Tips for planning a successful, diverse Ten Commandments hike

With Scout Sunday, Sabbath and Jumuah slated for this weekend, it might be an ideal time to examine the 12th point of the Scout Law with your Scouts. Honoring God, being faithful in one’s religious duties and respecting others’ beliefs encapsulates what it means to be “reverent.” 

One way you can help Scouts respect others’ beliefs is by leading them on a Ten Commandments hike. It’s an interfaith event, often organized by councils and districts, but there’s no reason why you can’t start one for your unit. In fact, it’s a suggestion within the Program Features for Troops and Crews, Vol. 3. It is listed as an “advanced activity” though, meaning it might require quite a bit of planning and logistics.

So, if there isn’t one scheduled near you, how do you plan one?

We asked for tips from David Simon, who served as the chair for a hike sponsored by the Long Beach Area Council in California.

“We arrange for speakers representing different religious traditions to speak at different religious facilities,” Simon says. “Each speaker talks about one of the Ten Commandments, then about their particular religion, ending with taking a few questions from the group.”

The most recent hike’s theme focused on history since last year marked the council’s 100th anniversary. So, the group stopped at historic churches in downtown Long Beach. About 100 Cub Scouts, Scouts and family members heard from pastors, a rabbi and an imam as well as practitioners of the Hindu, Buddhist and Baha’i faiths.

Here’s what Simon said about how the event went:

How did you manage the logistics of the event, making sure as many faiths would be represented?

Simon: Long Beach is a very diverse city, so it was not too hard to find representatives from different faiths. We wanted to make sure that we represented all different faiths.

We invited speakers to join us at the downtown churches — we had a rabbi speak at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. An imam spoke at Holy Trinity Lutheran. The Hindu speakers joined us at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. We had the Buddhist and Baha’i speakers do their presentations at a local park. I loved seeing the speakers from various faiths having deep conversations as the group left.

What’s your advice to a unit that wants to do a similar event?

Simon: First, find an area of your town where there are a number of religious institutions fairly close together. You don’t want people to have to walk too far. We have tried to keep three to five miles total walking between locations.

Form a committee to help with phone calls, as you will have to make a lot of calls. Let the churches know that this event is designed to help people understand the differences and similarities between the various religious traditions. The more diverse the speakers that you have, the more interesting it will be. Make sure that you ask about special requirements that may have to be followed, such as head coverings.

Walk the planned route before the event, looking for sidewalks, street crossings and traffic patterns. It is helpful if you can plan the route to end at the same location where you began. At our event, Venturing Scouts and Order of the Arrow members helped with getting the group safely across the busy streets.

What were the Scouts’ reactions?

Simon: The younger Scouts don’t seem too excited at the beginning; they were still a bit sleepy at 8 a.m. We allowed the group to ask each speaker a few questions. The Scouts are always curious, and once they overcame their shyness, they asked some wonderful questions.

The parents are always very appreciative of the event. They love to see the design and architecture of the churches, and learning about religions that they did not know much about. The Ten Commandments Hike began as a Wood Badge ticket about a dozen years ago. Each year, we do this event in a different area within our council. We have families that return year after year.

About how long was each presentation?

Simon: Each speaker had 15 to 20 minutes. We ask them to spend five minutes talking about one of the Ten Commandments. Then, they spend five minutes talking about their religion — just the basics. Then five to 10 minutes answering questions.

We did not have time for tours of the churches, as we try to finish up the event around lunchtime. Because of the historic churches and the ties to the history of Scouting in our area, I did present a short history of each of the churches we visited before the speaker came up. Each participant left with a patch, which included symbols representing some of the diverse faiths that exist in our city.

About Michael Freeman 150 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is associate editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.