Tag Archive for Interfaith Scouting

A Must Have Book for Reverent Scouts – Scouting Our Way

Every Scout and Scouter promises to do their Duty to God, but very little is written to help them accomplish that since the BSA recognizes many different faith traditions.

My favorite single resource related to this subject has been In Our Own Way: Living a Scouting Life Through Faith, by Dr. Robert Lee Edmonds. Between mentoring Chaplains Aides and serving on Wood Badge courses, I’ve given away over 100 copies and it’s the only paper book in my camping gear, other than the Boy Scout Handbook. Click here to check out my previous blog on In Our Own Way.

Dr. Edmonds and his wife Linda just published a new book, Scouting Our Way: A Guide to Faith, Duty, and Fellowship.

According to the publisher:

Scouting Our Way includes an extraordinary selection of traditional and favorite Scout prayers and devotions arranged by program and activity suitable for personal reflection and group gatherings. There is also a prayer journal inside the book for Scouts to record their personal and favorite prayers.

At the end of each chapter are Set My Compass interactive, theme-based adventures where the reader can engage with unique chapter topics through faith-building activities. Each Set My Compass exercise is an enlightening, personal, and sharing experience for Scouts to appreciate the blessings and value of reverence, duty, and fellowship. These chapter tasks are readily adaptable for age and program and are an ideal complement to earning advancement, service or religious honors requiring an understanding and the role of a Scout’s duty to God.

Dr. Edmonds was kind enough to let me read it before it became generally available, and provide me the opportunity to contribute some ideas during the book’s production – so it will absolutely find a place on my book shelf and another copy in my camping gear. Every reverent scout should consider having one! It includes:

  • Prayers from over 30 faiths each on various Scout topics such as Reverence, Character, Being Prepared
  • Prayers and wisdom from past presidents and leaders
  • A variety of Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Leader, Wood Badge and other Scouting benedictions and prayers
  • And some introspective guides and a prayer journal for each readers’ journey in their understanding of their Creator

If you are a reverent Scout or Scouter (or have someone in your family who is), this is a great resource – especially for Chaplains Aides and those who help Scouts with their Duty to God.

For more information, click here for Scouting Our Way on Amazon (yes, it is available on Kindle). And also check out the write-up on Dr. and Mrs. Edmonds from BSA’s ScoutWire.

November = Wring-Out and Re-Charter

It seems like we just got done with School Night for Scouting (see earlier Rally and SNfS blogs) and it is time to start thinking about the next phases of the membership process – wring-out and re-charter. And while they are very different, one helps the other (and you):


Wring-Out is the very simple process of ensuring that everyone that you (the Pack/Troop leadership) thinks is on your rolls are actually registered with BSA and vice versa. It should literally take you 5 minutes to do, because typically, the only request is that you email a copy of your unit roster to your Commissioner or District Executive. From there, someone at the Council office will compare your roster to what is in the BSA system. Inevitably, BSA will find someone on your roster that they don’t have paperwork on but is active in your unit (solution: fill out an app).

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When to do an Interfaith Worship Service — and when not to

The Scenario

A few weeks ago, I helped organize an Interfaith Worship Service (IWS) during our Council’s Winter Camp between Christmas and New Year. It was a five-day camp that crossed a weekend, so we delivered a 30-minute all-faiths service on Sunday morning, which included singing God Bless America, reinforcements of the 12 points of the Scout Law through multiple worldly passages, an opening prayer sang in Aramaic and a sermon from a Baptist pastor. Most folks seemed to appreciate it, including one Scouter who really enjoyed the “undiluted” presentation that included passages from multiple faiths. It was also attended by members of an all-Muslim troop and an all-Protestant troop. Interestingly, a few Muslim scouts came up afterwards and thanked me for their inclusion, while some of the Protestant Christians seemed upset over the mixing.

Later, I was asked:

If the BSA advocates Interfaith worship … why do large scout camps like Philmont or Bartle provide separate facilities for Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, etc. ?

