Faith

published : 2023-10-13

Faith-Based Boy Scouts Alternative Tackles Bullying Epidemic at its Roots: 'Making a Difference'

Focusing on positive male role models and outlets for emotions are key to curbing bullying, CEO Mark Hancock says

A group of boys engaged in outdoor activities with male mentors, taken with a Nikon D850.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and one faith-based leadership organization is blazing the trail to help curb the crisis riddling America's school-aged kids by setting examples to transform boys into good men.

"Boys are struggling in our culture today. They're twice as likely to be in special education, three times more likely to have ADHD. They've fallen behind girls in every single academic category," Mark Hancock, CEO of Trail Life USA, told Fox News Digital.

"Although there's no excuse for bullying and there should be consequences for bullying, we've got to recognize we're putting boys in positions that make it really difficult in our culture today," he continued.

"We believe that they're largely unguided. One in four boys now doesn't have a father in the household. Very few male mentors are stepping up to show boys how to be winning and focused men. And so the examples that they're getting are leading them in, frankly, a horrible direction."

Data from the Federal National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice and the CDC, compiled by StopBullying.gov, indicates that 20% of students aged 12-18 experienced bullying in the U.S.

Mark Hancock, CEO of Trail Life USA, leading a discussion on positive male role models, taken with a Canon EOS R5.

Of those who reported being bullied, 56% said they believed the perpetrators had the ability to alter others' perceptions of them. Fifty percent believed their bully "had more social influence." Forty percent were seen as "physically stronger or larger" and 31% were seen as wealthier than their victims.

Hancock believes there are two primary reasons boys resort to bullying in particular – a lack of positive role models and a lack of opportunities to channel emotions in positive ways.

The solution? Surrounding them with male mentors who set a good example in an environment that encourages adventure.

Trail Life USA began nearly 10 years ago and is now focused out of 1,100 churches across the nation with over 50,000 members participating.

"We give what you'd expect from an outdoor boys program. It's handbooks and uniforms and hiking and camping and all sorts of outdoor activity," Hancock explained.

Boys participating in a flag planting ceremony as part of Trail Life USA program, taken with a Sony Alpha a7 III.

"A male-centric environment with background checked, approved, vetted male leaders are taking boys into the outdoors and showing them character, leadership and adventure principles that are making a difference."

All with elements of faith embedded in each lesson, so boys not only grow into bold, courageous fathers and husbands, but also godly men.

"A lot of folks are leaning towards saying boys and girls aren't different. Well, they are. Boys and girls are different psychologically, developmentally, behaviorally... boys' needs aren't being met in the way they need to be met, so we're putting them in situations where we're treating them like defective girls or something, and they're just not wired to sit still, be quiet, pay attention," Hancock continued.

"So they sit through these kinds of situations on a regular basis and there's pent-up emotions and drives and, they're just not allowed to express themselves, and we're giving them fewer and fewer opportunities for risk and adventure and outdoor activity. Because of that, we're driving them towards the one expression of emotions that we seem to recognize and be OK with, and that's anger. And that's just wrong for boys."

The program is open to kids in grades K-12, approximately ages five to 17, with many participants being homeschooled students. As soon as members turn 18, Hancock said they are eligible for an adult role. The program is also nondenominational, but with a Trinitarian statement of faith.