ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–A small change being introduced in the Royal Ambassadors pledge this fall is indicative of major changes in store throughout Southern Baptists’ traditional missions education program for boys — the first significant alteration to the RA program in more than 30 years.
“We changed a line so that the whole pledge becomes proactive,” said Rob Carr, children’s mission education strategist for the North American Mission Board, which produces RA materials for Southern Baptist churches.
“Instead of just learning how the message of Christ is carried around the world, we are now learning how to carry the message of Christ around the world. It’s a subtle but significant change.”
In the process, he said, Royal Ambassadors also is taking on an expanded role of character education, with a curriculum based on virtues such as loyalty, friendship, courage and responsibility.
The traditional church-based RA organization also is being supplemented by a completely new resource titled, “Sons of Virtue,” that will allow fathers to lead their sons — and possibly friends — to study the same virtues in homes. The book enables boys in churches where there is not an RA program to participate — while also providing an introduction to the organization that could lead to more church RA chapters, Carr said.
“The feedback from the folks that did a prototype of this is that it deepened their relationships,” Carr said. “This gave them some good direction on how they can talk to their son. The same virtues studied in the RA materials are applied to their relationships, with the father reflecting back on the same things he did when he was at the same age of life.”
Carr said the changes in RAs were considered carefully over several years because of the strong traditions associated with the program. With the new plan, the strong guiding principles of the “classic” RA program are maintained while making the program easier and more flexible for churches to implement.
Part of the impetus was an acknowledgment of the growing competition for time from other children’s ministries, Carr said.
“We thought it might be time for a change — not in the purpose, because we still want to develop on-mission Christians,” he said. “But we wanted to say, “‘How do we do that in a way that is motivating for the boy and is easy for the leader to do?'”
One change is simply in the format of the meeting, from a traditional eight-part program to only five meeting segments. The RA advancements also are more integrated into the meeting plan, allowing boys to work on advancements during the meeting as well as going through materials from the newly redesigned “Lad” and “Crusader” magazines for the two main age groups of RAs.
The new RA materials also encourage boys to make choices about their activities and advancements.
“It’s more based on commitments by the boys, so that rather than the leader telling them what’s required, there are choices that the boy can make,” Carr said. “And the leader helps the boy make the choice or follow through on that choice.”
The traditional Royal Ambassador focus on missionaries will be retained, however, with missionaries serving as role models for the virtues and character traits being studied. Leaders also will be encouraged to make use of strong Christian laymen in their congregations as well.
Many of the traditional awards and activities like camping and RA Racers also will continue.
“We do want the boys to earn their pins and patches, but we don’t want the pins and patches to be an end to themselves,” Carr said. “These represent markers on their journey. It’s not just about building a car and racing it, but about building a car and then having another one so that you can bring a friend.”
The materials debuted at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix as RAS from Arizona, California and South Carolina shined the shoes of more than 2,0000 messengers in the SBC exhibit hall.
The new RA design is detailed in the revised “Leading Royal Ambassadors” book, available through NAMB at www.namb.net/catalog or by calling 1-866-407-NAMB. Other information is available at www.royalambassadors.org.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: RA’S NEW SHINE.