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  • #16
    Mark Hanncock - "Some people think we are competitors."

    Not a competitor? You're in denial or you're marketing.

    TL leaders were mainly former BSA leaders and charter orgs replaced (or switched) to chartering trails edge units, you are a competitor. Web site ( says the program is outdoor adventures, character and leadership with a Christian focus. You are a competitor. The web site also says TL wants to be the "premier national character development organization for young men ... " with a Christian focus. You are a competitor.

    The bickering is about how tightly to integrate the "Christian" Sunday school focus. Trails Life is BSA with a "Christian" Sunday School focus. BSA is "reverent" supporting multiple faiths and generally very inclusive.

    Both BSA and Trails Life are about outdoors, character, leadership and duty to God. They are competing programs.

    ================================================== ===

    Two questions ...

    What is the recruitment model? The only membership I've heard about so far are BSA members that switched over to Trails Life. How do you plan to get members other than converting BSA units and members?

    ================================================== ===

    What camps will you use?

    Mark Hancock wrote "We don't envision owning our own camps since there are thousands that are very well-managed and can offer some very good high-adventure experiences."

    Most youth camps are BSA, GSUSA, YMCA or camps for specific churches. Are the "high adventure experiences" to be Trails Life experiences or generic camps that Trails Life units will sign up for individually and/or run their own high adventure experiences?


    • #17
      Originally posted by fred johnson View Post
      Not a competitor? You're in denial or you're marketing.
      I don't think one can really argue with that. If Trail Life were not a competitor to BSA it would not accept ranks and badges earned in the BSA.


      • #18
        ... Didn't read enough ...

        Not a competitor? Open these pages from Trail's Life site and store.

        Advancement -->
        Advancement graph -->
        """ TROOP """ Flag -->
        Referencing BSA -->

        Trail's Life may be a good program. I don't know. Just don't try to blow smoke. Trail's Life is a re-branded BSA program with a Christian emphasis and other smaller tweaks.

        The only sad part is that 20 years from now there will be adults that say "I earned the Freedom award." and it will always be followed with "It's like Eagle Scout but for the Trail's Life program." It happens now with Venturing and GSUSA. It will happen with Trail's Life too.
        Last edited by fred johnson; 06-04-2014, 09:49 AM.


        • #19
          Okay ... final one ... Advancement transfer in Microsoft Excel worksheet lists essentially every BSA award for use in transferring advancements.

          Wait wait wait ... a few quotes "... we believe that the men and boys left behind in the BSA ..." .... or .... "... in explaining our program, its origins, or differences between TLUSA and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) there are times where it is both necessary and appropriate to make reference to BSA and or its policies."

          Not a competitor? My Chihuahua it isn't.
          Last edited by fred johnson; 06-04-2014, 10:04 AM.


          • #20
            Originally posted by fred johnson View Post
            ... The only sad part is that 20 years from now there will be adults that say "I earned the Freedom award." and it will always be followed with "It's like Eagle Scout but for the Trail's Life program." It happens now with Venturing and GSUSA. It will happen with Trail's Life too.
            Tangent alert (but I can't resist)! As an afterthought, the new venturing summit award should have a silver vulture on it's device. Vultures are found at higher altitudes than eagles!


            • #21

              "Anecdotally," about 60% of the folks registering for more information on TLUSA had some involvement with BSA. About half were leaders. This is the only place we gather this info; only because we have found it helpful to know if they have had scouting experience. Some may key off on this as being competitive. It is the best way we have of determining how familiar someone is with a boys' adventure program, which is what we have. We recognize we have many folks from BSA. It helps to know which as we are setting things up.

              I don't think the reasons for changing over would surprise you; membership being the most frequently heard. Some tell us it has been a long-term dissatisfaction with vision and mission. All say it was a very difficult move, as it was for me and my family, too. My oldest earned his Eagle in December. We were sad to leave but, ultimately, felt that it was BSA that left us. Many will disagree. I don't have any issue with them. We each have to prayerfully make our decision based on what we think is best for our families.

              We have chosen our compass.

              All of our chartering and membership is accomplished online. Troops don't collect a penny on behalf of the Home Office. It's a complex process, but we are managing to get Troops through daily. It's not as bad as the Affordable Healthcare website, but it has given us challenges! Our Troops have been extremely patient with the process, much more than I would have been in their predicament. I thank God for them every day.

              Chartering info is on our website. Basically, we have 5 leaders that complete background and CSYPT and references before we issue the charter. Our vision draws a very high percentage of churches as Charter Orgs. It's somewhat difficult to receive a charter any other way as we consider that partnership to be vital to our vision. We consider them to be more than meeting places.

