BreakPoint: What We Lose When We Lose the Boy Scouts

It’s a Big Deal, Folks

The Boy Scouts have marked yet another milestone on their journey away from being the organization it once was.

Last week, the Boy Scouts announced it would drop the word “boy” from its name. In a clarification in response to the response to that announcement, the Scouts announced that “boy” would remain in the name of the national organization, and would only be removed from the name of its flagship program—the one that everyone knows the Scouts by. It was, you might say, a confusing clarification that didn’t really alleviate any concern that people had.

Announcing the name change, Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh said, “As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting.”

This “new” era, as Surbaugh put it, has been on the horizon for quite a while now. First, the organization acquiesced to threats by LGBT activists to allow both gay boys and eventually even gay scout leaders to join. Then it opened the scouts to transgender girls. Next, it simply opened the doors to all girls. And now the name no longer accurately describes their program, so that had to change too.

Since the series of acquiescence began, the overall membership numbers of the Boy Scouts of America have been hemorrhaging, from a high of around 4 million not many years ago to only about 2.3 million today. This only underscores something we ought to all know… capitulating to activist demands and their threats about “staying relevant” will not help you stay alive.

Now let me be clear; the problem is not girls in scouting. The problem is girls in boy scouting. The problem is that there is hardly anywhere left for boys to be mentored, trained, and challenged to become men. As Trevin Wax put it at The Gospel Coalition, boys are running out of paths to manhood—something the Boy Scouts long provided. Specifically, the Boy Scouts have played that role in American society in an amazing way.

Five presidents and eight astronauts have been Boy Scouts; 150 of the 535 people currently in Congress have been involved with this influential American institution in some way or another. And then there are the Fortune 500 CEOS, the leaders of nonprofits, and countless husbands, dads, and community leaders who have been molded into better men because of their time in the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts has been one of the great mediating institutions in our society. They are a prime example of what Edmund Burke, and much later, Chuck Colson, called the “little platoons.” Mediating institutions nurture and build values into a society. They play a role that neither individuals nor a state can play. We need these mediating institutions such as the family, the church, and voluntary organizations to help us cultivate rising generations of citizens, as well as to help us govern ourselves.

That’s why the consistent and serial capitulation of the Boy Scouts has been so discouraging. If our culture were otherwise healthy—for example, if families were intact, dads were at home, and schools and colleges were places that actually taught boys to be men—then I’d say that losing the Boy Scouts wouldn’t be a big deal. But in our culture, this is a loss we will feel. Keenly so, in fact.

Yes, remarkable young men will continue to emerge from terrible situations, and the Lord can always raise up other little platoons if He desires. But that should cause us to ask: how can the church fill the gap here in the mentoring and shaping of young men? How can we help cultivate husbands and fathers and leaders who love God and who will serve others?

One group worth mentioning is Trail Life USA, “a Christ-centered outdoor adventure, leadership, and character development ministry.” And they have a parallel organization for girls, which is also good to know, given the ideologies driving the Girl Scouts these days. Come to to learn more.


What We Lose When We Lose the Boy Scouts: It’s a Big Deal, Folks

As John mentioned, there are too few places these days where boys can be boys, and be formed into responsible manhood. Let’s support and encourage the local and national organizations that still embrace this calling, of which Trail Life USA is an example. For further reflection on this subject, click on the links in our Resources section.

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  • Buck Rogers

    Sure, sure, but the WELS and ELS saw where scouting would end up more than 100 years ago because it is an inherently syncretistic organization from it’s inception and was bound to follow the way of the world. That is why we have never participated and history has vindicated our stance.

  • ah.1960

    I was not a boy scout, but I was involved in 4-H as were my parents. Although not quite the same as the boy scouts, 4-H did also strive to teach leadership, economics, and responsibility with a decidedly rural focus. However, even this organization is under attack by those who would re-define norms of morality in our culture.

