At a time when boys are receiving some disturbing messages from society and technology addiction is through the roof, there has never been a greater need to encourage boys to get outside and have an adventure.
Trail Life USA is a Christian, boy-centered scout organization that encourages “good old-fashioned outdoor fun.” I asked CEO Mark Hancock about his organization and for his advice for parents who want to support their sons. Here’s what he said.
The Epoch Times: What inspired the formation of Trail Life USA?
Mark Hancock: In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) began a departure from their traditional values that ultimately led them to abandon their focus on boys. Hundreds of volunteers around the country began connecting through forums and other online platforms, discussing the need for an alternative for churches and other organizations that would no longer be able to align with the distorted values of BSA.
Out of this grass-roots movement, Trail Life USA arose.
There is also a great need to provide a male-centric environment for boys where they could be guided by good men, grounded in biblical truths, appreciated for their strengths, and inspired to Christlikeness.
The Epoch Times: Troops have spread across the nation since its launch in 2014. What do you feel drives parents to involve their boys in your organization?
Mr. Hancock: In spite of the challenges during this period of worldwide pandemic, Trail Life USA has continued to experience unprecedented growth. September 2021 saw our largest increase of members in our history, when 5,000 new Trailmen joined. In 2021, we saw an 85 percent increase in new members over 2020, and 38 percent over 2019.
Truly, we can thank God for this exciting growth while pointing to a number of other factors that might answer the question: Where is this growth coming from?
Here are my thoughts:
There’s no doubt that people are engaging outside their homes more, and that must have an effect. Still, one would assume that effect is experienced broadly across all youth-serving organizations. Surprisingly, it is not. While youth organizations as a whole are experiencing decline, Trail Life USA continues to grow.
Culture shock. The breakneck speed at which our culture is embracing concerning changes is worrisome. We believe it’s likely conservative families are looking for opportunities where they can find like-minded communities to soften the blow.
The Epoch Times: What, in your experience, are the greatest challenges boys today face?
Mr. Hancock: Boys are unguided, lacking male role models. The rise in the number of fatherless homes and the fact that 78 percent of teachers are female leave boys with few men guiding them, meaning they suffer from not being able to grasp a clear vision of what it means to be a man. While single moms are performing a herculean task in these fatherless households, it still leaves a boy without a model for male leadership.
Boys are ungrounded, lacking absolutes. In the cultural slide away from firm morals and principles, boys are adrift in a sea of relativism. It’s impossible to develop character without defining “good” and “bad,” because these concepts require absolute truth.
Boys are unappreciated. Gender-blurring concepts that fail to recognize the differences between boys and girls leave boys unappreciated. This is a complicated and generational march that has led to discounting many of the traits that make boys unique.
Boys are uninspired. Whereas the innate drive for risk and competition has been recognized in past generations as a strength necessary to move a society forward, it now seems this trait is discouraged in boys. Boys tend to disengage when there isn’t something at stake. Our shift to “everyone wins” and participation trophies leaves boys with the question, “Why even try?”
The Epoch Times: In what ways would you advise parents to support their boys?
Mr. Hancock: Find a faith community with a boy-focused outlet for his energy and drive. Appreciate the wonder of boys and their need for adventure, risk, and competition.
The Epoch Times: What have you found to be most inspiring about your work for Trail Life USA?
Mr. Hancock: Trail Life USA has a documented history of growing and restoring relationships between boys and their dads, as well as a dedicated volunteer base of men willing to mentor the fatherless.
There are so many boys without dads that we believe any legitimate call to manhood must include the call to be a dad or a “dad-like” to a boy without a dad. Single moms appreciate the male-centric model that helps grow their boys into godly men.
Trail Life USA also provides great opportunities for developing a “band of brothers” for men, even if they don’t have sons. In a culture that neglects the importance of deep relationships, men are making connections and sharing their lives with other men, growing in faith, finding purpose, and impacting a generation.