Who will stand up for boys?

Mark Hancock says he will. As CEO of Trail Life USA, he laments societal and cultural influences that don’t prepare boys for leadership. At the helm of a national Christian outdoor ministry, Hancock’s work focuses on reinforcing leadership, responsibility and academic success.

“(Boys’) innate wildness is being tamed by political correctness, gender blurring and confusing messages about who they are,” notes Hancock. “More and more adults who understand this challenge are committing to providing boys with essentials to succeed in this contrary culture.”

The answer, he says, is to “let boys be boys.”

“Can you imagine how confusing being a boy is today?” he asks. “Boys are paying a price for the simple circumstance of being boys.”

In his e-book, “5 Critical Needs of Boys,” Hancock lists statistics from the U.S. Department of Education: Boys are three times more likely to be enrolled in special education; four times more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder; and are outnumbered 2 to 1 in top senior rankings.

“Recess is going or gone,” writes Hancock. “‘Tug of War’ is now called ‘Tug of Peace.’ Red Rover, Dodge Ball and Tag are disappearing, because we are told these games can undercut emotional development and create an environment of resentment.”

Trail Life is a Christ-centered outdoor adventure, leadership and character development ministry. Organizational partners include Operation Christmas Child/Samaritan’s Purse, Member of Churches of Christ for Scouting, National Committee for Trail Life USA and American Heritage Girls.

There are more than 700 troops in 48 states, each of which falls under the charter of a local church’s charter. Members include more than 20,000 boys and young men. There’s programming for registered adult members, too.

The organization’s mission is to “guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others and experience outdoor adventure.” Program resources are based on biblical teachings.

Each local troop and its members make a statement and profession of Christian beliefs, faith and/or doctrine. In addition, they are expected to reflect these beliefs at all times and adhere to the national organization’s membership standards.

Core values include purity, service, stewardship and integrity.

“Because we are removing the reality of outdoor competitive rough-and-tumble boy-friendly play, we are driving boys inside to a virtual reality that parks them in front of a video game while starving them of real world competition, fresh air and normal peer interaction,” Hancock explains. “Being a boy is not some sort of social disease that needs to be eradicated. In fact, the drive, daring and dominate-all tendencies of healthy boys are what’s responsible for much of what is right with society. Properly built boys become determined, focused and winning men.”

Building on the outdoor adventure theme, “5 Critical Needs” outlines five symbolic things each boy needs: a compass, map, guide, flashlight and mountain.

“If we fail this generation, it won’t be because we over-challenged them,” writes Hancock of the mountain imagery. “It will be because we under-challenged them.”

For more information on Trail Life USA, go to TrailLifeUSA.com. Send me an email for details on a limited time, free download offer for “5 Critical Needs of Boys.”

Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at onfaith@karrisgolden.com.


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