Spiritual and religious growth

One has to admit that Scouting is a very unique youth oriented organisation. Research has shown that Scouting has placed extremely high value and worth on the spiritual and religious development of its followers. This article will draw on and credit the official position of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement as outlined in many articles.

The constitution of the world body states: “The purpose of the Scout Movement is to contribute to the development of the young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potentials as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities.”

These guidelines have been prepared to support Scout Associations in the development of the spiritual aspect of their members. It provides principles and guidance to support programme design rather than a detailed discussion of the nature of spiritual development.

These guidelines aim to boost the confidence of Scout leaders by enabling them to identify the ways in which good application of the Scout Method supports spiritual development, while indicating ways to ensure that a wide range of opportunities for spiritual development is made available to the young people.

It is very important for us to note that the religious and social world at the start of Scouting’s second centenary, both worldwide and nationally, (as Barbados Boy Scouts Association has also celebrated its 100 years), is in many ways different from what it was in the Founder of Scouting’s time. Globalisation has increased ethnic and religious diversity.

Much of the developed world has seen a decline in religion but a steady interest in “spirituality”. There are suggestions that some of the emerging generation do not see a need to seek for any meaning beyond their immediate experiences. In some places there is a renewed interest in religion. Scouting is well placed to respond to this situation.

Scouting has always had a concern with matters of faith. The centrality of “duty to God” in the Promise has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the Movement, while finding ways of expressing this which are appropriate to the situations of its youth members. For the Founder, religion as a part of Scouting was something that lay at its very foundation.

Religious unity

At the same time, the Scout Movement has sought to bring together into single associations people of different religious beliefs. While holding to the essentials of the Scout Promise and Scout Law, this diversity reflects the variety of local situations which prevail around the world and in which Scouting becomes a concrete reality.

Scouting can contribute to young people’s spiritual development.

Young people need to acquire the skills of the spiritual dimension. Just as there is the need in the development of emotional intelligence, physical coordination, and social skills, there is also the need for a vocabulary and grammar with which they can make sense, critique and integrate their experiences of the spiritual. They need to be able to “explore the invisible”.

Applying the Scout Method, provides an opportunity to help young people. Consequently, Scouting welcomes people of different religious beliefs and has a responsibility to assist them in developing their commitment to their faith.

With that in mind, the Youth Programme should help young people in their search for the meaning and direction in their lives and to offer to these young people of differing faith commitments and opportunities to meet one another and to find a common basis for communication and cooperation on matters relevant to their moral and spiritual concern, recognizing that there will be areas of disagreement and differences.

Learning objectives

The World Scout Bureau has outlined some learning objectives for spiritual development within Scouting as drawn for the youth programme. They are:

1. A Scout is able to get along with and welcome others

In scouting that reference refer to the fact that a Scout should be able to welcome and respect others as brothers and sisters, while acknowledging differences in their religions, cultures, and ethnic groups. He/she should be able to listen to others and to their experiences before making any judgments about them. The Scout must be able to show compassion for the needs and humanity of others

2. A Scout understands and can wonder at the natural world

A Scout is sensitive to the wonders of nature and life and as such he is aware of the threats to the natural environment and his/her impact on the world around him. This scout will be able to act responsibly in responding to the world around him/her. The scout in keeping with the religious mandate should be able to recognize that the natural world shows him something that is beyond himself/herself (a spiritual reality)

3. A Scout WORKS to create a more tolerant and caring society

A Scout plays an active role in his/her community as he / she is able to share responsibility. The scout must be able to cooperate with others to bring about improvements in society. He/she should be able to discern and develop talents, acquire and improve his/her skills to enable him/her to better serve and live.

4. A Scout has WISDOM: self-confidence and self-discipline

A Scout is able to accept responsibility for his/herself and others while exercising self-discipline.

5. A Scout recognises the need for prayer and WORSHIP

A Scout is able to explore the spiritual heritage of his or her own community and use it in making sense of their past and present experiences. A Scout is also able to draw on the spiritual heritage of his or her community to express gratitude, need and sorrow.

Understanding a Scouts’ Own

The Scouts “Duty to God” is wrapped up in their Promise and as such is taken very seriously. For Scouts there are many religious gatherings such as Church Parades and such like, but the scout conduct a very important activity which draws them closer to faith and their Maker. It is a Scouts Own.

Baden-Powell described a Scouts Own as “a gathering of Scouts for the worship of God and to promote fuller realisation of the Scout Law and Promise, but supplementary to, and not in substitution for, regular religious observances.” [Aids to Scoutmastership (1919)].

This can be likened to a voluntary uplifting of their hearts by the boys in thanksgiving for the joys of life, and a desire on their part to seek inspiration and strength for greater love and service for others.” (The Scouter November 1928).

Let us take a look at what is a Scouts’ Own

A Scouts Own is a gathering of Scouts. This can be in small or large groups. In smaller groups, Scouts are able to get involved, share their experiences, and see that spirituality is something that affects them, gives meaning and direction to their lives. In large groups Scouts can enjoy a collective experience, perhaps celebrating the shared values of Scouting and the impact this has on their lives.

“For the worship of God”: Prayers come from the young people themselves and consist mainly in saying thank you and in petition. A Scouts’ Own should provide an opportunity for Scouts to pray in this way to seek wisdom and strength for greater love and service, according to their own religious traditions. The best way of ensuring that their traditions are respected is to involve them closely in the planning of the Scouts’ Own.

“For the full realisation of the Scout Law”: Scouting is primarily concerned with how people live out their beliefs in everyday life. Hence, a Scouts’ Own should connect in some way to the Scout Law, the ethical code of Scouting.

In all of this, what is distinctive is that it is done using other elements of the Scout method. Religious services themselves are often quite tightly structured: a Scouts’ own on the other hand offers an opportunity to learn by doing in a manner most appropriate for the particular young people who are present.

(Extracts taken from: The World Scout Inter-Religious Forum * The Interfaith Network for the UK * The Scout Association, UK)

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