It’s a good question, and perhaps a teaching-moment with your Scouts:

Consider how we teach First Aid in Scouting

From the 2nd grade Wolf program, we teach very basic first aid. In Webelos, we teach the Readyman pin. And by Boy Scouts, every Scout learns basic First Aid through a required Merit Badge, along with additional training in Lifesaving. But all of those classes presume that you are the first responder to an incident and that while you are rendering aid, someone is calling 911. Your job is to provide immediate and short-term care until the professionals arrive.

Scouting also provides training in Wilderness First Aid, a much more advanced course that presumes that 911 is not a fast phone call away. The standards of care are somewhat different, because of the presumption is that your aid is all that will be available for a considerably longer time period (e.g. during a Philmont Trek in the back country).

Choosing a Religious Service Style and Venue(s)

When my Boy Scout troop did its 10-day summer camp at Bartle last year, the Sunday schedule was relaxed and provided a few hours where the troops could organize sending the boys to the chapels, temples and mosques that were most appropriate for their faiths. Each was staffed with clergy of that faith and the services were familiar and beneficial to all of those that attended. After that period, we all came back together to resume our Scout camp. If you have the staff and the downtime, then I am the first to agree that that is a better format to help each Scout worship and grow in the manner that they are most accustomed (which is what the Reverence mandates are about).

At the Winter Camp described at the beginning of this post, Sunday was the 3rd of 3 merit badge and activity days, prior to leaving on Monday. We didn’t have three hours to separate and then reconvene, nor did we have clergy on staff, nor separate facilities nearby. We did a single all-faiths service in thirty minutes, and then the boys headed off to classes.

So, in that way, you might think of Interfaith Worship similar to Wilderness First Aid. Is it ideal? No. Is it better than not providing any service at all? Yes.

You probably won’t like everything in an Interfaith Service

If you are devout in your faith, there will almost assuredly be things that happen in an IWS that you don’t care for. There are many passages of worldly wisdom that, if you didn’t know which religious text that they came from, would be perfectly acceptable as prose from the worship leader – giving praise to God, thanking the Creator, asking for blessings/wisdom/protection, etc. And if those are used in such a way as to help every Scout and Scouter connect with their understanding of God, that is ideal.

Every once in a while, a word or phrase will sneak in that you may not like – e.g. Allah, Jesus, etc. And it can cause you to be distracted from why you, as an individual worshiper, are there. Candidly, even within my home church that I attend when I am not camping, there are sometimes things that I don’t like – e.g. the tempo of the music, the screens were too slow/fast, the guest speaker talks too long, etc. When that happens, I have two choices:

  • I can let myself be distracted by what I didn’t like – and not take the opportunity to commune with God
  • Or, I can focus on the other elements of the service that I did like – and commune with God

Some Troops choose to deliver their Reverence programs with a single-faith basis, which is perfectly fine (and arguably more ideal) as long as they don’t restrict membership through it and show respect to others of differing faiths, per BSA guidelines. Even for them, it is occasionally beneficial to attend an IWS, if only to see what how other Scouts do it.  But for most BSA units, my advice is to take advantage of separate religious services when your camp offers it, and do the best you can for inclusion when you can’t – like your monthly campouts.

One Speaker with Three Shadows

A few weeks ago, while at church, one of my sons pointed out that the speaker on-stage was casting three shadows. Later, I explained that there were three spotlights on him from different directions — and each light was casting a shadow in-line with that light.

Christian Perspective

For my son, I went on to explain that the speaker and his shadows was one way to understand the Holy Trinity — God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. The speaker was the same speaker — but depending on the relative perspective of the spotlight, different shadows were cast. In much the same way, while there is but only one God, He casts multiple shadows depending on your perspective — as the all-powerful original Creator, as a sacrificial savior for the sins of the world, or an all-knowing and ever present source of righteousness and discernment — or other perspectives, such as Healer, Redeemer, Counselor, Defender, Provider, etc.  The key to remember is that all of those impressions are simply shadows of our God, based on the perspective that you are looking at Him. Of course, in the bigger picture, there can be no shadows without light, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to find so many shadows (facets) cast by that which we call the Light of the World.

