For some time, the entry policy for a young person to join Pathfinders said that they should be in fifth grade or higher to start. As of 2013 the Pathfinder Advisory has changed that requirement to reflect the changing nature of our society and its needs.
Before this change back in the early 90's the policy read, "Age 10 or Grade 5." While the minutes do not reflect the discussion at the time of the more restrictive change, memory of committee members says policy was changed for two main reasons:
- Friend class work requirements are written for 5th grade level studies.
- The Adventurer Program was just getting started and this change blocked fourth graders from jumping ship in the middle of a year to join Pathfinders.
One of the primary challenges now is that many directors allow NO flexibility when reading the current policy.
Over the last year, viewpoints were solicited from NAD Pathfinder committee members and from the field via the NAD Youth Ministries E-news. A summary of those views are shared here. Advocates of change say problems arise when:
- There is no Adventurer Club
- Parents follow Mrs. Whites advice to not start their children in school until 7 or 8 years of age
- Home schooled students are on a different schedule than “regular” school
- Some home schoolers are following grade less curriculum
- A child is held back in school
- Often child development more closely corresponds to age rather than grade. Proponents of current policy are concerned that:
- Children who turn 10 in the middle of 4th grade will drop out of Adventurers and join Pathfinders, wasting a year as they will not complete Helping Hand or Friend.
- Developmentally they will not be ready.
- If allowed to join in 4th grade, they will “burn out earlier.”
- As a follow on, if they only stay in Pathfinders for a couple of years, then we miss the prime 13-14 year old conversion high point.
- A non-uniform standard causes trouble when children transfer between clubs regardless of when it happens.
After a fair amount of discussion the committee amended the policy. As of March 2013, the entry policy concerning grade or age for a child to join Pathfinders in NAD reads "The entry criteria for Pathfinders is Grade 5 with the club directors prayerful discretion to make an age 10 exception."
So what does this mean in practical terms? It means that in general a starting child should be in grade 5 or higher. However, there are times when exceptions need to be made for the well being and growth of a child. In those situations, the club director should prayerfully consult with the child and their parents and other club staff to determine if it would be appropriate to allow entry while the child is in grade 4, or in some situations in grade 3. A number of specific situations could be cited where a 10 year old child was in a lower grade. A variety of reasons explain these situations. NAD does not plan to develop a list of criteria. The committee clearly felt that a local director charged with making each and every unique situation a matter of prayer, and who did so, would be led by the Spirit to do the right thing.