SoCal Blog

How to Involve More Dads In to Your Trail Life Program

posted Aug 20, 2019, 12:19 PM by Southern California Area

By: Jerry Kwasek Point Man Southern California

A-Know the “why” your church has adopted Trail Life for the development of dads’ and sons’ discipleship fervor in love with Christ.

In practice:  Does your Trail Life program vision and mission statement match the vision and mission statement of the Pastor and the Church?

B-Be A channel of the Holy Spirit to do His work through you.  St. Paul says the he is crucified with Christ that no longer is anything he is or does is himself but is Christ who works through him.  He goes on to say that we are to pray unceasingly.  Jesus was always in communication with God the Father.
St. Augustine said that without God we cannot and without us God will not!  

In Practice:  Realize that we cannot do Trail Life without God the Holy Spirit, to allow us to accomplish our task and in particular recruiting of dads to be active members in our Trail Life troop. Begin each Trail Life meeting before the boys and moms in a men’s circle and huddle. (Just like the football players or the HS Basketball team begins before play.) Have all the dads, registered or not, join in a 30 second huddle prayer before the opening flag ceremony. The dad prayer leader for the Trail Life meeting gives the Trail Life sign up for a moment of silence and calls all the dads together in a huddle for the prayer and blessing upon each of them.  In the eyes of God men are always the moral leader of their families. 

Pray what comes to your heart in the 30 second period and then disperse the dads in the room each to their respective Trail Life meeting places.  Encourage non-registered dads to be with their sons in the same proximity as their sons during the meeting.  No dads ought to be sitting in the car outside or texting in the back of the room.  Encourage the sons for the next Trail Life meeting to invite their dads who are staying at home to join the men in prayer.  In this way we are calling on the dads to do something not only more important than what they are doing at home but raising their human lives to the divine lives. Jesus says he who serves children serve him and he who serves him serves God the Father.

C-Prayer allows grace to flow upon all in the Trail Life meeting.  The apostles failed to remove an evil spirit from someone who was possessed.  They asked Jesus why they could not.  Jesus replies that some things can only be accomplished with prayer and fasting.  

In Practice: Realize that men volunteering is out of the norm.  It is only the unusual and out of the ordinary men/dads who would actually volunteer.  When you allow grace to take effect in your Trail Life meetings then you will no longer recruit volunteers but call disciples.  

Why call on disciples and not volunteers?  Disciples are filled with the zealous love of Christ and are willing to sacrifice their lives for Him.  The Apostles were associates of Jesus but not really disciples until they received the tongues of fire upon them at Pentecost.  Disciples will speak like John the Baptist, “I must decrease and He must increase.”  Disciples never quit because they are on God’s mission and not their own.  St. Paul would get beat, stoned and whipped and then brush himself off and move on to the next town for another God filled mission.  Good News Trail Life does not allow beatings, stoning or whipping.  Dads can feel great relief.  All they have to do is show up and participate with their sons.

D-Call Fishers of Men.  Jesus called his disciples exactly where they were in life.  He saw fishermen and told them that he would help them become Fishers of Men.  Jesus knew men’s hearts and he knew that if he told them, that if they joined Him they would be camping outdoors, with chilly nights, and no sandals or extra sleeping bag/cloak…. They would be chased not only by wild animals but religious and civil authorities and may even end up martyred.  No wonder men do not regularly volunteer!  

In Practice:  Good News, in Trail Life, the men may encounter a few wild animals, probably some cold sleeping bags and likely be thirsty and hungry on outings but it is quite doubtful they would be arrested or martyred.