              Our Trail and Travel shirts are offered to give Troops latitude in their requirements and dress standards. Many Troops will use the Travel (polo) shirts as a meeting and "field trip" shirt, while reserving the "Troop" shirt for ceremony. We will be revealing our "Troop" shirt soon.

              I understand the points made about being competitive. Honestly, we are tiny tiny tiny compared to BSA and can only hope that we will have the type of impact BSA has had on so many. It will be many years before the Freedom Award will have the luster or respect of Eagle. We are realistic about that. It's not even our goal. We just want to guide generations of young men to honor God (of the Bible). lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure. We heard the countless stories of men and boys feeling abandoned by BSA, recognizing that the membership decision didn't really reflect the wishes of the rank and file. We hoped to provide a place for the disenfranchised and to recognize their accomplishments by providing "credit" in our system. It's easy to interpret that as competition, so I won't debate that. We are here for those who left or for those looking for a Christ-centered (this is different than BSA) adventure program for boys.

              In reality, I'm really not interested in that debate here. I was just hoping to respond to some questions. You will likely see me just leave the forum rather than debate. I have all the time in the world for answering questions, but very little time for contentious debate. This is not a core value in either org, as far as I know. Believe me, even among our "faithful," I have plenty of debates to keep me busy!

              Thanks, again, AZMike. These are great questions. In case I disappear from here because I'm not interested in debating points we have satisfied to our satisfaction, feel free to email me at


              • #22
                "Vultures are found at higher altitudes than eagles!" Maybe so, but both eat carrion.


                • #23
                  Amidst all the angst directed at Mark and Trail Life, I have to ask the question: What did you think would happen after the idiotic membership policy change???

                  If you want, I can go back and quote some of the posts on this forum at the time of the policy change where people demanding gay inclusion wrote, "if you don't like the new policy, go off and start your own organization!"

                  Are you surprised when, after a change was made that was contrary to the religious beliefs of a large group of experienced, skilled adult leaders, some chose to do just that? And are you surprised when they took many of the organizational lessons and skills they learned as scout leaders and applied them to their new organization, along with some new ways of doing things that look fairly well thought-out?

                  Did you expect them to slink off and swear never to become involved in a youth program again?

                  Of course they were going to begin a competing organization! Why wouldn't they? It's called the Law of Unintended Consequences for a reason.

                  Is your concern that by allowing Scouts to transfer their rank and awards over to their new program, or using elements of the BSA (that are and have been used by other youth organizations), that they are "copying" us? I point out that when I posted a thread asking who would transfer over to the GSUSA if they allowed boys, and didn't exclude atheists or gay leaders (i.e., a more "progressive" organization), and if they allowed former BSA to transfer their ranks and awards over, at least one poster on this thread said he would consider it. I don't think that makes him a creonte or a vulture, it just means that if an organization better fit the personal needs and values of him and his sons, he might cross over. Trail Life's stated mission is to use a boy-led outdoors program as a Christian youth ministry. BSA uses a boy-led youth program for wider goals, including theistic religious values.

                  I will stay with BSA, despite some boneheaded membership decisions that leave both sides feeling unsatisfied and angry, but I suspect Trail Life will find a niche, and will probably pick up quite a few Christian churches that might otherwise have chosen to charter a troop. From their website, they will not charter to non-Tridentine churches, so the LDS will remain in BSA, and only Messianic Jewish temples can charter with Trail Life. It doesn't really sound like many non Christian church COs will be involved with Trail Life, and the number of secular civic organizations that charter are probably dropping (I guess - anyone have any specific figures?) and the pool of potential public schools has disappeared, so yes, they will probably pick up some potential or current COs. Whose fault is that?

                  I note that they will allow boys "with no faith" to join, so maybe Merlyn will be satisfied. Although I would guess there will be some evangelization.

                  Last edited by AZMike; 06-04-2014, 08:29 PM.


                  • #24
                    At least they're a private, religious organization that's up front about their policies and TL can honestly say all boys can join. I don't think they'll get too many non-Christians, though.


                    • #25
                      Here is their official policy on referencing the BSA. Seems reasonable.
                      Trail Life USA (TLUSA) is a Christian character development organization with leaders whose tone and chosen words in all communications should reflect the example and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures. We also recognize that, in explaining our program, its origins, or differences between TLUSA and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) there are times where it is both necessary and appropriate to make reference to BSA and or its policies.
                      Accordingly, we wish to be people of the utmost good will when we make public statements or references to the BSA.

