As Scouting in America
celebrates its centennial year Troop 184 in Morganton and Girl Scout Troop 553
are proving young blood still flows through 100-year-old veins.
First Baptist Church in
Morganton sponsors both troops and their younger feeder groups. First Baptist
has sponsored a Boy Scout troop since 1931 and a Girl Scout Troop since 1996.
Churches have long supported
the scouting movement, appreciating both its commitment to develop responsible
citizens, and the opportunity for the church to impact its community by
providing meeting space, leaders and teachers to help scouts achieve their
religious development goals.
“Sometimes coming to a Scout
meeting here is the first time people walked in the door of a church,” said
Marla Black, Senior Girl Scout Troop 553 leader and active youth leader in the
Of the 52 boys in Troop 184
this year, only four are members of First Baptist. Of the 23 adults registered
to work with the Troop, seven are members of First Baptist.
First Baptist sponsors Troop
184 and Pack 184 for Cub Scouts. Girl Scouts has four age group divisions and
the church sponsors a group in each. The church was recommended by Baptists in
Scouting leader Chip Turner as an outstanding example of an effective Baptist
sponsor of an accomplished Scout troop.
Boy Scouts of America office
in Dallas, Texas, reports that in North Carolina 1,038 Troops are chartered by
churches, including 188 at Baptist churches.
First Baptist Girl Scout and
Boy Scout Sundays are “heavily attended” by visitors who come to see their sons
and daughters recognized.
Pastor Tom Bland said those
annual Sundays provide opportunity to share the gospel with “a wide variety of
That is a pattern Bland sees
in church sponsored Scouting.
“Both Boy Scouting and Girl
Scouting are incredibly effective ways to reach young people and their families
with the gospel and to participate in the formation of character in general,” Bland
Their Scout troops are
active in Mission Morganton, a sort of Operation Inasmuch that First Baptist
has been doing since 1998, partnering for a special day of service to vital
area social ministries.
Black, executive director of
Burke County Habitat for Humanity, helped her Girl Scout troop break ground
when they led the first “women build” project for Habitat in the county.
With eight active girls at
the time, they were looking for a project through which to complete their Gold
award, equivalent to the Boy Scout Eagle award.
Their “Gold House” was the
first Habitat house built solely by women in Burke County, and was the first
Habitat house built in North Carolina and in the Southeast with a Girl Scout
Habitat Founder Millard
Fuller participated in dedications at the house site and at First Baptist.
The participating girls
raised $50,000, enlisted workers and participated in every part of the process
“As Girl Scouts young women
are exposed to so many good things,” said Black, who was a Girl Scout and whose
daughters achieved the highest ranking. “The No. 1 thing coming out of Scouting
is leadership and character building. It is a wonderful way to expose girls to
leadership skills and give them tools to help them use their God given talent
to grow into all God intends for them.”
Boy Scout Hut on campus
Boy Scouts at First Baptist
have a separate building dedicated solely for their use as a Scout Hut.
It is the converted garage
of an adjoining property the church bought years ago.
Deacon Steve Bailey, who
retired after 38 years as a state prison system administrator, leads the Boy
Scout Troop. He loves the outdoors and the active arena in which to model
The service held after each
outing often is the first church service for some of the boys.
“The big thing with Scouting
is being outdoors in beautiful, beautiful places and to look around at creation
and all the wonder around us,” Bailey said.
“It’s neat to tie that to
God and help the boys understand that anything this beautiful and miraculous
couldn’t just happen. There has to be a creator
Scouting is so “strong,
comprehensive and effective in outreach” at First Baptist that the church does
not have traditional Royal Ambassador or Girls in Action programs, although it
still conducts mission groups on Wednesday nights, Bland said.
Bland is district chairman
of Table Rock Swamp Fox district of the Piedmont Council.
A number of church members
are on the Piedmont Council’s executive board.
Not cool in school
Bailey and Black both
recognize it is not always cool in school to be a Scout. Black warns her middle
school teachers that their Troop members may be “closet” Scouts for a year of
two until they break through their insecure period and achieve goals that make
them proud again to wear the uniform.
“To be involved in Scouting
you have kids who are really stepping out a bit and doing things that aren’t
really considered to be cool,” Bailey said. “But the kids gain so much, and the
leadership is what is really so big.”
As boys mature and achieve
more in Scouting they are more openly proud of it, Bailey said.
It doesn’t hurt that the
adult community loves them and gives plenty of accolades. Bailey, who said two
of the best decisions he ever made were to join First Baptist and to be active
in Scouting, admits every troop has ups and downs. But what has kept Scouting
strong at First Baptist for nearly 80 years is “a lot of support and
recognition that Scouting is really a good thing in terms of its ideals.”
Scouting’s effects are
cumulative, Bailey said.
He’s been in it 17-18 years
and sees boys growing in character and leadership skills as they grow in
Scouting. Scouts are given responsibility for Troop and event leadership as
they gain skills and stature in the group.
Each trip has a designated
Scout in charge. “When you think about that, here you have a
14-15-year-old kid telling other kids what to do, and organizing them. There’s
not too many places you get that experience at that age,” Bailey said.
Bailey can’t get away from
Scouting because he loves the activities that make Scouting unique and integral
to their community: the backpacking and camping in “the most beautiful area of
the world” and the myriad ways they serve through projects associated with
earning their merit badges.
“How many of these boys
would have that experience?” Bailey asked. “How many would be sitting in front
of TV? Communing with nature in a lot of respects is how they start to
appreciate where it all came from … connecting to God and hopefully connecting
to Jesus Christ through all this.”