As part of the Trail Life meeting, ask the dads to share their vocations and what they do to put food on the table for their families.  Allow the men to give a two-or-three-minute presentation each meeting, and have one or two of the dads registered or not give a presentation.  Like Jesus you are taking the men exactly where they are in life. All dads can see themselves defined by their work but likely will not see themselves as Rangers, Troop Master or Advisors.  They will need to witness success before the youth. So, we start them out by talking about themselves before the youth.  Both the youth and dads are winners. Express privately genuine thankfulness for every dad…Certainly the dads will leave a lasting impression on the young Trail Men and inspire them to become future plumbers, carpenters, software engineers, truck drivers, construction workers or sales men, book keepers, scientists and the like. 

I had one dad who said that he could not give a presentation because he was un-employed.  I told him that he had some very valuable information to share with the young Trail Men.  We dads have become unemployed, laid off for one reason or another.  The young men need to hear how to have the right attitude, build a resume and methods to find a new job or career.

To grow the Trail Life relationship with the pastor:  Have the pastor SML or TML give a brief presentation on what a pastor does and how to know if God is calling them to be future Billy and Franklin Grahams or Albert Schweitzers.  

E-Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs without an extra cloak or sandals.  Jesus said where there are two or more, he is among them. Paul walked with Silas.  Peter and Mark were together on their journey.

In Practice:  We use the buddy system in “Safe Swim Defense.”  “Youth Protection” “Canoe tag teams” etc. We call on two deep leadership for the troop meeting positions.  We have a 1st and 2nd Officer, Patrol Leader and Junior Patrol leaders.

No difference with the dads.   Ask each dad to adopt another son beyond their own during the Trail Life meetings.  I remember a canoe trip where a dad and son were not just synchronized together and their canoe was getting further behind.  I received the son in my canoe and switched out my partner.  In a way I adopted the young man in Trail Life and we had the best time of our lives.  I learned some new youth things and the young man learned some new dumb songs I sing from time to time…too bad for his family…when he returned.

This would be a great reason to require all dads to register and a way through the back door of dads hearts to be involved in the Trail Life program.  There will be boys coming in the front door without dads for whatever reason.  Every boy deserves a dad.  We all have a perpetual dad..God the Father! 

F- Provide a success environment and good feelings: Jesus sent the disciples out in twos and they were astonished at what they accomplished.  Jesus tells his disciples to rest a while for they will accomplish far greater things with the faith of a mustard seed.  

In Practice: Find ways and times to praise the dads registered or not by name in front of the youth Trail Men.  For some dads this may be the only praise they ever receive. A study was done by the BSA why men become scoutmasters and one of the surprising discoveries is because the men in BSA began to feel important and enjoyed the praise and awards they could earn in Scouting. Although the awards were not the top reason for being involved.  It was certainly on the list of reasons.  Many of the men related they had little or no recognition at their jobs except their pay checks.  They knew they would get praise from their spouse and children but could not count on recognition outside of their immediate family.

G-Create a vacuum:  Jesus left an empty tomb so that his disciples would grow their faith and maturity as genuine disciples and not just capricious associates.  Jesus had to ascend to heaven to allow the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles on their mission.  The Book of Acts suddenly ends with Paul ending up in Rome.  The evangelist is telling the reader that we have to pick up where Paul left off and continue the Christian salvation story in our daily lives.

In practice:  Sometimes you and I are so good at what we do that we scare dads away as they think to themselves that they could never be as good as us.  Jesus says that he did not have a place to lay his head.  How could this be?  He is the Son of God.  He owns it all.  St. Paul said that Jesus emptied himself (Kenosis).  Jesus practiced humility.   Allow yourself some mistakes in the meetings and demonstrate humility…  Skip a few Trail Life meetings.  Forget a lesson plan on purpose and ask the dads present to pick up the meeting using their own talents to lead and or guide the meeting.  This would be a great time to have a career vocational meeting and have all the dads share their vocations with some show and tell displays. Have the a softball game or ultimate frisbee challenge ..or bring out the board game one night and break out all the dads with their sons to enjoy the meeting time, together.  Better yet have the dads exchange their sons with other dads to help get the dads used to the idea of working with other youth besides their own.

