McDowell Technical Community College


Picture of Marcus and Teresa BenfieldAltapass Baptist Church

Trail Life

By Marcus Benfield

Mitchell County

Hello everyone. I trust you are enjoying your Summer. I know it’s been a while since I last wrote. I have been very busy with a sick mother and wife. However, both are doing better, and I am thankful. I know many of you prayed as well and I thank you also.

As we enter the summer months we often think about our summer plans. We look for things to do, especially with our children as well we should. However, as Christians we believe according to Psalm 123:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. With that in mind I hope over the next couple of months to offer some opportunities for our children as well as give us as adults a wonderful opportunity to sow into the precious young lives.

We here at Altapass sponsor to Nationally known and accredited youth organizations. They are: Trail Life USA. (for the young men) and American Heritage Girls (for the young ladies). Both these groups meet here at the church (Located at 3631 Altapass Hwy. Spruce Pine NC. 28777) each Monday @ 6:45 PM. They are both worthwhile organizations.

This month I am going to focus on Trail Life USA. Next month (Lord willing) I’ll focus on American Heritage Girls.

Trail Life USA is a Christ Centered young men’s organization available to all boys age 5-18. I personally believe that it is our duty as Christians to properly train our young people to become respectable Godly adults. Trail Life is a great way to do that for young men.

Please understand this is not just an Altapass thing. We are simply the Charter Organization. This program is open to all boys regardless of race creed or denomination. Remember it is a Christ centered organization. Therefore, all denominations who profess Christ are welcome to participate. This is not a “Baptist Only” thing.

However, in order for this program to be successful we need boys enrolled obviously ‘ but we also Desperately need Christian Men who will volunteer to be faithfully to help lead these young men. Training is provided free of charge.

You may ask do I have to have a son to volunteer? No often times this creates a great opportunity for a Godly interaction between a Male Role model and a young man who desperately need good Christian guidance to manhood.

You may also ask do I have to be a member of Altapass to participate? No, the only requirement is that you have a Christian testimony and are involved in your church. All volunteers (including myself) must submit to a background check for the safety of everyone.

Below I have enclosed some basic information taken from the Trail Life USA. website. Please read through it and prayerfully consider enrolling your son and Please consider volunteering.

After reading if you have questions you may contact me (The Charter Head) @ 828-850-3346 or Richard Crouse (The Charter Rep) @ 828-208-0951.

You may also come to one of our meetings and just sit in and observe without any obligation.

Thank you for reading and may God Bless each of you,

Pastor Marcus


Trail Life USA

Who We Are:

The Statements of Faith and Values are designed to affirm the need for those in leadership to follow biblical standards. Leaders are held to a higher standard than those who are not in leadership and must agree to the tenets contained in the Statements. Youth members are not required to sign these statements.

Trail Life USA is a Christ-centered outdoor adventure, leadership, and character development ministry. Within the operation of the local Troop, the primary statement/profession of Christian beliefs, faith, and/or doctrine is that belonging to the Charter Organization. As with any of its ministries, the Charter Organization should take steps to ensure the Troop appropriately reflects these beliefs. Furthermore, all Trail Life USA Charter Organizations and Registered Adult Members must concurrently adhere to the Christian principles stated in Trail Life USA’s Statements of Faith and Values:

Statement of Faith:

We believe there is One Triune God – God the Father; Jesus Christ, His one and only Son; and the Holy Spirit – Creator of the universe and eternally existent. We believe the Holy Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) to be the inspired and authoritative Word of God. We believe each person is created in His image for the purpose of communing with and worshiping God. We believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Who enables us to live godly lives. We believe each of us is called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We believe God calls us to lives of purity, service, stewardship and integrity.

Statement of Values:

Purity: God calls us to lives of holiness, being pure of heart, mind, word and deed. We are to reserve sexual activity for the sanctity of marriage, a lifelong commitment before God between a man and a woman.

Service: God calls us to become responsible members of our community and the world through selfless acts that contribute to the welfare of others.

Stewardship: God calls us to use our God-given time, talents, and money wisely.

Integrity: God calls us to live moral lives that demonstrate an inward motivation to do what is biblically right regardless of the cost.

Membership Standards

Membership in the program has both youth and adult elements. Youth membership in the program is open to all who meet the membership requirements, and is currently designed for biologically male children under the age of 18. The adult applicant must be at least 18 years of age and subscribe to and abide by the Trail Life USA Statement of Christian Faith and Values as well as the Oath and Motto of the program. While the program is undergirded by Biblical values and unapologetically reflects a Christian worldview, there is also a clearly defined inclusion policy for youth.

Accordingly, all boys are welcome irrespective of religion, race, national origin or socio-economic status. Our goal is for parents and families of every faith to be able to place their boys in a youth program that endeavors to provide moral consistency and ethical integrity in its adult leaders. Charter partners own and operate local groups, selecting leaders and admitting members as they deem beneficial to their group and within the parameters of the national policy. The basis for the program’s ethical and moral standards is found in the Bible. In terms of sexual identification and behavior, we affirm that any sexual activity outside the context of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful before God and therefore inconsistent with the values and principles of the program. Within these limits, we grant membership to adults and youth who do not engage in or promote sexual immorality of any kind, or engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the program. We welcome boys whose parents are seeking a faith-based outdoor adventure program that places an emphasis on character development, leadership, and moral purity, and who aspire to live in accordance with the values expressed in the program’s Oath and Creed.

