Thursday, January 6, 2011


I recently found a website called The Combined Resource for Scouting and all Youth Programs of the LDS Church. On this website are requirements for all of the youth awards from Cub Scouts to Venturing, from the Faith in God award to the Duty to God program and Personal Progress. (Although, as a side note, the Duty to God pages have not yet been updated to show the newest program.) And when I say all requirements, I mean ALL. Even merit badges and special awards. All of them. In addition to the award requirements are ideas for Family Home Evening and Sabbath activities designed to fill these requirements. It looks like it could be a fantastic resource for LDS parents who want to help their children in these programs.

That said, I do have to take issue with a couple items. And these items underline one of my biggest frustrations as a Venturing leader--that of complete and fundamental misunderstanding by almost everyone about what Venturing is. 

On the America Jane page for Varsity and Venturing programs is the following text:
Once young men turn 16 (Priests), they are technically no longer part of neither the Boy Scout nor the Varsity program, but are now part of the VENTURING program (more details below). However, while Venturing offers its own unique awards, the rank advancements are exactly the same as the Boy scout program (***except the lowest rank that can be earned is the Star rank, which means scouts must already be First Class rank or higher or they can't advance***) and Venturers still earn Boy Scout merit badges and Boy Scout special awards. So while BSA may box Venturing into a separate category from the Boy Scout program, I think it works just as well for the average parent to think of Venturing as a different add-on to the basic Boy Scout program. 
Please, please, please!!! don't think of Venturing as a different "add-on" to the basic Boy Scout program! It is a separate and distinct program! 
Okay, let me try to correct the errors. In the LDS church, once a young man turns 16 he is no longer registered as a Boy Scout. He is registered as a Venturer. They are separate. Let me emphasize this next part especially. The Venturing program DOES NOT use the Boy Scout ranks! The Venturing program has it's own set of unique awards. Venturers who have been registered as a Boy Scout and who have already earned the rank of First-Class, are allowed to continue to work toward Eagle. But the Boy Scout ranks are not actually part of the Venturing program. Neither are merit badges. There are some pretty good arguments to be made that Venturers should not be able to work on Boy Scout ranks because they are separate programs. If a Venturing crew is working on rank advancements and merit badges, they are not doing Venturing. (This is exactly the reason I told my Venturers that if they wanted to earn their Eagle, they would have to do it on their own; as a crew, we would be doing Venturing.)

Have I emphasized enough that the Boy Scout and Venturing programs are separate? Let me add just one more illustration to show how separate they are. The Boy Scout program is open to all young men ages 11-18. The Venturing program is available for all young men and young women ages 14-21. That's right. Venturing is co-ed. But, the chartered organization has the authority to restrict that a bit. The LDS church charters male-only crews. It is possible that there are all-female crews but I don't personally know of any.

If I've gotten the first error corrected, let me go on to the next one. Further down the Varsity/Venturing page on the America Jane website is the following:
The awards unique to the Venturing program are pretty heavy duty. Very appropriate for the age of the young men working on these awards. Remember, the Venturing program is for young men up to age 20. After looking at the requirements for some of these awards, you LDS readers will see it would be difficult to really work this program in just the two years an LDS young man is a Priest.
It's the last line I have an issue with. And I have enough of an issue with it that I'm going to type in my agitated italic font again. Venturing IS NOT difficult to really work in an LDS priests quorum!! I think the above statement comes from another fundamental misunderstanding. This one not just about Venturing but about Scouting in general.  This statement sort of  implies that in order for the program to work, the young men need to be working on and earning all of the awards. It's like saying that the main purpose of the Boy Scouts is to achieve the rank of Eagle. 

Let's go back to what the purpose of scouting is. On the BSA website we find the BSA mission statement.
The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
In other training materials we learn that the BSA has three "aims" : character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. 

Each of the different programs uses different methods to accomplish those aims.

The Boy Scout methods are: Ideals, Patrols, Outdoor Programs, Advancement, Association with Adults, Personal Growth, Leadership Development, and Uniform. 

Venturing uses the following methods: Leadership, Group Activities, Adult Association, Recognition, Ideals, High Adventure, and Teaching Others.

Notice the differences between Boy Scouts and Venturing? Let's outline a couple.
  1. Advancement isn't a method of Venturing. Recognition is. There is a difference.
  2. Uniforms aren't a method of Venturing. Those are optional.
  3. Patrols aren't a method of Venturing.
What I'm getting at here, is that advancement is only one of the ways the BSA encourages character development, citizenship, and fitness. A good program does not focus exclusively on advancement, but advancement is a natural result of a good program. That is especially true for Venturing, where advancement is not specifically a method. 

With that long-winded detour, I would like to go back to the idea that "it would be difficult to really work [Venturing] in the two years an LDS young man is a priest." I will admit it would be exceedingly difficult (perhaps even impossible) for a young man to earn all of the Venturing awards in two years. But that is very different from making the program work. Even if "advancement" is the main goal, there would really only need to be three awards earned--one Bronze, the Gold, and the Silver award--and that can be done in two years. Just ask my young man who is on-track to earn Silver by May, well before his 18th birthday. 

I intend to develop a series of posts to show exactly how Venturing can be made to really work in an LDS priests quorum.  Hopefully I can convince a few people to actually give it a try.

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