Above all have fun and have songs, even better (Orange Gloves a Plus!)…Even Jesus and the Apostles sang a hymn at the Last Supper and Jesus undoubtedly danced at the wedding feast of Cana.

Create opportunities for succession planning:  I am thinking of the following great godly people who could surpass me in many ways as Point Man for Southern California:  Justin Riggs, Brian McCormick, Jim Martin, Joshua Sanders, Greg McCollough, Matt Malinowski, Michael and Theresa Waning, David Gasso, Drew Rosato, Alan Langborgh, Steve Pennington, Greg Hosburg, Walter Christensen, Javier Ek, Chris Weinkopf, Mike McGharrahan and Salvadore Perez!

H-Be Specific: Jesus called his disciples specifically. He did not go up to the fishermen places and asked to find a few volunteers to join him.  He called them by name and told them they would be fishers of men.  “Peter, upon this rock, I will build my Church.”  Jesus in the Gospel does not say before his Ascension I am looking for some volunteers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus instead did the aforementioned preparation of his men so they knew specifically that he was not recruiting the apostles but calling them.  When the disciples had some practice in their ministry with Jesus, he then called them for a specific task.

In Practice:  Call your disciple dads not volunteer dads.  When you accomplish the other aforementioned points in this outline then call the dads to be Asst. Troop Masters, Asst. Advisers and Asst. Rangers.  Call them by two.  Dads may not be ready to do it alone and it’s not a good practice to only have one Ranger or Troop Master but to have two deep leadership per program age in Trail Life.  “Bob, you really did great sharing with the youth your vocation and skills.  I believe the Trail Men really were inspired by your presence of self-giving.  Please assist Tom as our Patrol Asst. Ranger. In this way you can substitute for each other when unforeseen circumstances arrive in our very busy schedules.”

Fraternally “Walk Worthy”
Be our guest in Trail Life when you come in and walk out as our Trail Life family!


Spiritual Warfare in Ministry

posted Dec 22, 2018, 1:51 PM by Chris Weinkopf   [ updated Dec 22, 2018, 1:57 PM ]

By Mike Cosper

Assistant Chaplain, Troop CA-2819
Calvary Chapel | Bakersfield 

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.

What a great opportunity to use this brief moment in our lives to teach our kids about living life to the fullest through Jesus. We need to be those brothers and sisters who are oh-so prayerful, because today’s social agendas, which are contrary to the scriptures, are progressively more aggressive than in previous generations. 

There are so many great things that we personally benefit from serving in Trail Life, and perhaps in future issues those will be addressed, but in this letter I would like to dive into some of the things that make doing ministry difficult.

The scriptures would address these many challenges from cover to cover, but here we will see how God used Peter to speak to these issues: 

1 Peter 5: 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you

“What does spiritual warfare look like?” It is a specific event that happens that would challenge your faith or hinder the work that God wants to do. We hear about it all the time in the church, and the manifestations are numerous. In this newsletter, I would like to focus not on the things that we can’t control, like health issues, financial struggles, or even challenges from the outside of the ministry. Here I would like to focus on warfare that happens from within. So as we walk through the scripture and apply it to ministry, let’s prayerfully consider the ways it can help us to minister.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time”

One thing that makes doing ministry challenging is pride. If you are to be used by God, do it in humility, and not with selfish ambitions. If an issue arises, often we are quick to point the finger at those who are in opposition to our will.

7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

First thing to consider is sin. If sin is involved, then deal with it specifically; repent and turn from it. Sin causes division, God brings people together. Be quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

When the attacks of the enemy are launched, they can easily be quenched by those who are spiritually discerning, however our adversary is not looking for those. He is looking for the Christians who are struggling in their Christian walk.

9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

Stand strong. Ephesians 6: 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

1 Pet 5:10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

As we open up a part of our lives to serve and teach this younger generation about the love of Jesus, we get blessed. When we teach, we also get taught. When we serve, we grow; even more so when it is difficult. Are there contentions in your ministry? Is there warfare? It is this very thing that allows us to grow in our faith. When we understand this and look to our fellow servants, we need to realize that God is working his perfect plan through these as well, not just you.

