A youth scouting group formed in response to the controversial changes within the Boy Scouts of America has reported an increase in the number of chapters during the pandemic.
Trail Life USA, launched in 2014 and headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, is reporting dozens of new chapters and more than 30,000 members.
Trail Life USA CEO Mark Hancock told The Christian Post that 65 new troops have been created thus far in 2021, with over 100 in the process of being chartered.
“So far this year, we have seen a 70% increase in new members over this time last year and a 30% increase over the same period the prior year,” explained Hancock.
“Just this year, we have seen over 65 new troops started as men across the nation have stepped up to lead and make a difference in the lives of boys in their churches, their families, and their communities.”
The launching of Trail Life USA came partly in response to the Boy Scouts voting in 2013 to allow openly gay males to become scouts while maintaining the organization's ban on openly gay scout leaders.
This change prompted many churches — a significant source of support for the Boy Scouts — to sever their ties with the prominent scouting organization.
Later, the Boy Scouts announced further changes, such as allowing openly gay scout leaders in 2015. BSA also expanded membership to include girls, prompting a lawsuit from the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
Hancock told CP that Trail Life membership initially “came largely from individuals who had participated in the Boy Scouts" and “churches have come to see Trail Life as a distinct program.”
“Trail Life USA is not just a program that meets at the Church. We are a ministry of the Church,” said Hancock. “We are not an outdoor program that incorporates a Christian experience. We are, at our core, a Christ-centered program that utilizes the outdoors to draw boys and their families into a closer relationship with their Creator.”
“It is a significant distinction, and we are seeing unprecedented growth. Churches are attracted to our model as a means to engage men, connect fathers and sons, impact families and grow the Church.”
Reports of Trail Life's growth amid the coronavirus pandemic come as the Christian scouting group recently held its National Backyard Concert and Campout event.
An estimated 20,000 people took part in the event, according to Hancock. An additional 15,000 people watched the broadcasted event during Memorial Day Weekend.
“The past year was a difficult time for kids and families across the country. As Trail Life USA, we realized that boys would need a safe outlet for their rough-and-tumble, adventurous nature,” explained Hancock.
“Many people appreciated our approach, and we saw growth last year. As things have begun to open up this year, families are flocking to the program.”