Morganton Scouts set high bar for service
    September 20 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    As Scouting in America celebrates its centennial year Troop 184 in Morganton and Girl Scout Troop 553 are proving young blood still flows through 100-year-old veins.

    First Baptist Church in Morganton sponsors both troops and their younger feeder groups. First Baptist has sponsored a Boy Scout troop since 1931 and a Girl Scout Troop since 1996.

    Churches have long supported the scouting movement, appreciating both its commitment to develop responsible citizens, and the opportunity for the church to impact its community by providing meeting space, leaders and teachers to help scouts achieve their religious development goals.

    “Sometimes coming to a Scout meeting here is the first time people walked in the door of a church,” said Marla Black, Senior Girl Scout Troop 553 leader and active youth leader in the church.

    Of the 52 boys in Troop 184 this year, only four are members of First Baptist. Of the 23 adults registered to work with the Troop, seven are members of First Baptist.

    First Baptist sponsors Troop 184 and Pack 184 for Cub Scouts. Girl Scouts has four age group divisions and the church sponsors a group in each. The church was recommended by Baptists in Scouting leader Chip Turner as an outstanding example of an effective Baptist sponsor of an accomplished Scout troop.

    Boy Scouts of America office in Dallas, Texas, reports that in North Carolina 1,038 Troops are chartered by churches, including 188 at Baptist churches.

    First Baptist Girl Scout and Boy Scout Sundays are “heavily attended” by visitors who come to see their sons and daughters recognized.

    Pastor Tom Bland said those annual Sundays provide opportunity to share the gospel with “a wide variety of people.”

    That is a pattern Bland sees in church sponsored Scouting.

    “Both Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting are incredibly effective ways to reach young people and their families with the gospel and to participate in the formation of character in general,” Bland said.

    Their Scout troops are active in Mission Morganton, a sort of Operation Inasmuch that First Baptist has been doing since 1998, partnering for a special day of service to vital area social ministries.

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Marla Black and Steve Bailey lead Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts at First Baptist Church, Morganton where Tom Bland, right, is pastor.

    Black, executive director of Burke County Habitat for Humanity, helped her Girl Scout troop break ground when they led the first “women build” project for Habitat in the county.

    With eight active girls at the time, they were looking for a project through which to complete their Gold award, equivalent to the Boy Scout Eagle award.

    Their “Gold House” was the first Habitat house built solely by women in Burke County, and was the first Habitat house built in North Carolina and in the Southeast with a Girl Scout partnership.

    Habitat Founder Millard Fuller participated in dedications at the house site and at First Baptist.

    The participating girls raised $50,000, enlisted workers and participated in every part of the process Black said.

    “As Girl Scouts young women are exposed to so many good things,” said Black, who was a Girl Scout and whose daughters achieved the highest ranking. “The No. 1 thing coming out of Scouting is leadership and character building. It is a wonderful way to expose girls to leadership skills and give them tools to help them use their God given talent to grow into all God intends for them.”  

    Boy Scout Hut on campus
    Boy Scouts at First Baptist have a separate building dedicated solely for their use as a Scout Hut.

    It is the converted garage of an adjoining property the church bought years ago.

    Deacon Steve Bailey, who retired after 38 years as a state prison system administrator, leads the Boy Scout Troop. He loves the outdoors and the active arena in which to model Christian life.

    The service held after each outing often is the first church service for some of the boys.

    “The big thing with Scouting is being outdoors in beautiful, beautiful places and to look around at creation and all the wonder around us,” Bailey said.

    “It’s neat to tie that to God and help the boys understand that anything this beautiful and miraculous couldn’t just happen. There has to be a creator behind that.”

    Scouting is so “strong, comprehensive and effective in outreach” at First Baptist that the church does not have traditional Royal Ambassador or Girls in Action programs, although it still conducts mission groups on Wednesday nights, Bland said.

    Bland is district chairman of Table Rock Swamp Fox district of the Piedmont Council.

    A number of church members are on the Piedmont Council’s executive board.  

    Not cool in school
    Bailey and Black both recognize it is not always cool in school to be a Scout. Black warns her middle school teachers that their Troop members may be “closet” Scouts for a year of two until they break through their insecure period and achieve goals that make them proud again to wear the uniform.

    “To be involved in Scouting you have kids who are really stepping out a bit and doing things that aren’t really considered to be cool,” Bailey said. “But the kids gain so much, and the leadership is what is really so big.”

    As boys mature and achieve more in Scouting they are more openly proud of it, Bailey said.

    It doesn’t hurt that the adult community loves them and gives plenty of accolades. Bailey, who said two of the best decisions he ever made were to join First Baptist and to be active in Scouting, admits every troop has ups and downs. But what has kept Scouting strong at First Baptist for nearly 80 years is “a lot of support and recognition that Scouting is really a good thing in terms of its ideals.”

    Scouting’s effects are cumulative, Bailey said.

    He’s been in it 17-18 years and sees boys growing in character and leadership skills as they grow in Scouting. Scouts are given responsibility for Troop and event leadership as they gain skills and stature in the group.

    Each trip has a designated Scout in charge. “When you think about that, here you have a 14-15-year-old kid telling other kids what to do, and organizing them. There’s not too many places you get that experience at that age,” Bailey said.

    Bailey can’t get away from Scouting because he loves the activities that make Scouting unique and integral to their community: the backpacking and camping in “the most beautiful area of the world” and the myriad ways they serve through projects associated with earning their merit badges.

    “How many of these boys would have that experience?” Bailey asked. “How many would be sitting in front of TV? Communing with nature in a lot of respects is how they start to appreciate where it all came from … connecting to God and hopefully connecting to Jesus Christ through all this.”
    9/20/2010 9:10:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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