This is what warfare looks like, yet its end result is blessings for all, as Jesus will allow these issues and difficult events to perfect us, to establish our faith, to strengthen our relationships with each other, and to settle us in knowing that this is only a moment in time. We are not of this world, so let us have that eternal perspective and let us do all things unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12

Mike Cosper
Mike Cosper

“Why Trail Life Is Great”

posted Dec 22, 2018, 12:09 PM by Chris Weinkopf   [ updated Dec 22, 2018, 12:20 PM ]

By Jerry Kwasek

TLUSA Southern California Point Man
Remarks from Redwood Glen Train the Trainer Three Peaks Conference

A study indicated that in the hierarchy of all audience learning methods, the lecture/essay was the least effective teaching method with regard to memory retention. St. Francis of Assisi confirmed that suspicion when he said he received more results preaching to brother rock and brother animal than to the people in his Church of St. Damian. In contrast, the more there is audience participation, the better the remembrance. Although we do not have a record of St. Francis’ sermons, we know from the journals of St. Bonaventure that Francis brought various animals into the church, and Bonaventure remembered the various smells that the animals left behind, along with their poignant textured residuals. 

As a sidebar to this, it reminds me of the story about the farmer who put his strawberries into a county fair contest. He won first place. A newspaper reporter asked the farmer how he was able to raise such luscious strawberries. The farmer proudly remarked that he put worm-infested manure on his strawberries. The newspaper reporter, being a city folk-type, said that he preferred sugar on his strawberries for breakfast. 

Back in the day when 3M introduced Plexiglas in the early 1960s, there was a 3M salesman who surpassed all the others. The CEO asked the salesman how he was able to perform such superior sales. He responded, “Well, I would go into a potential buyer’s office, put down a piece of Plexiglas, pull out a ball-peen hammer and smack the Plexiglas on his desk, and then write up the order.” The CEO made Plexiglas and ball-peen hammers required for all his salesmen. Still the one salesman, the next fiscal year, surpassed all the other salesmen in the sales of Plexiglas.

The CEO called the salesman into his office and asked how he was able to surpass his peers in yet again. The salesman replied that he put the ball-peen hammer in his prospect’s hand to smack the Plexiglas, and then wrote up even larger orders. 

However much you will remember from any of my so-called remarkable lecture/essay, I plan to break the rules known as the three “B”s of public speaking: “Be sincere. Be brief. And be seated!” Since we learn by rhyme and song I will have a special song to remember this essay at the end of it.

The subject I was given to prepare for the Redwood Glen Three Peaks Training conference was, “Trail Life is Great Because …” Interesting that at the same time I was preparing my remarks, I heard a charge of late that our Trail Life Troops are Troop-centric for now, rather than Southern California Area-mission centric. So this discussion has an existential component to addressing the very reason Trail Life was inaugurated in 2013.

I would like address the question, “Why Trail Life is Great.” One “why” is immediate for our boys and the second “Why”…. Trail Life has infinite results for all of us adults who are called to Christ’s discipleship in this movement. Then ask ourselves, “What will be our covenant relationship and commitment to this calling from Jesus?” I am going to define how Trail Life mirrors God’s love and encourages what is true masculine Christ like love.

The first reason Trail Life is great is because Trail Life has a profound impact on the success of our boys. As Dr. Warren Farrell and Dr. John Gray document in their new book, The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys are Struggling and What to do About It, American boys are failing and falling behind girls academically. When boys grow up in the sense of numerically rather than qualitatively, they are reluctant to marry, and when they do marry, their marriages are failing, creating a vortex of more single-parent homes without dads. There is a cultural softening of boys leaning towards effeminacy. Society today is telling us that the more boys become like girls, the better our society will be.

