June 8th, 2015


Structured Reflections in Venturing

I've been trying to figure out what the new Venturing advancement system requires when it says "do a structured reflection" on the topics of Adventures in Faith, Adventures with Self, and Adventures with Others. This is not specified in the advancement guidebook, which is odd. BSA is unusually explicit in all the things it requires.

I sent an e-mail to BSA's Venturing gurus asking for guidelines, only to be told that BSA publishes none. So, I went to various psychology and counseling and spiritual formation sites looking for how to do a structured reflection. Found some interesting stuff, but it all seemed a little technical to be done by youth and/or volunteers.

And then I found, buried in the Introduction to Leadership Skills Course material, a little section on "How to do a structured reflection." Bingo! This must be what BSA means when it calls for Venturers to do each of these three structured reflections on their ascent through the Venturing awards.

After each leadership challenge or initiative game, the group processes what it has just done by doing a structured reflection. The leader sits everybody down and explains that no responses are to be rejected in what is to follow; all contributions are to be welcomed. And then the leader begins to ask questions intended to draw out the participants. What worked? What didn't work? Who took leadership? How did you feel when . . .? and so on.

So the required structured reflections are not individual exercises, like something done in a workbook or by journaling. They are group exercises, to be led by someone who has some training or experience in getting the group to open up and help individuals examine their part in something. Which means that we need to work them into our group program that way.

At least a couple times a year, depending on who's present, we need to do a structured reflection as a group on one of the required topics: Faith; Self; Others. We could put it on the Crew calendar, I suppose, though I'm thinking these would be especially good to do on a trip or campout while stirring the embers of the fire or something: unannounced, naturally initiated when people are relaxed. Afterward, the leader would note who was present and tick off their participation in their advancement records. In this way, doing structured reflections becomes a part of the normal rhythm of the Crew's year, like doing ethical controversies.

So what I'm going to do now is give some thought to the kind of leading questions I want to make sure get asked in reflecting on the topics of Faith, Self, and Others. We'll do at least one, maybe two on our NY trip, which begins this week.