Iím not a numbers guy but when it comes to the importance fathers play in the lives of their sons I have become a believer in statistics. The first time the numbers became real to me was while participating in prison ministry. I encountered hundreds of men, of all ages, within prison walls and never, not once, did I meet someone who talked highly of a relationship with their father. The long list of negative results from fatherless homes, or homes with unengaged fathers, reaches deep into the deterioration of the family. The purpose here however is not to droll on about why fathers should be involved, but rather to provide a solution that works.
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the few places of refuge where a boy can grow and learn to become a man. Not a wimpy, whiny, metro sexual, but a true man; a leader, a man of service and a man of reverence.
As a Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout Troop, I have watched the transformation take place first-hand. Our little band of brothers began just over two years ago with some boys no older than the age of ten. These brave few struck out into the outdoors, some not even knowing how to make oatmeal. Now, at the age of twelve and thirteen they are planning a backpacking trip of their very own. They inventory equipment, plan menus, cook the food and enjoy the outdoors while having fun and respecting the environment.
Without prodding from pesky adults, these prodigies pray for safety whenever we travel and ask for blessing upon every meal they eat. These are the same boys that barely knew what a tent was when we started. Now they can set up tents and dining flies in minutes during a driving rain in the dark of night.
Some believe that the Boy Scouts is just about knots and identifying plants. Sure, the boys have learned those skills, and others, but not for the sole purpose of learning what knot to tie in a given situation or what plant could provide food in an emergency. The purpose for these skills applies directly to our modern age. On its own, knowing how to tie a sheet-bend may be of little practical use in a corporate setting. The experience of learning which knots to tie and when to tie them teaches decision-making and helps to build self-confidence in boys. The boy knows, and will always remember, that there was once a day that he didnít know how, but he learned; then he taught the skill to others. That is the kind of experience that is desperately needed in the board rooms and manufacturing lines of Corporate America.
The Boy Scouts is not only a place for boys to learn valuable skills however. The model of the Troop teaches leadership and responsibility. When operated properly, the adults are present primarily for the purposes of transportation and safety. The boys learn to run the show under the patient and watchful eyes of their male role models.
This is where the father plays a much overlooked and extremely important role in the Boy Scouts of America. The dads donít have to work hard to share an experience with their son. The framework is already in place for a dad to plug into in order to learn and teach and grow with his son. There is nothing more important, or more lacking, in our society today than the bond between father and son. Too many sons no longer look up to their fathers or respect them. The best thing about the Boy Scout program is that it doesnít take long for this valuable bond to begin. A single campout can make a positive, lifetime change between a father and a son.
Patrick Whalen is Christian husband, father, historian, writer, Civil War Reenactor, and outdoor enthusiast.