Dr. Farrell and Dr. Gray cite a solution, noting that just the mere presence of fathers observing their sons at various functions — without doing any interaction with them — creates positive outcomes for their sons. What would happen if dads were interactive with their sons? How this works is beyond the scope of this writing, but if you are interested you can purchase their book online and/or I can e-mail you a summary reflection I wrote on Dr. Farrell and Dr. Gray’s work.

The second reason Trail Life is great has to do with us who participate in its mission, which has infinite and profound consequences in our pilgrimage with Christ (besides looking good on our résumés when we see God). God, who is all love, will be looking for His image in the mirror of our souls when we meet him in person. Trail Life is great because you, the leaders, are great disciples, and the One who is the greatest is among us, namely, Jesus. Trail Life is not a spectator sport. Where else can men engage boys to become the best versions of themselves that will leave a lasting, grace-filled impression on both the father and his sons for life? Trail Life is Jesus Christ-centered, and he said where two or three are gathered, he is with us. So every Trail Life gathering has Jesus in attendance. 

In Matthew 18:5, Jesus said that when we receive a child. we receive him. Imagine, each Fox, Hawk, Mountain Lion, Navigator, and Adventurer is Jesus, and we are receiving him into our hearts as dads. Who would turn down a visit from Jesus in person?

There was a boy who was sick on Sunday and his parents left him with a child-care sitter while they attended church. When the parents returned, the sick youth asked how the service went. His parents said that the pastor welcomed Jesus in person because, in his sermon, he said that where two or three are gathered, Jesus is among us. The youth remarked, “Shucks, the one time I am not able to go to the church service and wouldn’t you know it, Jesus shows up!”

The whole premise of Trail Life is to follow Christ, who is our role model. However, even God the Son had a dad to give him vocational training of what it meant to be a man of God’s love. 

Our vocational calling as dads in Trail Life is to raise godly men, and if the role model of a godly men for Jesus was St. Joseph, then Joseph is our role model for genuine masculine love. Joseph demonstrated for all of us dads genuine masculine love. Joseph utters no words in the gospels; instead we witness a man of action. The Gospel writers wanted to convey the message: Joseph is a doer! The Gospels imply that Joseph is a provider, a protector, a moral leader, a vocational trainer, and a disciplined man of self-mastery in body and spirit. Joseph modeled humility and obedience. Joseph was such a good teacher and role model that Jesus learned how to provide and protect his mother, enough within 30 years that he could go about his heavenly Father’s mission. Jesus provided and protected Mary even at the cross on Calvary, delegating his “Masculine Love” that authority and love to his beloved disciple, John. (I have an expanded essay on this topic for those interested upon request, “The Masculine Love of St. Joseph.”)

What are the attributes of a Christ-like leader found in Trail Life? The Trail Life Oath and Motto provide clarity of thought and, in Trail Life meetings and outdoor experiences, “Hit the Trail” activities encourage integrity of action. True Christian leaders have both attributes, clarity of thought and integrity of action.

For example, clarity of thought for Mother Teresa is Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 25. Jesus says that because you did it for one of the least of my brethren you did it to me. Mother Teresa said she would pray in the morning and then go out pick up the dying Jesus on the streets of Calcutta wherever she could find him. Her presence could be as simple as offering a hand to a homeless man, whereby one man responded, “Oooo the warmth of a human hand.” Another dying man, as she lifted him up, said, “For the first time in years on the street, I will now die a human being!” 

Because we dads are taking up the reigns as role-model guides for young people, we are doing Trail Life for Jesus. You might say that I am no Mother Teresa or St. Francis. We already had a Mother Teresa and a St. Francis, now we need you dads to pick up where they left off as the best holy versions of yourselves. You might note that the Acts of the Apostles ends abruptly once St. Paul arrives in Rome. The writer of Acts is telling us that the salvation story continues with us as other Christs. We in Trail Life might be the only Bible another may ever read in their lifetime. For me, I pray and go out to serve not only your sons and daughters but all adult leaders in Trail Life USA of Southern California, whom I see disguised as angels and likely Jesus Himself, as St. Paul highlighted.

