Keeping the Promise
My wife and I have been in Venturing since before it was Venturing. Literally. When our daughter, Anna, turned 15, she announced, “It’s my turn.” We were pondering how to respond to that when I stumbled into an opportunity to secure a trek spot at Philmont. Our solution was to have our church charter an Explorer Post in order to take kids to Philmont. The year was 1996. The next summer was our first superactivity.
Exploring was a very free-form program. No set way to go about it. Make up your own uniform. No advancement system to speak of. This is probably why it eventually foundered, since nobody quite knew what to make of it. We, on the other hand, knew exactly what we wanted to make of it. We wanted to go to Philmont! With a co-ed crew!
The next year, we were in the process of moving from that church to another pastoral appointment. The last hurrah for that Explorer Post was to snag a Council contingent slot that was going begging and return to Philmont for a second go-round. When we came down out of the mountains on August 3, 1998, we were told we were Venturers now. Cool, we said; what’s that?
The possibility of continuing on appealed to us, so we started one of the first Venturing Crews in our Council at our new appointment. And the next summer we went backpacking on Isle Royale. Every year, we went someplace way cool – mostly backpacking in places like Yellowstone and the Adirondacks, but there were two mission trips to Tanzania and one touring/hiking trip to the UK.
Every year, we went someplace. That’s the first rule of Venturing. It’s about adventure. If you’re not having any, you’ve got a problem. First, you’re going to have difficulties keeping the participation of youth if you’re not keeping the promise to do the Big Trip on a consistent basis. Second, you may start having discipline problems, because there’s an unstated covenant in youth ministry: Behave like I expect and we’ll deliver the fun; but if you can’t deliver the fun, then the kids may decide to make their OWN fun, and that’ll keep you hopping as well as give you heartburn.
The rhythm of deciding where to go, planning the trip, training and conditioning for it, going, then celebrating when we got home defined our program year to a great extent. Boys and girls would join because they wanted to go on that trip; then they’d stay, because they caught the bug. Not every kid went on every trip (schedules and finances get in the way, we know), but because we went someplace super cool every year, they could miss a summer and still expect to have the big experience next time.
The stripped-down program of Exploring (and the not-yet-built program of Venturing that followed it) allowed us to see this big truth. Keeping the promise of high adventure, year after year after year, is the first priority of Venturing. Which can be a real problem, because the skill set to pull off the Big Trip year after year is nowhere taught in BSA. But that’s as may be. If you want to succeed as a Venturing Advisor, you must be able to pull off the Big Trip. And you can’t always order up an event like Philmont (besides, those are way expensive). You need to learn how to shred on the natch (act as your own outfitter).
Do not let yourself be dazzled by all the complicated outlines in various training syllabi and all the handouts produced by BSA. It’s really very simple. Crews that pull off the Big Trip consistently will survive; indeed, they will flourish. Crews that can’t pull off the Big Trip, or only pull it off once, will soon falter.