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News for Thursday, December 5, 2013

Baptists Show Interest in Trail Life
By Lonnie Wilkey
editor, Baptist and Reflector

CHATTANOOGA — Tennessee Baptists had an opportunity Nov. 11-13 to gather information on Trail Life, a new alternative to Boy Scouts of America.

Representatives of Trail Life, including interim executive director Rob Green of South Carolina, were at The Summit. Trail Life was one of the many outside exhibitors in the Chattanooga Convention Center Exhibit Hall.

Heading the booth for most of the time were two Tennessee Baptists who were formerly involved with BSA but are now solidly behind the new organization — Bill Goins of First Baptist Church, Soddy Daisy, and Eric Johnson of Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory.

Trail Life was organized after the Boy Scouts of America announced earlier this year the organization would allow openly gay members. Trail Life will initially be headquartered in Orlando, Fla., although it does not yet have a building. Green is currently the only paid employee of the volunteer-driven organization.

Green, a Southern Baptist and member of First Baptist Church, Boiling Springs, S.C., said Trail Life is an outdoor, Christian youth adventure program designed for youth of all denominations or even those not affiliated with any denomination.

“We have a mission to grow courageous young men to become godly husbands, fathers, and citizens,” Green said.

He noted the outdoor components of Trail Life is very similar to Boy Scouts. The difference, he shared, is that Trail Life holds to “traditional Christian values.”

Green affirmed Royal Ambassadors, but noted that it is primarily for “Baptist kids in Baptist churches.”

Trail Life “is the only Christian, non-denominational youth adventure program for boys nationwide,” Green said.

Planning began for Trail Life in late June and the new name was announced in Nashville in September.

Green said 22 different committees have been at work on all phases of the new program which will officially launch in January of 2014.

Like Boy Scouts, Trail Life will have troops for boys from kindergarten through college age young men.

Trail Life had a booth at The Summit in order to inform primarily Tennessee Baptist ministers and church leaders about the new organization, the three men agreed.

“We want pastors to know there is a Christian alternative to Boy Scouts,” Green stressed.

Both Goins and Johnson noted they had a lot of interest from churches wanting to learn more about and possibly starting Trail Life troops.

While they don’t know how many Trail Life troops will be started in Tennessee Baptist churches, there is at least one that has already announced it is switching from Boy Scouts to Trail Life.

FBC, Soddy Daisy, where Goins is a member, announced in early November that it was making the switch.


“The Boy Scouts have lost their moral compass,” Pastor Seton -Tomyn told the North Hamilton Weekly community edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Green envisions a close partnership with local churches. Each troop will have a chaplain, who hopefully will be a member of the host church, Green said.

“We want our connection with churches to be more than just meeting in their basements. We want to be part of their ministry,” Green stressed.

Johnson reported there are about a dozen Trail Life troops in various stages of pre-charter all across Tennessee. Several of these have been chartered by Baptist churches, he related.

“At Summit we held detailed discussions with pastor/staff of about eight churches who committed to chartering Trail Life troops over the next 60 days,” Johnson said.

In addition they received inquiries for follow up from about 30 more churches. “There is incredible interest in what God is doing through this organization and program. I would not be at all surprised to have at least two dozen troops in Tennessee by the end of the first quarter of 2014,” he said.

For more information about Trail Life troops in Tennessee, contact Johnson at 615-547-8580 or Goins at 423-802-4905.

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