Three leaders who began with clarity of thought and who failed integrity of action in the Old Testament were King Saul, King David, and King Solomon. Failed Spirit: Saul lost his trust in God after he successfully conquered the Philistines in the beginning of his reign by calling up other powers to rescue him. Failed Body: David lost his integrity to a weakened will of self-mastery for a one-night affair with Bathsheba. And Failed Mind: Solomon muddled his clarity of thought in his prayer for wisdom to the winds of pagan women’s idolatrous influences. The consequence all three kings’ failures in leadership was worship of God suffered, there was conflict in Israeli society, children suffered, and there was disharmony in their families. Sound familiar today when men fail in their leadership roles? 

Interesting that in the Trail Life Navigators/Adventurers’ handbook we receive an outline for clarity of thought (Roman numeral, page 11). Trail Life Woodland Trail’s emphasis is on knowledge; Navigators, understanding; and Adventurers, wisdom: What is the difference in these thought processes?

A tomato is an edible plant. Knowledge is understanding that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is that you do not make fruit cocktail with a tomato.

Trail Life teaches the appropriate clarity of thought in all of its trail badges: For example:

  • Knowledge: We know what a pocket knife and a square knot look like.
  • Understanding: A pocket knife is useful for unbinding, and a square knot is for binding
  • Wisdom tells us that a knife in the hands of a surgeon is for healing a life, while a knife in the hands of a criminal is for harming or even killing life. The criminal’s knot is for overpowering another. The bowline in the hands of a Trailman rescues and saves the life of another.

Our call to discipleship as Trail Life leaders has eternal consequences. Mother Teresa’s clarity of thought heard the cry of Jesus on the cross, “I thirst.” Christ continues to thirst, coming from the pleas of moms and dads looking for the traditional values that Trail Life can bring. Today there is a thirst for traditional values. Each week I receive reports from interested moms and dads who want to have their sons join a Trail Life troop or even start one. It’s only a spark of interest but, like tinder, the kindling must be encouraged by we who are disciples in the Trail Life movement. Trail Life can help slake the thirst for those moms and dads. 

Trail Life’s traditional values as our guide can truly make us free. A locomotive is not truly free unless it has tracks to run on! The Trail Life tracks we run on are our Oath and Motto. We raise our hand in the Trailman’s oath instead of a Trailman’s promise because we are bringing those everlasting traditional values to the life of boys. The task is so awesome that it will take God’s grace-filled assistance to fulfill the Trail Life motto to “Walk Worthy.” That is the difference between an oath and a promise! It is the difference between a shepherd and a hireling!

In addition to an oath we will sing a hymn of love. Singing is the poetry of our souls. Jesus and his Apostles sang a song after the New Covenant Passover meal. Jesus knew that he and his disciples later in their lives, would have to go through a “Good Friday” in order to have an “Easter Sunday.” St. Paul and his followers, St. Peter, and many Christian martyrs sang songs on their way to their own trials.

Each of us Trail Life leaders will go through a “Good Friday” as we prepare for it in our own “Garden of Gethsemane.” For some of us it will be the discouragement of not finding enough male leaders to run our Trail Life Troop. For some it will be our own personal temptations to distract us from our clear thinking. Still, for others, there will be other competing influences. Outside influences will wane our clarity of thought, some from our own personal weaknesses.

Our own sons will age out of the Trail Life program and thus our motivation to continue to share our knowledge and wisdom that was cultivated for many years in Trail Life for future dads and moms may become dimmed. 

For me, my personal “Garden of Gethsemane” and “Good Friday” was the loss of the Boy Scouts of America to the winds of societal pressure. I lamented that a scout was no longer brave. A scout could be bribed and swayed away by agendas coming from national and local financial sponsors. My Easter Sunday was finding and walking with all of you in Trail Life.

