Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
What alternatives are available to those disillusioned with Boy Scouts of America? Fortunately, there are a number of similar programs that still adhere to traditional values. Alternatives to the Boy Scouts include clubs that are open to girls, have complementary programs for girls and groups that are only for fathers and sons. This article provides a synopsis of several programs, listed in alphabetical order, that rival the Scouts along with links to the home page of each program.
Alert Cadet is an offshoot of the ALERT program, the International Alert Academy. It is open to boys between the ages of 8 and 17. Unlike the Boy Scouts, Alert Cadet is essentially a father-son group. The Alert Cadet Skills Training for Emergency Preparedness or STEP program is open to young women over the age of 15, and their East Texas camp periodically holds mother-daughter weekends.
The International ALERT Academy offers training for young men, preparing them to become emergency response personnel, paramedics, property and facility care, aquatics or law enforcement. These programs are equivalent to an associate's degree or one-year training program at a vocational school, preparing students for the certification exams in these areas. Alert Academy has its primary training program and camps in East Texas.
AWANA is an all-inclusive program with groups for children starting at age two through high school. Puggles are 2 and 3 years old. Cubbies is the Awana pre-school program. Sparks are in kindergarten through second grade. Truth in Training is for grades 3 through 6. Awana Trek is the middle school program, while Journey is the high school program. The Awana program has been used in churches for over sixty years. The lessons can be used in Sunday School or a youth program similar to the Boy Scouts.
Unlike the Boy Scouts, AWANA is open to both boys and girls. Churches, neighborhood associations, and even families simply buy the lessons and run through them. AWANA offers training for leaders, but it does not have its own camps. Unlike groups like Royal Ambassadors and Knights of Columbus Squires, the Awana program is used by dozens of Christian denominations.
Contenders of the Faith
Contenders of the Faith is a Christian group for boys between 7 and 14. The Little Contenders are ages 4 through 6. Sponsored by Keepers of the Faith, Contenders of the Faith has badges similar to the Boy Scouts. However, unlike the Boy Scouts, it is open to both boys and girls.
For conservatives, the benefits of Contenders of the Faith include the ability to set membership criteria as the group decides, such as limiting the group to a specific religious group or other standards. It doesn't require sponsorship or membership in a troop, though there are many groups scattered around the country. The Keepers of the Faith or KOF Contenders of the Faith program is flexible because it is essentially a family run business, selling awards, books, games, patches, and toys.
Faith Based Boys is a boys’ only character development program. It is targeted to boys between the ages of 5 and 18. Troops can be sponsored by schools, churches and neighborhood associations.
It's one of the major offshoots led by those who left the Boy Scouts due to the vote to accept homosexual minors as troop members. Because it is a new spin-off of the Boy Scouts, it has not yet organized a large number of troops or camps of its own.
Knights of Columbus Squires
The Knights of Columbus are a male Catholic organization for boys between the ages of 10 and 18. The Knights of Columbus says that there are more than 1,500 squires groups around the world. Its Squires' program includes religious training, athletic activities such as free throw championships and charitable work under the supervision of Knights of Columbus. Leadership in the Squires is limited to men in the Knights of Columbus.
Squire Roses is the complementary program for girls under the Knights of Columbus’ leadership.
Pathfinders is run by the Seventh Day Adventists but is open to all religious groups. Pathfinders accept both boys and girls. The Pathfinder uniform is similar to that of the Scouts, with a green sash and beige shirt. It offers badges to mark the completion of various lessons. Children in fifth and sixth grade are called junior pathfinders. Those in seventh and eighth grade are teen pathfinders. These children can graduate to the Teen Leadership Training program for grades nine through twelve.
Pioneer Club is open to both boys and girls, from the age of 2 to 14. Skippers are children two and three years old. Scooters are four or five. Voyagers are in first or second grade. Pathfinders are in grades three or four. Trailblazers are in grades fifth, sixth and seventh.
Pioneer Club is a Christ-centered ministry with a focus on mid-week religious lessons. Unlike the Faith-Based Boys and Contenders of the Faith, Pioneer Club has half a dozen camps scattered across the United States and Canada. Pioneer Clubs are part of Pioneer Ministries, and clubs can pick and choose which lessons they wish to teach.
The Royal Ambassadors are a Southern Baptist group for boys in first grade through sixth grade. The name originates in 2 Corinthians 5:20. The group balances camp-outs and "mission skills" with outings to races and baseball games and camping. The Royal Ambassadors frequently engage in charity work in conjunction with the Baptist church. It offers badges, pins, and awards for various accomplishments.
Girls in Action is the complementary program for Baptist girls.
The Royal Rangers are specific to the Assemblies of God churches. The Royal Rangers are open to boys in Kindergarten through twelfth grade. While the most Royal Ranger groups are in New York, there are troops scattered across the US, with multiple troops in most metropolitan areas. The complementary program for girls is the National Girls Ministries or NGM.
Squad STX is a Boy Scout alternative based in the Texas Hill Country. They focus on camping and leadership development. Squad STX offers both weekend and week-long programs. It is aimed at boys 11 to 15.
Run by former military officers, this program is not affiliated with any specific religious group.
Trail Life USA
Trail Life USA was launched by OnMyHonor.Net as a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts. The group doesn't accept homosexuals and focuses on outdoors activities. Trail Life USA has a larger member base and momentum than Faith Based Boys and should be considered by those who broke away from the Boy Scouts but can't find FBS groups in their area.
Trail Life USA is a ministry partner with American Heritage Girls or AHG. Trail Life USA and AHG have signed a memorandum of ministry alliance and work very closely together
Questions & Answers
Question: Is there a Boy Scout's Trail Life USA in Tupelo, Mississippi?
Answer: According to their troop finding site https://findatroop.com/, there are two Trail Life troops in Tupelo at this time.
Question: Why did you include the Knights Columbus group and leave out DeMolay?
Answer: The Demolay organization exists, but the Masons are so small it didn't seem worth including.
Question: Is there any program with no religious affiliations?
Answer: Alert Cadet and Squad STX are secular.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on January 11, 2019:
Excellent, Tamara. I like this immensely. Useful information, especially for my nieces and nephews. There is absolutely nothing wrong with learning some skills and good morals which have helped humankind throughout time. This is a superb list. I was a Boy Scout, and I'm glad I didn't have to participate in that decision making process. However, I still love my hiking boots. By the Way, I was in TX, in Marshall, over Thanksgiving; great state you have there, ma'am.
Much respect and admiration,
Troopmaster Wendell from Oregon on May 08, 2018:
Trail Life doesn't allow active homosexuals. Those living a chaste life are permitted membership.
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on October 19, 2017:
Sid Kemp And their latest capitulations are driving even more Boy Scouts to other groups like Trail Life instead.
Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on June 05, 2013:
Thanks, Tamara. I thought that might be the case, but I wasn't sure. I was aware of the issue for the Boy Scouts of America, but not of their latest ruling.
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on June 05, 2013:
The ALERT cadet program sounds interesting I wonder if we have something similar here in the Philippines.
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on June 05, 2013:
This list is intended to provide parents dissatisfied with the Boy Scouts of America's decision to admit homosexual minors with information other programs.
Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on June 05, 2013:
Thanks. It's great to know about these resources. I'd like to understand your definitions a bit better. What makes the Boy Scouts not "conservative"? What is the relationship between "conservative" and "Christian"? (After all, a lot of the teachings of Jesus are still pretty radical, 2000 years later.)