Church and Scouting Now
We know that we are not in a “normal” time. COVID-19 has challenged communities, schools, churches, and scouting groups in ways we have never experienced. Many troops of Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts have shifted to online meetings. Zoom, Google hangouts, GoToMeeting, Slack, or Skype are all tools that scout troops are using. They are building a skill set for the future – online meeting management and learning. But even with increased skills and online connections, there is nothing like the glow of a campfire. S’mores just don’t roast the same over a digital fire.
How does a church successfully navigate conversations with active scout troops about social distancing guidelines, masks, and use of church buildings? This question has been asked many times. The unique challenge is the vast nature of our country. We have counties in the U.S. that have not yet had a registered COVID-19 case. We also have counties where thousands of people have died. Identifying a unified policy is a challenge. However, we need to have the conversation with some context and consideration. Patience and care are important elements of the conversation. Scouts (and other outside groups who meet at the church) look to church leaders to create opportunities to maintain the partnership, even in these uncertain times.
For the church, identify answers to a few questions before you begin planning conversations with scout leaders:
- Has your bishop given specific guidelines for the churches in your conference? These should be available on the conference website.
- Has your Girl Scout Council or Boy Scout Council offered specific guidelines? These can be found on the council websites.
- What is the average age of members of the congregation?
- What does the community spread of COVID-19 look like in your community?
With this information, you can have an informed conversation. As scouts, we commit “to help other people at all times.” This is a key part of both the Girl Scout Promise and the Boy Scout Oath. The words are the same for both. It may be harder to honor this commitment when it means a deep personal sacrifice. Our commitment to "help others" may mean that we have to get creative. If the church can not allow its own church youth group to meet in person for Sunday school, fellowship, or other activities, then the same limits should apply to scouting groups that use the church facilities. Scouting is also a ministry of the church. Leaders in both the scouts and the church should remember this. When we see one another as a part of one community, it is easier to have honest and difficult conversations.
Scouting outside is a part of what we do. Being outdoors reduces transmission risk. Consider meeting outside with protocols in place to reduce the risk of transmission. Record temperature checks; ask exposure questions; think about whom you may be in contact with after a meeting. Always keep a list of who attends meetings, just in case. Social distancing is difficult, but essential. Putting a few extra protocols in place and adaptive meeting spaces can provide a long-term lesson in helping other people at all times, even in COVID-19 times!
If outdoor meetings will not work, then don’t stop scouting! Girl Scouts offer at-home activities that are unparalleled in time. You do not have to be a Girl Scout to try out the amazing opportunities. Boy Scouts have offered merit badges online and provide chances to do virtual campouts as well. Let’s all learn and grow now. We will be better prepared when we can get together. Stay in touch and be kind to one another.
Steven Scheid, Director
Center for Scouting Ministries | GCUMM
1000 17th Ave. S. | Nashville, TN 37212
Work | 615-620-7261