Scouting is Youth Ministry
Growing up, scouting was a big part of my life within my parish community. I was involved with the Girl Scouts, and I was considered an honorary member of the Boy Scouts due to all of the times that I tagged along with my dad to their meetings. Our parish embraced these two groups, and for awhile I didn’t know that scouting existed outside of the Catholic Church. The Church and scouting seemed inseparable to me, but as I grew up, I realized that scouting organizations do not always make decisions that align with the Church’s teachings. As our modern culture continues to progress towards an evermore secular world, we are witnessing a push to remove faith from scouting, but the Catholic Committee on scouting continues to push back by keeping faith programming available within scouting programs. During my first Camporee with the BSA, I was astounded by how many scouts identified as Catholics but were not regularly practicing their faith.
And that is why the Catholic Committee on scouting works so hard.
Scouting events are a great opportunity for our youth to encounter the Catholic faith. All of our scouting events create an opportunity for Jesus to use our leaders to plant the seed of faith in others. Sometimes we, (the leaders), are tempted to feel like our efforts are a waste of time and that we aren’t reaching anybody, but during those moments we have to cling to the truth that all of our hard work is worth it, because one person may have had an authentic encounter with Jesus.
Throughout my time with the Catholic Committee on scouting, I have had the honor to witness some scattered seeds bear fruit. I have seen it happen with many of our youth participants, but one special instance sticks out to me. During one of our events, an 8th grade boy spoke to me after I gave a witness, and he shared that he was no longer scared to make the leap into high school, even though he knew few of his peers would agree with his values. But scouting doesn’t just change the hearts of our young participants; I have also seen many of my peers change after they staffed retreats with me. When those leaders enter college, they continue to stay involved in campus ministry, (despite many of them being introverts), because they know of the importance of community due to scouting. I have also seen a change within my own father: he wouldn’t consider himself a scholarly Catholic, but he always supports me when I’m assigned to give a witness at a scouting event by helping me with my research.
Most importantly, I have seen a change happen in my own life. Before I started going to the Catholic Encounter Weekend, my faith was not my own. I went through the motions; I only saw Mass as a weekly obligation. But once I started getting involved in scouting, I was given the chance to take on leadership opportunities. I realized that I was supposed to be teaching others about the Catholic faith, and I was humbled, because I barely knew the faith myself. But I leaned in: I studied my faith, and I learned a lot. When I began my scouting journey, my faith and knowledge were so shallow that I could barely comprehend the things that I was reading. Yet before each retreat, I found myself passionately studying so that I could give the best witness possible, and with each retreat, I became more comfortable in studying theology, and I grew in my relationship with Jesus. Even now, I know I have a long way to go, but I have a thirst for knowledge: I want to continue to learn more about Jesus and the Church.
We are in the ministry of scouting to teach youth and to build a community of virtue. And yes, the scouting ministry exists to serve others, but I receive so many gifts from being a leader in Catholic scouting. Sometimes the leaders don’t get to see how Jesus changed the hearts of the scouts after an event, but we trust that Jesus can use even the smallest seed of faith to make a difference in someone’s life.
Because He used a small seed to change mine.