Multi-Faith Scouting

The key idea of interfaith scouting is to enable each scout to grow in their own faith – according to their own understanding of who God is. As a Chaplain (adult) or Chaplain’s Aide (CA) youth, your role is to facilitate an environment for that growth — even though some scouts may not share the same faith as the C/CA. When you, as the C/CA, are delivering the reverence aspects of your scouting program, you are like the speaker in the initial analogy. Each scout will have a different perspective, but hopefully they will hear wisdom and see opportunities to give thanks in the shadows of their understanding of God that are enabled through the reverence program that you deliver. As the C/CA, you may be a speaker, but your goal is to deliver a program that helps each boy recognize a shadow.

As always, thanks for reading.

Wood Badge 98 Interfaith Materials

Each Wood Badge course has two Interfaith services:

1.The first delivered by staff, in order to not only provide opportunities for Reverence but also to instruct the participants in how to deliver an Interfaith service.

2.The second is delivered by the participants, with coaching provided by the Course Chaplain.

I was honored to serve as the course Chaplain for Circle Ten’s Wood Badge 98 course, at Philmont in August 2011. Here are their materials:


Staff-led Service — Sermon (only)

Staff-led Service — Sermon and Interfaith instructional info

Staff-led Service — Program handout

Participant-led Service — Program handout



Book – In our own way

One of my favorite books and worship aids for interfaith scouting is
In Our Own Way
, edited by Robert Lee Edmonds.

From the publisher:

In Our Own Way is an extraordinarily rich compilation of thoughtfully selected and specially written prayers from over 30 faith groups and denominations that embody Scouting’s founding moral principles. It also includes an expansive collection of popular Scout prayers, graces, benedictions and other devotions chosen from historical and contemporary sources spanning a century of the Boy Scout movement.

A must have inspirational handbook for every Scout and leader! In Our Own Way is an excellent personal companion and indispensable for use at pack and troop meetings, ceremonies and banquets, Courts of Honor, camps and outings, and leadership training programs. This remarkable treasury of prayers is an important and invaluable guide for anyone wanting to discover,
embrace, and share a Scouting way of life enriched through faith, reverence, and devotion.


About the Editor

Robert Lee Edmonds has more than 25 years of volunteer service to Boy Scouting. He is an Eagle Scout and a recipient of the Honor Medal conferred by the Boy Scouts of America’s National Court of Honor.

Dr. Edmonds has received numerous national and international recognitions and awards for his contributions to industry, education, science and technology. He is the author of High Honors: A Century of Heroism and Meritorious Action in the Boy Scouts of America, scheduled for release in 2010.


It is small enough to fit in your daypack or comfortably in a Scout’s pants’ pocket — and includes prayers and blessings from several faiths, as well as commentary as it all relates to Scouting.


How to ask about faith


How to Ask

It is okay to ask Scouts and their families about their Faith.

The BSA is not a public organization like a Public School, where faith issues are considered taboo. Instead, the BSA explicitly states that reverence to a diety is a mandate of membership, as part of the Scout Law, the Cub Scout Promise, and the guiding principles of Sir Baden Powell. Faith is part of how a boy grows into the man that they are capable of becoming.

Our job as Scout Leaders is to enable each boy to grow in their own faith, so that they can reach their own potential. You cannot accomodate each boy’s faith needs any more than you can accomodate their eating requirements, if you do not know what each boy needs.

Consider writing a survey form for each scout

Much like the Talent Survey that is given to many adults, in helping find subject experts for teaching scout topics, the form should be filled out by the Scout and their parents, and include questions such as:

What activities are you involved in? This will help you plan when boys may attend less functions due to sports seasons or band activities
What religion does your family practice? If so, what church/temple/mosque do you attend? Nice and simple, and intermixed with other questions that related to becoming aware of each boy’s needs
Do you have any food allergies? If so, what? Consider avoiding these all together, if not overly restrictive
Do you have any food restrictions or preferences (e.g. vegetarian, non-beef, non-pork, vegan, kosher)? This will help you plan your overall meals
Anything else that you want the Troop/Pack to know about you? (the catch all)


Once you know about each boy, then you can accomodate their needs, both physically and spiritually. Without that knowledge, you run the risk of really offending someone with an ‘allergic reaction’ to your religious program, or starving them of any deity recognition at all.


