Basic Information on Scouting
Photo: Department of Defense/Glenn Fawcett
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is a character development program for youth with over 2.4 million youth members and nearly 1 million adult volunteers. Since its founding in 1910 as part of the international Scout Movement, more than 110 million Americans have been at some point members of the BSA.
The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
How it Works
The Boy Scouts of America makes Scouting available to youth by chartering community organizations to organize and operate Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, Venturing crews and Sea Scout ships for boys and young men and women. These chartered organizations manage the units and control the program of activities to support their goals and objectives. When community organizations establish a new unit, they must take these three important actions to ensure a quality Scouting program: select leadership, provide a meeting place, and promote a good program. Each chartering organization needs to identify one person to be the Chartered Organization Representative, which is the liaison between the congregation and the Scout unit(s) at the church.
The United Church of Christ is one of many national chartering partners of the BSA, meaning that we have an official relationship with them and encourage the growth of Scouting in our congregations. There are over 1,000 units chartered to UCC congregations representing over 35,000 Scouts, making the UCC one of the ten largest national chartering partners of the BSA.
For additional resources and more information on the role of chartering organizations, please visit our Chartering Org Resources page.
The Boy Scouts of America consists of a national organization plus over 250 local BSA councils. The national organization is based in Irving, Texas, and is responsible for the programs, uniforms, resources, and membership policies of the BSA, among other things. They run several national high adventure bases throughout the country, including Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, The Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, Florida Sea Base in the Florida Keys, and Northern Tier (wilderness canoeing) in northern Minnesota. The national office grants charters to local councils to operate the Scouting program in a distinct geographic region. BSA councils range in size from a few counties to entire states.
Each BSA council is responsible for implementing the Scouting program in their geographic area and providing service to their BSA units (packs, troops, etc.). They have local Council Service Centers, where volunteers can turn in paperwork, purchase badges and awards, and meet with BSA professional staff. Most councils are further divided into districts, which is a geographic grouping of BSA units that often do things together. Districts have one or more paid staff who work with a volunteer committee structure to offer monthly leader meetings, training for youth and adults, camporees, and other events.
What to Expect from the BSA
You can expect your district and council to provide training opportunities, facilities for camping and activities, and connections to the network of Scouting volunteers in your area. You can expect professional service from the BSA representative covering your area, who will usually hold the title of District Executive. He or she should visit the leader of your congregation at least once a year to discuss your Scouting program. You can also expect your district and council to help you through any difficult situations you encounter. If any of this is not happening, ask to speak to the Scout Executive of your council or contact our working group for assistance.
Furthermore, you should expect that your district keep you informed of several important meetings. There’s a monthly meeting for all volunteers and leaders called the District Roundtable. It’s in your best interest to have leaders attend so that they can remain updated on the latest information from the council and to network with other leaders. There’s also a monthly District Committee meeting, where district volunteers who run the district come together. Your Chartered Organization Representative is automatically a voting member of this group and should attend these meetings. Finally, each council has an Annual Meeting where they elect board officers and members for the coming year. Your Chartered Organization Representative is automatically a voting member of this group also and should attend this meeting on an annual basis.
Programs Offered by the BSA
- Cub Scouts is an experiential learning character building program for boys from first through fifth grade, or 7 to 10½ years of age and their families. Its membership is the largest of the three BSA divisions.
- Boy Scouts is an outdoors-based character building program for boys from fifth through twelfth grade, or 10½ to 18 years of age. The program aims to build boys into good citizens through rank advancement, merit badges, and adult mentorship, among other things.
- Venturing is a youth-led adventure-based leadership development program for boys and girls ages 14 to 20. The purpose of Venturing is to provide positive experiences to help youth mature and to prepare them to become responsible adults.
Sea Scouting is a nautical-focused youth-led leadership development program for boys and girls ages 14 to 20. The purpose of Sea Scouting, like Venturing, is to provide positive experiences to help youth mature and to prepare them to become responsible adults.
Exploring is a career interest exploration program for boys and girls ages 14 to 20. The purpose of Exploring is to expose youth to future career paths, to provide experiences to help them mature, and to prepare them to become responsible adults.
Why is Scouting good for the UCC?
The UCC BSA Workgroup believes that Scouting is a great opportunity for our congregations because the values of Scouting and the UCC are well aligned. Through Scouting, we have a unique opportunity to serve not only UCC youth, but also youth throughout the community. By organizing a BSA unit using the UCC values as a guiding light, we can strengthen our church, provide new opportunities for volunteer engagement, and provide youth new opportunities for mission work. For more detailed thoughts on this topic, please visit our Scouting in the UCC page.