry specialist
CARMEL, Ind.––As a young person Ken Steppe only spent one year in Boy Scouts, and he only achieved the rank of “Tenderfoot.”
But, as an adult, Ken became a scouting ministry specialist, a scoutmaster, a troop chaplain and a district chaplain. In addition, he serves as certified lay speaker and liturgist at Carmel UMC. He serves as a substitute preacher in district churches and leads a biweekly Bible study with adults from Troop 131 at Carmel UMC.
Scouting career begins as Den Leader
Ken married Harlana in 1980, and they have two sons, ages, 28 and 24.
“I have been a Scout leader since 1994 when my oldest son joined Tigers leading to his becoming an Eagle Scout,” says Ken. “I served as a den leader for each son, then cubmaster, commissioner, district committee, assistant scoutmaster, then scoutmaster and now chaplain for Troop 131, and also chaplain of the Del-Mi District and chaplain of a chapter of the Jaccos Towne Lodge ‘Order of the Arrow’.”
Over his 20-year career in scouting, Steppe has received a Cross & Flame Award, the Silver Beaver Award, a Distinguished Commissioner Award, a District Award of Merit, Vigil Honor, and several training awards.
Relations with other faith groups
Ken works with the chaplain’s aides of three patrols at Carmel UMC, and Roman Catholic chaplains at St Mark’s UMC and Noblesville First UMC.
He gets along well with Roman Catholics.
“I served as an altar boy during my eight years in elementary school at St. Leonard’s Parish,” he says. “My history is Catholic to age 18 following my parent’s religion, then those rebellious college years and early adult prodigal waywardness, until 1981 when Bishop Michael Coyner, then serving as my newly married wife’s pastor in South Bend, showed me the way to accepting Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.”
Ken also shares a history with members of the LDS Church. His senior patrol leader was a member of the LDS church when he served as director of a six-day Wood Badge course for LDS Scout leaders.
While leading PRAY (Programs of Religious Activities with Youth) classes for youth in several packs and troops, he provides training and resources for chaplains and religious emblem coordinators who serve members of Roman Catholic, Islam, Judaism, Hindu, and LDS faith communities
“This, of course, requires me to constantly study other faith belief systems to stay informed on their traditions, holidays, and how to be respectful in my interactions with Scouts of that faith,” says Ken “My own troop has had members from each of those faith traditions, except LDS.”
As a member of the Crossroads of America Council Chaplain Corp, Ken also organizes inter-faith training events which include speakers from the major faith communities.
“I also work with the district executive to encourage churches to charter packs and troops,” he says. “I can show how scouting can benefit the church and their youth in our ‘Duty to God’ program.
A graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University (BS) and Walden University (MBA) Ken serves as a worker’s compensation complex claims specialist for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. “My cases are among those most severe in the company, para- and quadriplegics, traumatic brain injuries, psychological/PTSD injuries, severe burns, amputations, etc. with multi-million dollar reserves and payments,” he says.
“I have prayed over the phone with them, or promised to do so at the end of a conversation,” he says. “I have recommended frustrated workers forced to sit at home to go to their church and fold bulletins or stuff envelopes.”
Asked about his interests, Ken says, “My primary interest is studying foreign languages. I always found beauty in the Latin mass as a youth, then studied Spanish in high school, then German and Russian in college. I paired with a preacher to take New Testament Greek and I am currently studying Old Testament Hebrew. I studied Japanese with my oldest son, and I learn courteous vocabulary of people where I travel, including Hawaiian, Aruban Dutch, Papamiento, Italian and French.”
Ken served as a chaplain for the 2013 National BSA Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. During that week, he helped recovery efforts of an Orthodox Jewish camp that lost dining shelters and tents during an afternoon thunder storm. “It was the Sabbath, so they could not help themselves,” he says. “I solicited help from other Scouts to erect tents and shelters. Their leaders could tell us what to do, but they could not hold a loose bolt in their pockets for fear of accidentally performing ‘work’.”
Ken hopes to again be accepted as a chaplain at the 2017 jamboree. “As I am not ordained, I had a bit of difficulty getting in for 2013, and was honored that they made the exception for me and one other lay servant among the elders selected.”
Ken participated in a 53-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail, a 50-mile Northern Tier Boundary Waters Canoe trip, a sailing trip out of the BSA Florida Sea Base and a week of whitewater rafting, riding a zip line, and shooting at the Summit.
When not engaged in language study or trips to Scout camps, Ken says he enjoys cycling the bike-friendly streets of Carmel. “A warm-up ride is 10 miles, but 25 is comfortable. I did lead our Troop’s 50 mile cross country bike-camp trip.”
Following 15 years of camporees, Ken says he still enjoys backpacking and camping “especially the serenity of the woods and God’s best cathedral of nature.”