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Trail Life USA, an Alternative to Boy Scouts, Sees Significant Rise in Membership

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Trail Life USA, a Christian leadership group that offers an alternative to the Boy Scouts, says its membership has increased dramatically since the same time last year as the Boy Scouts faced declining membership, sexual abuse lawsuits, and pushback against its LGBTQ policies.

Trail Life CEO Mark Hancock told The Christian Post his organization has added 65 troops already in 2021 and more than 100 are in the process of being chartered.

Launched in 2014 in response to the Boy Scouts’ decision to allow openly gay males to become scouts, Trail Life is a Christian-based, K-12 program centered on outdoor experiences that help boys “grow in character, understand their purpose, serve their community, and develop life-long leadership skills,” per the organization.

Headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, Trial Life now has more than 800 troops chartered by local churches with members in 50 states and a total membership of more than 40,000.

Approximately 20,000 people took part in the group’s recent National Backyard Concert and Campout, a virtual event held in May, while another 15,000 watched a broadcast of the event, CP reported.

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The Boy Scouts, meanwhile, saw membership decline significantly—as much as 26% in the last decade—even after they began welcoming girls as members in 2017.

The organization also faces hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse, and in February 2020 filed a bankruptcy plan that sets aside $300 million to evaluate and settle claims.

A committee representing victims asked a judge for permission to file its own reorganization plan, estimating the value of the roughly 84,000 sexual abuse claims filed in the bankruptcy at about $103 billion, adding that those estimates were “extremely conservative.”

In a statement in response to the BSA bankruptcy, Trail Life reiterated its commitment to providing a safe experience for all boys.

“In our opinion, the direction BSA has taken over the last five or six years seems to indicate they’ve blurred the lines of sexuality at a time when boys can have a lot of uncertainty and confusion in their lives. This is dangerous and doesn’t protect boys—or girls—from sexual abuse or exploitation,” the statement said, outlining safety procedures that include background checks, youth protection training, and personal recommendations for all adult Trail Life leaders.

In a 2017 interview with Ministry Watch, Hancock said he formed the group because he “had to somehow square up what the Bible said with what Boy Scouts was teaching my sons.”

“We found ourselves in the position of being part of a program that we really loved but having to deal with explaining to my sons why this compromise is okay. To hear myself saying, or potentially saying, ‘You know, we like this so much, we’re going to tolerate the sin,’” he said.

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.