KANSAS CITY – Leaders from Bales Avenue Community Church here led a group of innercity children on their first nature hike, July 27. The children were new members of Trail Life USA and American Heritage Girls troops that the church launched this summer as a way to reach area children with the gospel and disciple them.
“We’re hoping to utilize these programs to evangelize the neighborhood,” said Vince Payne, a pastor at Bales Avenue Church and trail leader for the church’s Trail Life Troop MO 412. He added that this adventure program is not only “Christ-centered,” but also adaptable.
“We own our troop and our program, so we’re able to emphasize things that we really want emphasized,” he said. For Troop MO 412, this means, among other things, the use of Bible storying to help children from the neighborhood learn the truth of God’s Word. The troop number, taken from Eph. 4:12, highlights the church’s desire to raise up young Christian leaders; Troop MO 412 aims “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
Although American Heritage Girls was established nationally in 1995, Trail Life USA was born in 2013 after the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) changed its membership policy to affirm homosexuality.
In a resolution passed at the Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting last year, messengers opposed the BSA’s policy change and declared that churches could “prayerfully review their relationship with BSA.” Messengers also encouraged churches to continue ministering to boys through biblically consistent programs.
Although Trail Life is in its infancy, with only four troops in Missouri, some Missouri Baptists think it provides a viable, Christ-centered alternative to BSA. Boys in Trail Life have the opportunity, as in BSA, to learn new skills, earn badges and enjoy the outdoors, but the new program and its leaders are devoted to the Christian worldview.
“It is a Christ-centered scouting organization,” said Oliver Sappington, a point man for Trail Life USA and member of Riverview Baptist Church, Osage Beach.
“Adventure is the draw, and Christ is the reward,” he added, saying that the program is built around the themes of evangelism, discipleship and fellowship.
Sappington invited Missouri Baptists interested in starting local Trail Life troops to register for a regional trail leader meeting, which will be held at Olathe Bible Church in Olathe, Kan., Sept. 5-6. To learn more about the event or to register online, visit youthadventureprogram.webconnex.com/TLT2014.