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How Healthy Is Your CO?

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  • How Healthy Is Your CO?

    I love the small town where I live.
    It's a great little town. A place that when you drive you have to leave one hand free to wave at others and if you don't wave they let you know that you have hurt their feelings.
    Back in the day, the town did well. It is said by some that we have the best examples of Edwardian Architecture in the US. Big mansions that look like small cathedrals.
    The population is about 4,700. It was a lot more and was steadily dropping until the economy started doing down.
    The biggest employees in the area are the local hospital and the company that collects garbage and manages the landfill.
    Things must have been goos as I've never lived in a place with so many churches. For our small population we have 14 churches.
    It's kinda like back then they woke up and said "What shall we do today?"
    "I know, let's build a church"
    I've visited nearly all the churches at one time or another.
    My Church the local R/C church is standing room only. In part because they have cut down the number of masses. Claiming not having enough Priests.
    There is a school that is part of the parish. So on a Sunday or Saturday there is a lot of young families and a lot of older folks.
    The priest is a really nice fellow. Very active in Scouting and the OA.
    Still it's hard not to notice the lack of younger people at the services.
    There is a big Pentecostal Church just outside of the town (I didn't count that one!) It's a newer building. It seems very busy catering to a diverse group. It has youth Ministers and an active youth group. Seems that every Sunday they all bring covered dishes and spent the entire day on the church grounds.
    I tried a lot of times to get them to start a Scouting unit, but they weren't interested.
    The other Churches are kinda sad.
    I'm not sure how they manage to remain open? When I have visited most have less than 30 people for Sunday services. Older people who sit in the same pew week after week. Their preachers seem to spend their time visiting older people who are sick and performing burial services.
    The town has a full list of Service Organizations.
    The Rotary is a super nice group of guys. Their membership peaked about 15 years back and has been going down every year. I'm not sure why they don't have any females? I never asked.
    They meet in local restaurants as they don't own any property. When asked they will support local Scouts and Scouting. A long time ago the were a CO back when my Father-in-law was SM. But since then they have not got involved.
    The local American Legion, has a very big and impressive building, with a Doe-Boy statue and a big gun outside.Much as they have tried over the years, they never seem to get out of trouble. They elect a new committee and someone runs off with the cash or the place is run badly and the reputation gets tarnished. I don't think that it will be that long till they will close the doors for good.
    The Elks is the biggest and best run service club in the town. They make a lot of money at their bar, serve decent food and really want to go out of their way to serve the community. They are the CO for the ship. They are involved with youth soccer and seem to be attracting a fair number of young and middle aged new members.
    The building that the FOE (The Eagles.) owned is for sale.
    Some of the other clubs have had to join with clubs in surrounding towns to remain open.
    Ten years or so the town had over 300 boys on the books as Scouts.
    Today we have less then 40.
    The Elks and the R/C are the last remaining CO's.
    The churches are open to the idea of being a CO but they just don't have any younger people to take leadership positions or kids to serve.
    I haven't checked the numbers to see how the Service Clubs are doing.
    This year the Rotary Club for the first time wasn't able to fill a table at the Council Fund raising dinner.
    Locally there is a movement by some who want the churches to lose there property tax exemption status. I don't see it going anywhere soon. But it's sad when churches don't have the community support behind them.
    If the organizations that "Own" Scouting units are on the decline, what does this mean for the Scouting units?

  • #2
    Hello Eamonn,

    Interesting portrait of a community --- and of the nation in some ways.

    I think it's the product of an increasingly materialistic society and of a government that is often eager to take over when voluntary organizations fail.

    I commend you for your efforts to get the Pentecostal church to adopt a Scouting program. Running Pack and Troop meetings as part of their Sunday program, or their program generally sounds like it would be a good addition.

    I've been working for 3.5 years now to revive a Cub Scout Pack that was down to a single boy. It's chartered by a Catholic parish. We recently appointed a lady as Chartered Organization Rep who used to be a Den Leader (her son is 43 years old!) She is doing good things to make the pack more a part of the Parish community.

    Based on that experience, it sounds to me like that Catholic parish is the best place to work to build Scouting. The church has families you can draw on for members, and my experience is that Catholic families are more likely to get involved to make Scouting work than the average family.

    Is the parish unit a Troop or Cub Pack, and what kind of condition is the unit in?


    • #3
      That is tough.

      I worry about our UMC host. That church has been losing members to a more bigger, vibrant UMC down the road. It is embarrassing. I too made the move and after one service we could have an ASM meeting--5 or 6 scouters who used to belong to our CO. And the bigger UMC has a cracker jack Troop as well.

      Almost all the Troops here are Church based, UMC, Preys, RC, LDS. One or two are "Squadron owned" at the base. Elks are hanging on by their fingernails. Rotary getting smaller. I see the Moose making a big push.

      In Tampa a century ago the Cigar workers had HUGE social clubs--Spanish, Cuban, Italians, etc. Has their own subscription Hospitals. Folks basically lived in these clubs. Beautiful buildings. Now almost all the old members have died out.

      So yes if you live in an area in decline the health of the CO's will continue to be a problem. Here we still have population growth coming back...some jobs...lousy jobs, but jobs so some churches are staying stable or declining slower.


      • #4

        Yes, the traditional churches as a whole have lost substantial numbers as our society has become more and more secular. The other problem is that many church's do not really make an attempt to reach out to the younger generations and their needs and interests. The most popular churches seem to be these new mega sized ones with popular Christian music and dynamic preachers with services dedicated to a variety of different age groups. My own church which is nondemoninational Christian is still growing with a lot of younger families and children so we must be doing something right. We have a pack, troop, and crew, as well as the GSUSA, and a very active youth group all of which are very strong and continually growing. As the associate pastor and part of the crew leadership I am always listening to what the young people and older people are looking for in a church and we try to provide those things to them.

        The days of preaching with threats about eternal damnation and hellfire,and empty repetitive rituals are gone forever if you really want to attract people to your services. Too many of the more traditional churches have become little more than a temporary refuge for the very elderly and seem empty of life according to many of my fellow ministers. CO's who are churches are only as healthy as their congregations. If their numbers are shrinking more and more each year they will be less and less receptive to sponsoring scouting.


        • #5
          We have a traditional church that is growing so it can be done but it does take a lot of work. And like Scouting "growth" may not be the best metric.


          • #6
            That's a good picture of a community. But communities vary a lot across the country.

            Rural areas, especially up north, are in a big decline.

            Our area is the opposite. New schools going up. New churches. More people every year. Roads getting built. Our district had to split because it got too big.

            Our own CO is in good shape. I do know that some neighborhoods had trouble as they aged - a lack of youth can be an overwhelming problem for a Scout unit.