I have a long history with this award. Units under my leadership have earned it now around 18 times, which is a staggering statistic. Still, it's not the Art Collins Award.
The BAE was started in the North Carolina Annual Conference, and then adopted by the Office of CYSA/Scouting to share with the whole UMC. It was originally a very tough award to earn. The unit had to do three different kinds of service projects, have half the youth members working on or have earned their appropriate religious emblems, have half the adult volunteers show membership in The UMC, etc., etc. The requirements, however, were meant to illustrate what a Scouting program truly integrated into the youth ministry of the church would really look like. And the award was launched in the hope that it would catch on, and as more units stepped forward to be honored by their bishop at Annual Conference, Scouters and clergy would covet that honor, and move to fully integrate their Scouting program with the rest of their church program.
I was elected Annual Conference Coordinator of CYSA/Scouting Ministries in 1994, a position I held for the next ten years. I felt it was incumbent upon me to demonstrate that these things were possible and desirable to do. So, in 1995, my Scout Troop became the first unit in our Conference in many years (and only the second one to that date) to earn the BAE. In the years since, I have led two Boy Scout Troops, two Cub Packs, two Venturing Crews, and one Explorer Post, in four different congregations, to earn the BAE -- because I believe in the program; because I practice what I preach.
Sometimes I wonder what other people believe in, though. The Office of CYSA/Scouting has two or three times reduced the criteria for the BAE. Their thought was, if we made it easier to get, then more units would earn it. Precisely the opposite has happened, though. As the requirements have gotten easier, fewer units have earned the award. Last year, only thirteen BAEs were earned in the whole country (including our two here at EFUMC).
Meanwhile, our Annual Conference just wishes we would go away. They refused to give any time for the presentation at all last year, though the Bishop did come down to EFUMC in person to present the BAE to our two units here. That salved my anger a great deal, but it wasn't and isn't a fix for the problem. This year, the Annual Conference will make it as inconvenient as possible for us to come claim it.
All of which leads me to the sad decision that this is probably the last year I will file for the Award. I will continue to lead our youth and our church in doing Scouting as Ministry. But I will no longer frazzle myself getting awards signed off on and filed, no longer spend the congregation's money for patches and certificates (these things ain't cheap), no longer try to figure out how to get actual kids in uniform to wherever Annual Conference is meeting.
Maybe I'll just invite all our kids and volunteers and church members out to the park for a gigantic cookout and an in-house thank you for a job well done. I could then send the Annual Conference leadership an invitation to our get-together, and any of them that bothered to show up would receive a Give a Damn Award from us. And if they didn't bother, nobody would miss them.