Morganton Scouts set high bar for service
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
September 20, 2010

Morganton Scouts set high bar for service

Morganton Scouts set high bar for service
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
September 20, 2010

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.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Marla Black and Steve Bailey lead Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts at First Baptist Church, Morganton where Tom Bland, right, is pastor.

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

Black said.

“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

Christian life.

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

behind that.”

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.”