Well, to start with just a couple of numbers, we have about 320,000 or so youth enrolled in BSA units affiliated with UM churches. Probably only a fraction of those are actually members or constituents of The UMC, but all of them are participating in our programs, so they are part of the UM Scouting Ministry community. Add to those a fair number of UM children and youth who are registered in somebody else’s Cub Pack, Boy Scout Troop, or Venturing Crew, and the number grows a bit. Conservatively, we have 350,000 children and youth that we’re working with here. That means that just the BSA portion of UM Scouting Ministry is the largest single program we have for children and youth except for Sunday School. There are more youth in UM BSA units than there are in UMYF. There are more youth from our ministry attending Scout Camp than we have UM youth attending church camp. Probably more youth hear the gospel for the first time at Scout camp than at church camp, though Scout camp is less well equipped to handle the spiritual need represented by that.
Now, let’s add in the Girl Scouts. We’re the largest single sponsor of GSUSA units in the country. There are at least 150,000 girls in our programs. Then add in 4-H kids. Campfire. Big Brothers/Big Sisters. American Heritage Girls. At the end of the day, there are at least half a million children and youth in all the various CSYA/Scouting orgs and programs that we are involved with. That’s a conservative estimate.
Next, let’s talk about adult leaders. BSA probably has 1 adult registered for every 4 youth. Let’s take that as a general principle for all those programs. If there are a half million or more children and youth in our ministry, there are at least 125,000 adults directly involved. Counting in volunteers at all levels, let’s say there are 130,000 registered adults in our UM Scouting Ministry. As with the youth, many of those are not themselves UM, but they are, most of them, participating in a UM unit, which makes them part of our ministry to children and youth.
And it makes them part of our ministry to their families. Because we can’t forget that each person involved in our UM Scouting Ministry comes from a household, most of which include other people. There are brothers and sisters of our Scouts who are not themselves Scouts, but are reachable through their contact with our Scouts. There are non-registered parents. There are grandparents who show up at Courts of Honor and Pinewood Derbies. All of which means you can probably double the number of children, youth, and adults who are registered in some CYSA/Scouting program. That brings us up to around 1.25 million persons directly touched by our UM Scouting Ministry.
But that doesn’t include those who are still interested and supportive of the program. Think of all those not already described who were Scouts once upon a time, many of whom retain a soft spot for the ministry. If 20% of all UM members were once participants or parents in some CYSA/Scouting program (but are not otherwise described, above), well that’s somewhere north of 1.5 million UM members in the USA. Call it 1.75 million once you add in constitutents (family members and occasional participants, people who have never joined). Add that to the 1.25 million I’ve already totted up, and we’re at three million persons who in some way we could consider to be part of our UM Scouting Ministry community. That’s a monster number.
There are also those (who are probably already somewhere in the mix, above) who see the potential for making disciples of Jesus Christ through CYSA/Scouting and who affiliate in both formal and informal ways with our official organs of Scouting Ministry. All of which leads me to the following definition.
The United Methodist Scouting Ministry community comprises 1) all the youth and adults who are either registered in UM CYSA/Scouting programs or who are UM members and constituents participating in CYSA/Scouting programs affiliated with other groups, 2) their non-registered extended family members, 3) all UM members or constituents with a personal history of participating in CYSA/Scouting programs, and 4) other interested persons who share the vision of serving Christ and building up the Church through UM Scouting Ministry.Take a look again at those numbers. Then ask yourself, how many people do we have trying to contact these persons, resource them, guide them, solicit them, focus their efforts?
Well, NAUMS has about 500 members. The Office of CYSA/Scouting in Nashville and its Scouting Ministry Committee involve maybe 30 members and staff, plus another 120 Scouting Ministry Specialists scattered about the country. Add in another 50 people who have served as Jamboree or Philmont Chaplains, Annual Conference Coordinators, or those who are otherwise available and interested in helping shape the course of UM Scouting Ministry (and who haven’t yet been described), and you have, what – 700 people?
Too often, we talk and act as if those 700 people were the UM Scouting Ministry community. They’re not. They’re the purported leaders of the three million people who compose the UM Scouting Ministry community. All of which means that squabbles among the leaders are both fruitless and debilitating. There is already too much to do, and nobody has a reach that extends far enough to get the job done. We need everybody, and everybody needs to work together to do the job that needs to be done.
He who has an ear, let him hear.