Whatever our “Garden Gethsemane” may look like, it is important to pray for God’s grace for clarity of thought and integrity of action through a personal Pentecost, whereby the Holy Spirit will guide us on the dark night of the soul trail. Let us pray, “Your word is a lamp onto my feet!” (Ps. 119:105).

I will pray that, hopefully, Trail Life will continue as part of your discipleship with Jesus throughout your lifetime, as you continue to stand so tall in stooping to help a boy become a godly man. Just as Jesus and the apostles, and Christian martyrs, sang holy hymns, I have a Trail Life hymn to share with all of you! God Bless You On Your Trail Life Journey.

Sung to the tune of O Christmas Tree

Softly falls the light of day
While our campfire fades away
Silently each Trailman asks
Have I done my daily tasks?
Have I kept my honor bright?
Can I guiltless sleep tonight?
Have I walked so worthily,
With Jesus Christ so humbly?

Jerry Kwasnek
Jerry Kwasnek

Simplified Advancement for Navigators and Adventurers

posted Jun 22, 2018, 5:57 PM by Chris Weinkopf   [ updated Jun 28, 2018, 9:04 AM ]

By Jim Martin
Troopmaster, Troop CA-7401
Next Generation Ministries, Mission Viejo

In the Navigator program the first rank award is for Recruit Trailman. This is either a joining requirement award that is focused on learning the essentials of Trail Life Traditions and Citizenship or, if the Trailman is advancing from the Mountain Lion Patrol, it will be a simple confirmation of his commitment to the oath and is given instructions regarding the Troop’s safety policies and advancement opportunities. It is also the Trailman’s first opportunity to conference with his program leaders and mentors. During the conference the leader will confirm the Trailman has learned the Oath, and is committing to live by that oath. The Trailman will also learn about his patrol, troop safety, and how the advancement program works. This is a simple conference that shouldn’t take too long and can be done within the regular meeting of the troop.


Able Trailman

The next advancement award is for Able Trailman. The Able Trailman award is a little more difficult for the Trailman to achieve and will necessitate the troop’s Outdoor Activity committee’s help in providing the opportunities for Trailmen to complete the Trail badge requirements within a reasonable amount of time. In order to complete the Able Trailman award, the Trailman must complete four of nine required Trail badges and an additional 3 Elective Trail badges for a total of seven Trail badges.

I believe there is a logical order to facilitate the completion of the Able Trailman award. First, in order for the Navigator program to run the way it is intended to run, the Trailmen must learn to run their own campouts. This means that each patrol must plan, organize, and conduct their campout. Each Patrol must plan, purchase food, and cook their own meals.

However, if they have not received appropriate training in the areas of both Fire and Edges, they are not qualified to prepare and cook their meals, as they are not qualified to use fire or knives. Therefore, completing work on Fire Rangeman and Wood Tools Trail badges (both required for Able Trailman) is required and, once completed, achieves two of the four required Trail Badges. These Trail badges are simple and probably can be achieved during a weekend campout that has been arranged by the Outdoor Activities Committee.

Additionally, if the Trailmen sleep in tents or under the stars, they should keep track of those nights camping for their third required Trail badge: Camping. Probably the hardest part of earning the Camping Trail badge is achieving the required 15 nights of camping, so it is essential that the Troop provides plenty of opportunities. This is easier done if the Troop participates in a long summer camp where they can chalk up many nights in a single event. However, most troops don’t do this unless there is a regionally sponsored opportunity.

So, we now have three of the four required Trail badges for Able Trailman knocked out and only need one more. Probably the most logical Trail Badge to complete for Able Trailman would be the Outdoor Cooking Trail badge. Since the Trailmen are working on their other required Trail badges during a campout or two, why not complete the Outdoor Cooking badge as well?

