- (Photo: Courtesy Trail Life USA)
A recently created organization described by its leadership as an "unapologetically biblical" alternative to the Boy Scouts of America, has reported major growth since its launch at the start of the year.
Trail Life USA, an Orlando, Florida-based group for young males, has seen large numbers of troops be chartered over the past few months and expects hundreds more by the end of the year.
Mark Hancock, CEO of Trail Life USA, told The Christian Post that a troop generally consists of 35 to 40 members, with on average 11 being created every week.
"We have about 370 troops that are up and running, operating and holding meetings in more than 45 states. And then we have about 300 troops that are in the chartering process," said Hancock.
"We would expect all those troops to be up and running by the end of the year. We're chartering about 11 new troops a week."
Hancock also told CP that the model for Trail Life USA is one that "leans very heavily toward having churches as our chartering partners."
"We don't see Trail Life as being an independent boys group, we see it as being integrated into the life of a church, an extension of the church," said Hancock, adding that a "very large majority of our charter partners are churches."
Last May, delegates from the national Boy Scouts of America gathered for their national annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, to vote on a resolution to change their membership policy.
BSA delegates voted 61 percent to 39 percent in favor of a resolution allowing openly gay males to become scouts while maintaining the ban on openly gay scout leaders.
The national policy change was denounced by several socially conservative groups and some churches opted to cut their ties with the BSA.
With an estimated 2.7 million members, the BSA is one of the largest youth groups in the United States, having been founded in 1910.
Even before the vote last year, several churches and others were talking about looking at more biblically-centered groups as alternatives for the BSA.
Trail Life USA was one such alternative organization, having been officially launched on Jan. 1.
"Living the Trail Life is a journey established on timeless values derived from the Bible," reads the "Who we are" page on their website.
"The K-12 program centers on outdoor experiences that build a young man's skills and allow him to grow on a personal level and as a role model and leader for his peers."
When asked by CP about whether or not a similar move on membership policy could happen with Trail Life USA, Hancock responded that this was unlikely since his organization was structured differently.
"Each one of our troops has a vote in any significant change," said Hancock, emphasizing that Trail Life USA has "principles of purity" that are "based on the Bible."
"It takes a supermajority of our voting members, which would be our troops, in order to overturn any of our membership standards."
Hancock contrasted this with the "hand-picked" delegates of the BSA, adding that "we're decentralized" and that "our votes live in the troops."