This website is intended to provide you with links to tools and resources that will hopefully help you with running a Scouting program that respects and encourages the faiths of all of its members.

BSA Recognized Faiths thru PrayPub

Scout Law – Interfaith

The Scout Law and the World’s Wisdom  /  Compiled by Reverend Timothy B. Cargal, Ph.D.

For National Capital Area Council Wood Badge Course 82-84 — PDF avail right-click here


Leader: From the wisdom of Mesoamerica: “Never lie, for it is a great failing. When you tell anyone what has been told to you, tell the simple truth, and add nothing to it.” (Biart, The Aztecs, from “An Aztec Father’s Exhortations to his Son”)

Scouts: A Scout is Trustworthy.


Leader: From the wisdom of Confucianism: “The duties of universal obligation are five, and the moral qualities by which they are carried out are three. The duties are those between ruler and subject, between parents and children, between husband and wife, between elder sibling and younger, and those in the intercourse between friends. … Wisdom, compassion and courage—these are the three universally recognized moral qualities of human beings.” (The Golden Mean, section 13)

Scouts: A Scout is Loyal.


Leader: From the wisdom of the Quran, the scriptures of Islam: “The righteous … give sustenance to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, saying, ‘We feed you for God’s sake only; we seek of you neither recompense nor thanks.’” (Quran 76:8-9)

Scouts: A Scout is Helpful.


Leader: From the wisdom of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam: “All God’s creatures are God’s family; and the one is the most beloved of God who does most good to God’s creatures.” (Ab-dullah and Al-Suhrawardy, Sayings of Muhammad, p. 89).

Scouts: A Scout is Friendly.


Leader: From the wisdom of Buddhism: “Avoid harsh language … [and] speak such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, such words as go to the heart, and are courteous, friendly, and agreeable to many.” (Anguttara Nik~ya 10.176)

Scouts: A Scout is Courteous.


Leader: From the wisdom of Hillel, a sage of Judaism: “A certain heathen came to Hillel and said to him: Convert me provided that you teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot. … Hillel … said to him: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it.” (Shabbat 31a)

Scouts: A Scout is Kind.


Leader: From the wisdom of the Book of Samuel, a shared scripture of Jews and Christians: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord. Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

Scouts: A Scout is Obedient.


Leader: From the wisdom of Taoism: “If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be truly fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.” (Tao Te Ching, 44)

Scouts: A Scout is Cheerful.


Leader: From a parable of Jesus of Nazareth: “The master said to his steward, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)

Scouts: A Scout is Thrifty.


Leader: From the wisdom of the Sioux: “With the Sioux, courage is absolute self-control. The truly brave one, we contend, yields neither to fear nor anger, desire nor agony. The brave one is at all times master of oneself.” (Ohiyesa, The Soul of the Indian, 115)

Scouts: A Scout is Brave.


Leader: From the wisdom of Hinduism: “Let one therefore keep the mind pure, for what one thinks that one becomes: this is a mystery of Eternity.” (Maitri Upanishad VI:24)

Scouts: A Scout is Clean.


Leader: From the wisdom of Augustine, a saint of Christianity: “You, O God, awake us to delight in your praise; for you made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” (Augustine, Confessions, I.1.3)

Scouts: A Scout is Reverent.


ScoutingForGod suggestion : Scout Law readings are a great way to share a Scouts’ Own service with other Scouts.  Consider printing and tearing this into 12 strips; and then handing out to twelve scouts.  Each Scout can then read one, the group can recite that element of the Scout Law, and then the next reader continues.

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