Core Values:


Trail Life USA (TLUSA) is a Christian outdoor adventure program that emphasizes and teaches biblical moral values and requires all adult members to agree with, sign, and abide by the Trail Life USA Trinitarian Statement of Faith and the Statement of Values. The program is unapologetically Christian. However, the program is designed and intended to be presented without being “churchy” or “religious,” focusing on outdoor adventure, character, and leadership development. The analogy for this principle has been referred to as “carrot cake.” The carrots in the cake are not in big and obvious chunks, but are still present throughout the entire cake, as are the assumptions of a Christian worldview throughout the entire program. At the same time, the TLUSA program is not intended to replace or compete with other youth groups, Bible studies, or church programs, but rather to complement them and give youth an opportunity to exemplify and demonstrate Christian values in their relationships with others.


The Charter Organizations (most commonly churches) in the TLUSA program do not merely allow the organization to use space to meet in their building. The Charter Organization is expected to own and operate the Troop by selecting its adult leaders, integrating the Troop into the life of the church, and involving the boys in mission trips, service projects, and/or other ministry or ceremonial purposes. Each Charter Organization influences its Troop differently, and is encouraged to take ownership of the Troop as an active part of its ministry offerings to the members of the church and/or the community at large.


We believe there is something special about being in the outdoors. This enables our program to instill “Adventure, Character, and Leadership” traits in boys and young men. Camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities help build deep relationships and provide a special context for leadership, problem solving, conflict resolution, and character building. We also value the outdoor focus of our program as a unique means of helping a boy see and appreciate the wonder, majesty, and grandness of God as reflected in His creation.


Trail Life USA is committed to the health, welfare, and safety of our youth, volunteers, staff, and employees. Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health are integrated into everything we do to ensure as safe a program as possible. The goal should always be to provide challenging, adventurous, and fun activities in a manner that no injuries occur beyond those that are readily treatable by simple first aid.


The morals and values of our country are deteriorating at an exponential rate and are becoming increasingly opposed to true Christian values. As our organization grows and matures, future challenges will require increased character and courage by both adult and youth members as they stand for the timeless values articulated in the TLUSA Statement of Faith and Statement of Values which originate from the Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church. With this cultural pressure in mind, we will continually commit ourselves to the truths found in the scriptures, that we are to fear God and not man, and that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and understanding.


TLUSA is a program focused on turning boys into godly men. Our firm conviction is that this can only be done by allowing a boy the opportunity to interact, work with, and be mentored by and with other Christian men. All direct contact positions, other than in the Woodlands Trail program for younger boys 5-10 years old, must be filled by men.

Women can serve in a number of roles in the organization including the National Board of Directors, National Advisory Board, Regional Leadership, Area Leadership, Troop Committee members, the Charter Organization Representative (COR), and in the Woodlands Trail program.


Trail Life USA will be operated and supported by volunteers at every level. Troops connect with one another locally, and leaders are strongly encouraged to solve each other’s problems at roundtable discussions, online forums, and the like. Area Teams of experienced volunteers, possessing expertise in Advancement, Camping, Activities, Community Service, Marketing, and much more, stand ready to help. Direct Service Advisors are appointed by the Area Team to coach and mentor Troop leaders.

Areas report to Regional volunteer committees, and Regions to the professional staff. As a result — and by design — Home Office staff will be kept to a minimum. This is not only good stewardship but allows the members of the organization to take full ownership of and investment in the program.


The flexibility principle behind our program elements allows local Troops to adapt the program to fit the needs of their unit. A good example would be running only a Woodlands Trail and Adventurers program but not a Navigators program because of a lack of boys in a Troop or a lack of adult leaders. There will be some elements of the program which are unyielding and mandatory, but many parts of the way the program is delivered can be customized to fit the immediate needs of the local Troop and Charter Organization.


Since the founding of the organization by a wide coalition of leaders in Louisville, Kentucky in June of 2013, TLUSA has operated under the principle of shared leadership. Shared leadership seeks to involve others in the process and not “hog” or “lord over” the authority and public nature of leadership. While we recognize the need for strong leadership at every level, we also encourage the sharing of leadership by all those holding positions. Examples of this principle might look like occasionally allowing other adult leaders to share in doing the Troopmaster’s minute, delegating responsibilities, instituting term limits for Committee Chairmen, or having adult and youth Chaplains recruiting others to pray every now and then.


The youth should be leading other youth. Our firm conviction is that the only way a young man is going to learn the art of true Christian leadership is to allow him to initiate, to lead, and even to make mistakes. There is a constant temptation by adult leaders to step in and instruct the boys in weekly meetings, at campouts, and at other events to show the boys how things should be done “right,” “better,” or “smarter.” While adults can and should advise, counsel, make suggestions to youth leaders, and provide oversight to those young men designated as leaders, youth should be allowed to plan, organize, make decisions, and be the primary leaders.


Some boys’ programs are very focused on helping the boy achieve as many awards as he can in the shortest period of time to achieve the highest rankings and awards the program has to offer. In contrast, TLUSA is more concerned with building character than with earning badges and ranks. While TLUSA has a robust and prominent ranking and awards structure, this will not be the focus of the program. The focus should always be on building character over merely earning awards. This value is reflected by the fact that a young man cannot simply earn the Freedom Award quickly in a couple of years; he must stay in the program over an extended period of time — demonstrating maturity and leadership — to earn the highest award in the program.


Leadership with a servant’s attitude by both adults and youth is a core value of TLUSA. Servant leadership is characterized by humility and the willingness to work alongside others and not just “boss” people around. Leading by example and sacrifice are also qualities of servant leadership.


While this will not be the case in every location, ideally the goal would be to create a “family-centered” youth-enrichment experience where on one night, in one location, boys and their dads can participate in Trail Life USA, and girls and their moms can be involved with American Heritage Girls. There are many obvious strengths to this model, and those who are able to experience it will discover lasting impact and accelerated spiritual growth for every member of the family.

Local family showing off Trail Life uniforms