                      The above goal can be accomplished in a number of ways, however we recommend the following guidelines:

                      1) We should make every effort to ensure that communications referencing the BSA be truthful, accurate, and factual.

                      2) When possible, communications should be charitable and done in a way that honors the memory, contribution, and legacy of the BSA.

                      3) When possible, generic over specific references to the BSA could be used such as, “other youth programs,” or “the program some of us came out of.

                      4) We should avoid judgmental or prideful comparisons with the BSA program and in our aim to “raise the standard” in the TLUSA program.

                      5) We should avoid comments, words, or tone which would be perceived as arrogant or disrespectful.

                      6) The use of humor should be lighthearted in spirit and not biting with sarcasm and/or mockery.

                      We affirm that there are legitimate criticisms to be made of the BSA, especially regarding the membership changes made in May of 2013. However, when discussing these matters we encourage members to be serious-minded, humble, factual, and sober to the dangers and risks to youth created by those changes.

                      Further, we believe that the men and boys left behind in the BSA are in no way our opponents or adversaries. On the contrary, many of them are our family, friends, and like brothers to us. We also recognize that the professionals and top leadership in the BSA are largely responsible for initiating and leading the changes in their membership policies and not the millions of rank and file BSA Troop Leaders, youth members, or alumni.

                      Finally, although it is not the desire or intention of the Board of Directors of TLUSA to regulate, police, or restrict the speech of its leaders, staff, or membership, when references to the BSA are made we hope that they would reflect the spirit of the slogan in our inaugural convention: “Honoring the Legacy… Raising the Standard.” Most importantly, we wish to honor God and be Christ-like in our speech and written communications and pray these guidelines will serve this purpose.

                      - See more at:


                      • #26
                        Mark Hancock ... Well said and I respect your words and approach. I'm sad you won't be with BSA anymore. You represent Trail's Life very well.

                        For me and my family, we're sticking with BSA. In our life, faith formation is through attending mass and religious education. Scouting is about adventure and character. Other than people getting upset about changes, I have seen zero effect from the May 2013 changes.


                        • #27
                          AZMike, other than an unflattering comparison of eagles to vultures, who exactly is expressing angst or surprise?


                          • #28
                            Thanks, gentlemen. Fred, I'm thankful you haven't seen any change for your family. We HAD to make a change. I was not in leadership or part of this decision, but my sons' Troop was shut down by the decision and I'm glad we had a place to go. I suspect we are not the only ones. At the same time, it is not our goal to harm BSA in any way. BSA has enough to deal with from both sides of a very intense debate. At least we only offended one side! Your former General Counsel (drafted the policy, I believe) is our National Director of Administration and, now, one of my best friends. He attends Mass daily with his wife and draws his strength from there, also. Almost daily we talk about the maelstrom BSA must be in at a national level. We don't talk with glee about it. He served them for many years and is very proud of his service there. He's an amazing man of faith who cares deeply about the direction of BSA. I don't have nearly the history, but I can sense in his voice and hear clearly in his words the sadness around such a great organization being attacked from all sides. Who knows what the future will bring? We hear all sorts of speculation, as I'm sure you do, too. We just want to provide a place--no matter how small--for folks who want a Christ-centered option. We are (by default, not intention) extremely politically-incorrect and realize that and our restrictive adult membership and charter requirements don't favor huge growth. That should allay any fears that we are trying to "take over" the scouting market. We are much more restrictive. That would be a terrible marketing move in this environment. Thanks for your kind words. Walk Worthy.


                            • #29
                              Mark, I am curious to know more about what facilities TLUSA plans on using. BSA councils all operate differently and some on this board complain about the fees charged. With the exception of Cub World the fees my council charge are better than I can get at any state park. Free camporee fields and on the trails. Take for instance rock climbing or COPE is $75 per group with the unit providing the trained leaders. I would be hard pressed to get that pricing anywhere else, more like $75 or more per participant. Does TLUSA plan on using BSA resources at all? AHG were until the membership vote then they at least said they would not. My point being without the BSA infrastructure the program cost for my unit would be significantly higher.


                              • #30
                                Who knows what the future will bring? We hear all sorts of speculation, as I'm sure you do, too.

                                Cooperation and friendly competition? I remain hopeful that Mr. Gates will himself reach out to all youth and not send lawyers to those viewed as competitors, e.g., Hacker Scouts.

                                I think with program accommodations, the BSA and TLUSA troop can work together in outdoor activities and service projects. If they can't, then the future would be dim.

                                My $0.02