For Blog #8, I have asked a Scouting professional to share his perspective on Venturing in the Church. I hope you find his thoughts not only interesting, but helpful as we all strive to strengthen our young men through the Venturing program and the Church. So, please sit back and enjoy.
Venturing has often been referred to as the “Redheaded Stepchild of Scouting,” and that might not be the worst description of it. No offense to the gingers reading this post, but Venturing has been around for 19 years now and it still isn’t being used to its fullest potential.
By invitation, I have been asked to share a few thoughts as to the importance of Venturing, and how it might be better utilized in our local wards and stakes. I have a different way of looking at the world, and I hope you all will indulge me just a little.
I should be honest from the outset—I love Venturing. Almost more than traditional Scouting, if I can say that and not be shunned.
Venturing is versatile, it can bend and flex in a way that traditional Scouting and Varsity Scouting cannot do. I could sit here and regale you all with story after story of how Venturing has impacted the lives of youth, but I respect you all too much to do something like that here.
What I want to attempt here is to cast Venturing in a different light and attempt to connect it back to something we all know and understand. I want to, in some small way, paint Venturing as a key essential program, that if we miss on as leaders, then we have botched the whole point of having the Scouting program in the Church.
A few years ago, the Church retooled Sunday School and priesthood instruction for the youth of the Church. In the place of the old worn-out manuals from the 1980s, the tired old stories that were not relevant to our current world, and the Ensign talks from before we were born, we jumped into the Internet age with online manuals and themes and most importantly, we adopted the mantra of “Learn, Act, Share.”
With this restructure, each of our lessons were to now incorporate each of these three principles. Each lesson was designed and intended to engage the youth to think deeper, feel stronger, and question greater their beliefs and testimony; to encourage them to Learn wildly, Act boldly, and Share passionately what they have, and what I, as a member of Church, know as truth. The principles of Learn, Act, Share, combined into one were intended to deepen the knowledge and strengthen the testimonies of the youth of the Church—to make them unwavering believers and followers of Christ. But, did you know that before Learn, Act, Share was adopted by the Church, it existed in Scouting?
Now, I am not saying the Church ripped “Learn, Act, Share” from Scouting—far from it. What I am saying is that the principles of Learn, Act, Share have existed in Scouting for many years, we just never put the concept into words.
Think about it for a second, and then let me explain. In LDS Boy Scouting for boys ages 11 through 13, we spend three years teaching young men basic Scouting skills. We teach them fire starting, basic first aid, pioneering skills, knot tying, orienteering, and the list goes on and on of the basic skills we teach and train.
We could call this the “Learning” portion of Scouting. Boy Scouting is where we begin to build the foundation of knowledge; not just in Scouting skills but the foundation of how to learn in life. Here we start, and everything from this point is progress.
Next comes Varsity Scouting; this is where the rubber meets the road. It is where all the skills we taught in Boy Scouts are now “Acted” upon. We allow the youth to “Act” on the “Learning” that took place in Boy Scouts. They try out these skills while they experience high-adventure activities, while continuing their trek up the Eagle path (if that is their desire), and work on their Varsity letter to further both their learning and adventure.
Finally, and most importantly, we come to the “Share” aspect. Venturing.
Venturing is where the time in the Learning phase and the time in the Acting phase have now been combined and empowered into the lives of our young men to “Share.” One of the main tenets of Venturing is to teach others the skills they have learned. Each of the awards earned and medals received have an aspect of teaching that is required for achievement. Before a Venturer can move forward, he has to demonstrate mastery of a skill through sharing it with others.
So there you have it. Venturing is crucial to the big picture of Scouting in the Church. It has to be there, and it MUST be functioning if the whole plan is to come together.
Just as on Sunday, if our lessons don’t incorporate all three aspects of Learn, Act, Share, then we missed the mark. The lesson won’t be as effective as it could have been or should have been. Though the Spirit can still be present, the full effect of the Spirit’s impact is limited.
In Scouting, if we limit ourselves by not putting everything into the Venturing program, then we have limited the effectiveness of what Scouting offers our young men. If we never give our youth the opportunity to “Share,” then all they have accomplished is 2/3 of the formula: Learning and Acting.
Now, take that to the next logical conclusion. If all we ever do is teach our youth to Learn and Act, but never Share, then we will produce missionaries who know a lot about the gospel and can tract all day long, but will never be able to teach the way the Savior intended. They will not know how to bring the Spirit into their teaching because they will have little experience. Basically, we will have trained missionaries to know stuff and find a lot of investigators; but we will have missed out on helping many others find the truth because we never taught the youth in our charge how to “Share.”
They won’t know, because we never gave them the opportunity; because we didn’t realize the big picture of Learn, Act, Share. We only saw Venturing as the “Redheaded Stepchild of Scouting” that wasn’t worth investing our time, talents, and energies into mastering. We didn’t see the need to do one more thing, or we used the excuse that we didn’t have enough youth to support another Scouting program. Even worse, we may have thought that we should delegate our responsibilities to other priesthood holders because there were not enough priests in the quorum, and so it goes on and on.
I believe the Church chose Learn, Act, Share as its mantra for youth education, because our leaders were inspired to know how it fits all aspects of the youth in the Church—that Learn, Act, Share was a perfect fit to represent Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturing. If we miss just one aspect of Learn, Act, Share in Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, or Venturing, then we have missed the point completely. The true power comes when all three principles are combined and work together.
Your Friend in Scouting,
Sean Neal, District Director, Great Salt Lake Council
Thanks, Sean, for your contribution. Now, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with his comments? We’re all in this together, so let’s continue to move forward in Venturing.
~David Wilson has been actively involved in Venturing since its inception back in the ’90s. He is dedicated to working on strengthening the bridges and removing the walls that occur between the Church and the BSA for the older young men in the Church. David continues to work, to bless, and serve through his involvement in multiple levels of Venturing (from national to the local council). He currently calls Orem, Utah, home. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.