Faith is the Greatest Adventure of All
Charter Partners come in all varieties, but many Venturing Crews are chartered to churches. I am an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church, so I take the charter partner concept very seriously – far more seriously than my Council does, despite the rhetoric one hears now and again.
When we got into Exploring, then Venturing, there wasn’t a lot of detail to the program. We didn’t need it, we knew we were going to go backpacking. But what about when you weren’t preparing for backpacking, going backpacking, or celebrating having gone backpacking? What else could fill your program time in such an unstructured program?
Ministry. Venturing is a form of youth ministry. It’s not exactly a revival program, and not everybody who takes part is all that religious, but we made it clear from the get-go that this would be real ministry. We do devotions on the trail. On Sundays when we can’t get back, we do church in the field. We do lots of service projects. We take part in Scout Sunday at our charter partner congregation. We have earned the Bishop’s Award of Excellence multiple times. We are respectful and careful when we have new Venturers who don’t share our religious background; nevertheless, several of my Venturers have said their first prayers – ever – when it was their turn to say grace on the trail.
I expect my congregation to fully support its Scouting units, just like it does its Sunday School classes and youth groups. And they do. I offer the PRAY awards to all ages within my congregation, which accounts for the very high percentage of our Pack, Troop, and Crew earning them. My current church even extends its own campership program for church camp to members of the church who choose to do high adventure trips with our Crew.
This also colors how I relate to the youth. I understand that, as an old college chaplain friend of mine once said, “growth comes as a reflection upon experience.” The Crew program provides the experience. I’m there to help them reflect upon it. And as I have said in many a Christian Education training program over the years, the real ministry happens in the cracks between the scheduled activities. So, the kids lead their own Crew on the trail. I walk in the back, mostly. But it’s when we’re sitting around, stirring the fire, or at other unstructured times, that the opportunity comes to hear important things – and say them.
The new Venturing program has a lot of emphasis upon guidance, which takes the form of setting personal goals and doing Advisor conferences and such. Which is great! But one must remember, that the most powerful ways to do this are at the “teachable moments” that you are sharing together while you’re doing other stuff. Beware of bogging everything down in formal discussions, which tend to turn into performance evaluations, largely because that’s what the adults doing them are used to in their own lives.
By the way, BSA has always recommended that Explorer Posts, then Venturing Crews, meet twice a month. I found that that was a hassle; nobody could ever remember when we were meeting. So we organized it like a youth group; we meet every Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. unless we have a weekend activity just before (or on, say, holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day).
When in doubt, remember that you’re doing youth ministry. Don’t be misled by the uniforms that this is something else. If you’re a church-based crew, it’s ministry. If you’re chartered to some other institution, that’s fine, but you can still learn a lot of good stuff from the best practices of successful youth groups.