Core Values

Male-Centered Adult Leadership

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. 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, and even as the Charter Organization Representative (COR). However, other than in the Woodlands Trail program for younger boys 5-10 years old, adult leaders in positions of direct contact to boys must be male. 


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. 

Program Flexibility

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.

Shared Leadership

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.

Youth-Centered Leadership

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. 

Character-Focused, Not Awards-Focused

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. 

Servant Leadership

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. 

Decentralized Decision-Making

Pursuant to the TLUSA By-Laws, after January 1, 2015, decisions regarding changes to the most important elements of the organization will be made by each Charter Organization casting a vote, and not by professionals or delegates chosen by professionals. This principle will be used for any changes to the governing Board Members of Trail Life USA. To ensure fidelity to the principles and values of Trail Life USA, any changes to the Statement of Faith, Statement of Values, or membership standards would require an 80% vote by all Charter Organizations.

Debt Adverse

The National Board of Directors is committed to being debt averse. The organization will continue to be self-funded with the annual budget for operating expenses growing in direct proportion to fees generated by the growth of the membership. The organization will not accept gifts of property unless it can clearly benefit from the gift without incurring debt from operational or other costs associated with the property. 

Walk Worthy

“… that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;…”

Colossians 1:10