RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Southern Baptists and the Boy Scouts of America have worked through the Association of Baptists for Scouting for almost 50 years, so it was a reunion of sorts when more than 120 Scout leaders from 12 states and various Baptist denominations met in early April at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center.
The conference, titled “God and Country,” provided innovative ways Baptists can positively influence America’s youth from elementary to high school through Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops.
The weekend brought pastors and scout leaders together to find ways for local churches to encourage the growth of Boy Scout troops. Several pastors committed to add either Boy Scout troops or Venturing programs in their churches. Venturing is a coeducational program for youth between the ages of 14 and 20.
There are more than 90,000 Baptist congregations (SBC and non-SBC) in the United States and approximately 5,000 have Scouting programs, according to Don York, director of the relationships division of the Boy Scouts of America.
Several speakers discussed the outreach possibilities Scouting offers churches. R. Chip Turner, vice president of FamilyNet of Ft. Worth, Texas, said Scouting and Baptist churches have a long history together.
“Dr. George Truett of First Baptist Dallas endorsed the concept of Scouting in churches in 1924, but we still have a lot to do to reach more youth.”
David Hansley, president of the Association of Baptists for Scouting, told attendees, “You’ve got to get into the pastors and youth ministers to let them see the benefits of Scouting. You begin by sitting down with the pastor and explaining the program. Most pastors when they see the benefits of Scouting will catch the vision. There are too many boys to reach. It’s a great outreach if the churches will just take it and run.”
Retired Navy Commander Robert Fant Jr. a former Vietnam POW, reiterated the importance of churches and Scouting.
“When I was captured, the first thing I concentrated on was the Lord’s Prayer, then the 23rd Psalm. Soon after that I began concentrating on the Scout Law. It was these things I had learned at church and in Scouting that helped keep me going.”
Fant’s close friend, Bill Dukes, a Clemson, S.C., physician, added that he was always impressed with Fant on scout outings.
“He may have been little compared to some of the other Scouts, but he had a drive and heart that allowed him to set the pace,” Dukes said.
Dukes and his wife, Sylvia, became the first couple to receive the Silver Good Shepherd award. Dukes had previously received both the Good Shepherd award and Boy Scout of America Blue Ridge Council’s Silver Beaver award for recognition of his work with Boy Scouts in the western North Carolina area.
In addition to the general sessions and specialized training, the conference also featured two banquets to honor recipients of the Good Shepherd Cross and Staff award. The award is a national recognition for adults who render outstanding service to Baptist youth through their church and the Boy Scouts of America. The award is given to either laypersons or pastors who lead in the spiritual, physical, mental and moral development of youth.
This year 22 recipients were recognized for service to Baptist Scouting, with six of the recipients receiving Silver Good Shepherds awards representing at least 50 years of Scouting involvement. Several well-known men are former recipients of the award: LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr., Executive Committee President Morris Chapman, Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter and Sen. Trent Lott.
Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar is slated to receive the honor later this year.
Eight other Southern Baptists received the Silver Good Shepherd award this year: Gerald Primm, Eller Memorial Baptist Church, Greensboro, N.C.; Frank Lewis, Emanuel Baptist Church, Frankfort, Ky.; Lucian Rice, Calvary Baptist Church, Lexington, Ky.; Edmond Poole, First Baptist Church Renfro, S.C.; Neil Showalter, First Baptist Church, Harrisonburg, Va.; James Hall, First Baptist Church, Griffin, Ga.; Robert Justice, Southside Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C. and E. W. Rabon, First Baptist Church, Easley, S.C.
The union between Boy Scouts of America and Ridgecrest is becoming a tradition in its self.
“It is a natural place for us to meet, it is geographically easy to get to and there are a large number of Baptists within 100 miles [of Ridgecrest],” said H. M. “Smokey” Eggers, former president and current Southern Baptist representative for the Association of Baptists for Scouting. This was the 12th time the group has met at Ridgecrest since the early 80s. “There is such a strong history for us attending Ridgecrest. It’s like coming home,”
LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center is owned and operated by LifeWay Christian Resources. It has recently undergone extensive renovation to provide affordable opportunities for organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America.
“This planning committee met for two years.” Eggers said of the extensive preparation. “It takes a lot of work to get the speakers lined up. The help here at Ridgecrest is tremendous. The staff has been taking prayer requests from us during the last two years. They have gone the second and third miles.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GOD AND COUNTRY, WISE WORDS, PHOTOGRAPHER, LISTENING, BREAK, and IMPORTANT TOPIC.