In the fast-moving world today, many parents are searching for activities and opportunities for their children to learn character while making friends, develop leadership skills while still being able to be kids, and grow in their faith while having fun and making memories that will last a lifetime.
Parents seek activities and organizations that are trustworthy, forward-thinking, and for many, are based in the faith that sustains them and is the cornerstone of their family structure. Andy Baker, youth and young adult ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Palm Beach, has been working to highlight and connect families who desire scouting as a method of formation to faith-based scouting experiences.
In 1995, a group of parents gathered in West Chester, Ohio, to create a faith-based youth opportunity for their children that would encourage leadership and character development but also be faith-based. The result was American Heritage Girls, a scouting-type program which, according to its website, is “dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community, and country.”
Patti Garibay, American Heritage Girls founder and executive director, said the program for girls, “is rooted in Christ. Through its faith emphasis, (the organization) hopes that girls will grow in their faith and become lifelong Christ-followers. Girls will understand their identity in Christ and seek God’s will for their lives.”
Today there are more than 60,000 members in all 50 states and in 15 different countries around the world. Each girl who joins a troop recites the oath: “I promise to love God, cherish my family, honor my country, and serve in my community.”
Faith-based scouting alternatives aren’t just for girls, either. Since 2013, Trail Life USA has been providing an alternative to traditional Scouting for boys that provides mentoring, guidance, leadership and a chance to grow spiritually. According to the organization’s website, Trail Life USA is based in Christian faith. Larry Wagner, southeast regional team leader from Trail Life USA, recited its Statement of Faith: “We believe there is One Triune God – God the Father; Jesus Christ, His one and only Son; and the Holy Spirit – Creator of the universe and eternally existent. We believe the Holy Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) to be the inspired and authoritative Word of God. We believe each person is created in His image for the purpose of communing with and worshiping God. We believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to live godly lives. We believe each of us is called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We believe God calls us to lives of purity, service, stewardship, and integrity.”
To learn more about American Heritage Girls or Trail Life USA opportunities in the Diocese of Palm Beach or your own parish, contact Andy Baker at the Office of Marriage, Family Life, Faith Formation and Youth Ministry at 561-775-9559 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.