    A common thread with both the Boy Scouts and 4-H is that these liberal policies originated at their organization’s respective national headquarters and are being forced on state and local affiliates. This is much the same as liberal governmental policies with which most Americans disagree.

    Certainly the (moral) character of the national leadership of 4-H, the Boy Scouts, and federal bureaucracies is influencing the character of children down to the local level. If not reversed, in another generation or less, these policies will merely reflect the moral character of those at the local level.

  • Garet Wyatt

    Thank you John for your podcast/article. I grew up in Boy Scouts, but my sons are part of Trail Life USA today.

  • gdubya31

    Thanks for a great article and for all you do.

    In response to “But that should cause us to ask: how can the church fill the gap here in
    the mentoring and shaping of young men? How can we help cultivate
    husbands and fathers and leaders who love God and who will serve others?” I know you guys at BreakPoint will agree with this but I still need to say it…how about if we (including the churches in US) instead of trying to “fill the gaps” as we’ve been doing for years, why don’t we support, encourage and hold accountable young men in our homes, marriages and families – Hebrews 13:4. We’ve dishonored marriage/family in so many ways is it any wonder The Boy Scouts have capitulated to culture just as the church has done…first by silence, then by compromise and finally by agreement…no-fault divorce; cohabitation, promiscuity, porn, homosexuality, gender dysphoria, abortion, CSE (comprehensive sex education…education disguised as porn) and more. Instead of standing firm and honoring God’s design (not just preaching a sermon, although that helps a little), or organizing a “little platoon” (also can be helpful)), we’ve decide to dishonor loving relationships, marriage and sexuality and we are reaping what we’ve sown. God’s design was that all of these begin in the home and until we uphold and honor that design, the churches and BSA and any other group will find themselves woefully inadequate in raising young men (and women) of honor and integrity! Thanks to the churches and organizations that have done so, including BreakPoint and Colson Center. Let’s focus on getting those who will hear us to uphold marriage and family first and we will see a difference in any/all groups that are attempting to honor these rather than “replacing” them and trying to raise young men accordingly.

  • J. Lambie

    This is anecdotal, but when I was a boy I was with the Boy Scouts for only a few months before I became disillusioned and stopped attending. That was over 50 years ago. The reason I think was because I had a dad, and my buddies had dads. Those men were our source of wise counsel, example, and leadership. They were not perfect, but they were men doing the best they could by their families. They took us hunting, fishing, and camping; and, they took us to church. They may have had feet of clay, but they walked tall in our eyes.

    • Jim Lee Jr.

      What became of Scouts who had no interests in hunting and fishing? Were they castigated as being potentially homosexuals? If so, did their fathers reject them?

  • Allen Winstead

    I’m somewhat confused on this subject. Everyone seems to be reacting as though the boys and the girls will be in the program together. But everything I’ve read from BSA says that the boys and girls will have separate troops. It seems that this change is just giving girls a chance to go through a program like Boy Scouts. As the father of a daughter and a former Boy Scout, I’d love for my daughter to be able to learn the things I learned while in my troop. Girls Scouts isn’t really an option as they don’t provide anything at all like the Boy Scout program. I’m not trying to stir up trouble, I’m just thinking there may be something to this change that I’m not aware of or that I’m not understanding.

    • Cathie_Adams

      The left always works incrementally. They’ve ruined the Girl Scouts, now they’re focused like a laser on ruining the Boy Scouts. Tillerson started it with the homosexual scout leaders, now it’s on a slippery slope. I’m very very sad that so many children’s lives will be negatively affected.

