USSSP: A Scout's Duty to God and Country





The Approach in the Early Scouting Days of Scouting


In the early days of Scouting, Baden-Powell devised a time for religious observance that he called "The Scouts' Own."  He explained it in the following manner:


Some Ideas on Scouts' Own


For an open Troop, or for Troops in camp, I think the Scouts' Own should be open to all denominations, and carried on in such manner as to offend none. There should not be any special form, but it should abound in the right spirit, and should be conducted not from any ecclesiastical point of view, but from that of the boy. Everything likely to make an artificial atmosphere should be avoided. We do not want a kind of imposed Church Parade, but a voluntary uplifting of their hearts by the boys in thanksgiving for the joys of life, and a desire on their part to seek inspiration and strength for greater love and service for others.


A Scouts' Own should have as big an effect on the boys as any service in Church, if in conducting the Scouts' Own we remember that boys are not grown men, and if we go by the pace of the  youngest and most uneducated of those present.  Boredom is not reverence, nor will it breed religion.


To interest the boys, the Scouts' Own must be a cheery and varied function. Short hymns (three verses are as a rule quite enough-never more than four); understandable prayers; a good address from a man who really understands boys (a homely "talk" rather than an address), which grips the boys, and in which they may laugh or applaud as the spirit moves them, so that they take a real interest in what is said. If a man cannot make his point to keen boys in ten minutes he ought to be shot! If he has not got them keen, it would be better not to hold a Scouts' Own at all.


                                                                                                By Baden -Powell

                                                                                                Printed in The Scouter

                                                                                                November 1928



Contemporary Concerns - Unit Leaders


In a time fraught with lawsuits and vocal media criticism and with so many Scouts of different religions, many Scouters are tempted to skip over the twelfth point of the Scout law -- "A Scout Is Reverant."  This is an understandable, but unnecessarily harsh reaction that deprives Scouts from having an opportunity to explore their own sense of spirituality. 


Probably the most difficulty comes with outings.  What happens when a unit has a week-end campout?  What should the Scout leader do about religious observances and services at outings?  Should the unit conduct religious services?  The answer is not simple, because it depends upon the composition of the unit and religious convictions of the Scouts. The fundamental planning consideration should be to create an opportunity for the Scouts in a unit to have a time set aside for religious observance.  In planning, the Scout leader should take into consideration the composition of the unit.  In units where all of the Scouts are of the same faith, a minister from that faith could be asked to act as the unit chaplain and lead a worship service.  In units that are more diverse, the time could be devoted to a more inter-denominational service.  In units that have Scouts from many faiths, the time could be one devoted to responsive readings that are non-denominational, silent reflection and prayer, and an extended Scoutmaster's minute type thought tied in to the Scout Oath and Law.


Probably the best approach is to set aside some time during the campout for Scouts to have a non-denominational time of prayer and reflection.  The leader should announce that a time has been set aside for prayer and reflection and allow Scouts to choose to either spend that time in personal reflection or in a group setting. 


To make this a successful experience for both the leader and the Scouts, consider the following:


1.   Learn about the religions of the Scouts, enough to avoid using material that would be offensive to one or more of their faiths.


2.   Involve the Scouts in the planning process and ask for their ideas.


3.   Avoid religious instruction - this is the province of the Scout's parents and religious organization.


4.   Attendance must be voluntary.  Similarly no Scout should be pressured to attend or subjected to peer criticism for not attending.


5.   At the unit level, the religious observance should be simple and short using material that does not indicate a preference for one faith over another.


6.   Toleration for other beliefs should be encouraged.            


7.   Depending on the Scouts, you may be able to help foster understanding by encouraging Scouts to share their beliefs with other Scouts.  After all, understanding is a necessary precondition for toleration.









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