And there you have it. A simple plan to achieve all four required Trail Badges for the rank or award of Able Trailman. Now, all the Trailman needs to do is choose three elective Trail badges to complete to earn the Able Trailman award.


Ready Trailman

The final Rank Advancement Award for the Navigators is that of the Ready Trailman. To earn this award the Trailman must complete four more required Trail badges and an additional three Trail Badges of their choice (except those set aside for Adventurer level Trailmen). Aquatics, First Aid, and Rope Work are a little involved and take more time, while the Trailman can probably make quick work of Our Flag and Trail Skills to achieve the four remaining required Trail badges to earn the rank of Ready Trailman.

Oddly, the difficulty I have found is not in completing the required Trail badges, but rather in getting the Trailmen interested in working on their elective Trail badges. I think what you may find is that some Trailmen will be motivated either by their wanting to complete the elective badges or by their parents motivating them to complete Trail badges. Others will just refuse to work on elective Trail badges as they see them as just doing more homework or schoolwork. So the key here is to integrate elective Trail badge work into the fun activities your Troop is planning throughout the year. Remember, too, that Troop involvement and attendance are required for both Able and Ready Trailman. And, there are 15 service hour requirements that must be earned each year for both Able and Ready rank Awards as well. 



Adventurers really only have two awards to work on. First, they must complete the Horizon Award. If an Adventurer-level Trailman joins the troop as an Adventurer, he must complete 25 Trail badges, 20 service hours each year, Troop involvement, and leadership before he attempts the Freedom Rangeman Award — and complete that award before he turns 18 years old.

That is a tall order for a young man just entering a program like Trail Life for the first time. Even if a Trailman crosses over from Navigators after a year or so in the Troop, he is still looking at a lot of work to earn his first rank award before moving on to the Freedom Rangeman award. I believe only the truly dedicated Trailmen who become Adventurers without the Ready Trailman experience will be able to accomplish the Horizon Award and be able to move onto the Freedom award. However, as the Troop matures the opportunity for the Adventurer program to develop becomes more possible, and more Trailmen will move into Adventurers as Ready Trailmen, so the task is less daunting than someone entering the Adventurer program without that advantage.

Of those 25 required Trail badges, there are six very specific required Trail Badges that only Adventurer-level Trailmen are allowed to work on. These are Emergency Preparation, Family Man, Personal Resources, Citizenship, Outdoor Life, and one Fitness Trail badge (cycling, fitness, hiking, or swimming). The difficulty of these specific Trail badges is enhanced to challenge the Trailmen at this stage of the program. In other words, they are much more difficult and will take more time to accomplish, which is why they are specific to only Adventure-level Trailmen. 


Planning Ahead

As you can see, it is important for the Troop leadership and planning committees to make sure the Navigator program has plenty of opportunity to complete advancement objectives each year, as this will affect both their current Navigator program and the future of their Adventurer program. It will give the Navigators the skills they will need to gain the confidence and ability to advance to greater levels of accomplishment and result in producing Freedom Award recipients that will advance the program as a whole. When you think about it, the success of the Navigator program is the key to producing Freedom Rangeman.

While advancement is not the whole objective of the Trail Life program, it is an indicator of how well a Trail Life program is being run. In order to achieve advancement, the troop must have active outdoor programs that give many opportunities for Trailmen to complete Trail badges and work toward the few awards offered in the program.

Advancement gives leadership the opportunity to further mentor the Trailmen. Advancement requires service to others, which teaches our Trailmen to be servant leaders. Advancement requires Trailmen to learn leadership through leading their fellow Trailmen and mentoring to younger Trailmen who will, in turn, develop into leaders themselves. Advancement gives Adult members the opportunity to mentor our Trailmen through Boards of Review, where they may never have had that opportunity before and, as such, gives our adult members purpose and opportunity to mentor Trailmen other than their own sons. Once they see how important they are in the process of mentoring our youth, they may become more involved in other aspects of Troop leadership, too.

Navigator and Aventurere logos

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