Greenwood now has a chapter of Trail Life USA, a church-based outdoor adventure, leadership and character development ministry for boys starting at age 5.
Troop MS-7777 was recently formed and is being sponsored by North Greenwood Baptist Church.
“I think it’s something fresh and new, and it’s an unapologetically Bible-based and integrity-driven character development program for boys,” said the Rev. Dr. Jim Phillips, the church’s pastor.
Phillips said a couple of church members had sons who had just reached the age to join the Boy Scouts, but their fathers decided against it because of some of the directions the national Boy Scouts organization has been taking in recent years.
“We were approached as a church about potentially sponsoring a troop, so we began the research,” Phillips said. “It is a church-based organization for a community, and we got on board.”
Trail Life USA has been growing in numbers nationwide recently as a Boy Scouts alternative because many feel the Scouting organization does not reflect their values.
The Greenwood troop became the 17th Trail Life chapter in Mississippi.
“We just really want to extend to people that there is another option for a boys activity,” said Phillips.
The troop will hold an open house on Aug. 19 at the church’s Recreation Outreach Center, or ROC.
Doors will open at 5 p.m., and a cookout will be held at 5:30 p.m. At 6 p.m., a presentation will be held, and it will include a question-and-answer session.
“We’re going to turn it into a cookout, and we’ll have a canoe and tent and different things set up here on the grass of our Recreation Outreach Center, and we’ll give some background, history and what the plans are,” said Phillips.
The event is open to all boys in grades 5K-5 interested in joining and their parents.
“Through a Facebook page that’s just been established and word of mouth, it already looks like we’ll have about 20 boys as a potential base,” said Phillips. “So the goal of the open house is to broaden that prospective base.”
Phillips, who has two sons who are Eagle Scouts, said he has had a rich history with the Boy Scouts, but as a pastor he is excited to offer this “Christ-centered, church-based” option.
Trail Life states, “Parents love the commitment to a Christian world view and moral consistency, and boys will enjoy fun and adventure. Trail Life USA partners with churches to grow Godly young men. Boys connect with friends, dads and mentors in a safe and encouraging Christian environment.”
Trail Life goes all the way through college, but the brand-new Greenwood troop is focusing on the age group where it feels like the most interest would possibly be to get the organization up and going. The 5K to fifth-grade age range is called the Woodland Trails program, which is broken up into three groups — Foxes, grades K-1; Hawks, grades 2-3; and Mountain Lions, grades 4-5.
Meeting plans revolve around a set curriculum to engage and teach program participants using six program emphases — leadership, teamwork, character, wisdom, heritage and faith.
When a boy joins any of the three Woodlands Trail program age Patrols, he can earn a right pocket of the uniform that shows that he knows the basics of Trail Life USA, which include the oath, motto, salute, sign and handshake.
As the participants progress, boys will earn branch pins that correspond to the seven primary instructional areas of Trail Life USA. There is also a process by which the program achievements of children who have been in the Boy Scouts can be transferred over into an equal number of Trail Life credits.
“The 5K to fifth-grade group of the organization breaks down into seven branches of involvement called heritage, life skills, science and tech, hobbies, values, sports and fitness, and outdoor skills,” said Phillips. “So each week you handle something in one of those areas.”
Phillips said he hopes the troop grows in the future and eventually will have a college scholarship program.
The Trail Life USA program is not one in which boys will be dropped off at the church. A father, grandfather or approved assigned male guardian must attend with each boy, since some of the activities include overnight camping trips and hiking and fishing adventures.
There will also be troop leaders, who must go through extensive background checks through the Trail Life USA organization.
After the open house, the launch date and when and where the troop will meet will be decided.
“There’s really some very enthused dads, and we are very excited about it,” said Phillips.
Phillips emphasized that the organization is open to all churches to get involved.
“We’re wanting it to be inclusive, not just something North Greenwood Baptist Church is doing,” he said. “We are wanting other churches to be involved.”
Those who would like to attend the open house should RSVP by calling North Greenwood Baptist Church at 453-2801.
Troop MS-7777 is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tlusams7777.
For more information about Trail Life USA, visit www.traillifeusa.com.
•Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7233 or firstname.lastname@example.org.