    • Nick Stuart

      While the BSA is claiming that there will be separate girls and boys troops, I do not expect that will last very long for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are the logistics involved in running any kind of scout troop, let alone a successful one (and I know, having helped start a troop from scratch). I give it five years, I expect the plans for co-ed troops are already in place. Even before they authorize co-ed troops, there are going to be issues because so many multi-troop sorts of activities will be co-ed, at least in the sense of having both kinds of troops present at the same time (summer camp, camporees, Order of the Arrow). There’ll be a lot of “he was looking at my chest” stuff to deal with. I remember the COPE course (think “obstacle course”) where my team had to grab my butt and hike me over the climbing wall. There are a lot of activities where direct physical contact is unavoidable (lifesaving for example). Things like that will end up being a problem. From my direct observation when I taught 5th & 6th graders in elementary school I know there is a significant difference in the timing of how boys and girls develop. Many 12-year-old boys are pre-pubescent, still essentially boys, even “little boys.” Many 12-year-old girls are post-pubescent and are well on their way to becoming grown women. All these issues are manageable (at least to the extent they’re manageable in church camp) but the introduction of girls will inevitably add an element of sexual tension that has hitherto been absent.

  • RobertArvanitis

    The organization once known as “BSA” is not alone in this.
    The “Y” has lost even more – both the “M” and the “C.”

  • Leslie Vail

    I’m so glad you added a link to Trail Life! I’m a mom of 3 girls and we participate in the girls’ version of Trail Life, American Heritage Girls ( Our brother troop needs more boys and men. The girls groups are thriving and growing, but we need more boys (nationally and locally). So, thank you for promoting two awesome, Christ-centered organizations for our kids!

  • Howard Pike

    Thank you for such a fine article detailing the plight of scouting in America. I live in Canada and scouting here abandoned God’s Biblical standards long ago. Your broadcast has sparked a flame. Trail Life doesn’t exist up here, but we’ve had the Christian Service Brigade Battalion and Stockade in our church for almost 60 years. Our boys and families love it. As Christians, we must show our boys what it means to be a man of God. Men are the most qualified for this. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Ray Blankenship

    I was in the BSA for years. I was a Cubscout, Boy scout and then was a leader in every class in Cubscouts and made it to CubMaster! On May 23rd 2013 I resigned. I told everyone that I spoke to during all the leadership meetings and Round tables that this was going to happen! No one would listen! It isn’t over yet folks! There is more to come!
    I always have looked at this movement as an attack on the Churches that have Chartered these troops and packs. They’re attacking good Godly people! Not only that, but also attacking masculinity and good morals!

    I am a Trailmaster with Trail Life USA now and couldn’t be any more happy with my decision that I made to leave the BSA!

    THE BSA had a good thing going and then, they let Satan in the door!

  • Nick Stuart

    Trail Life may be a good alternative for Evangelical Protestant churches. It’s looking better all the time. Problem is there is no way it can replicate the millions of hours and hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the last 100+ years developing a program and facilities that, at one time although no longer, occupied a “cultural sweet spot” that alternative programs just can’t touch. Quick – what’s the top Trail Life award (I looked it up, it’s the “Freedom” award). Hard to justify pressing a boy to spend 6 years or so earning an award nobody’s ever heard of (sorry Trail Life votaries, but it is what it is). That may be what we need though. Since Trail Life has a BSA-to-Trail Life “transfer” program where requirements met in BSA can be transferred to Trail Life I’m giving serious thought to talking with the current troop leadership about making the switch.

  • Dave Mohn

    Interesting assessment of scouting, in my opinion the reason for decline is more likely that parents are less involved.

    Something you might not know is that the make up of every Scout unit is dictated by the sponsoring organization, be it a church, school, Police, Fire Department or social (Elks, Moose, etc). National BSA sets basic perimeters for sponsoring organization to agree to follow the scout method. However, if the sponsoring organization states is their charter that only left handed boys can be scouts then that is what it is! Of course few units have highly restrictive charters. But just like some neighborhood and cities certain types of people are not are not included.
    Young people don’t care one way or the other as long as the unit is youth lead! … its the influence from adults that sets the tone of a Unit.

    If the adults love their neighbors more than themselves the Unit will thrive.

  • Richard Gross

    You all need to check out the Royal Rangers.