That “Minute” is a special time when you have the attention of all the boys in the troop, and it is your opportunity to convey a special message of inspiration. Varsity Scouts and Venturers, however, are ready for more; they need reflection.
Reflections come at the end of an activity or event too, but we use the opportunity to look for deeper meaning in what was done. Brad Harris helps us understand this in his Blog, where he shares what an LDS Bishop related to him:
“I learned how to conduct a reflection from a training session I attended. As the Bishop in my ward in Kaysville, Utah we put into practice conducting reflections at most events. At a Varsity and Venturing high adventure one night after a full day of activities, we arranged time around the campfire. Two less active dads were there with their less active sons. They all enjoyed camping so much they joined us on this high adventure.
“During our reflection during the campfire we talked about comparing spiritual experiences to temporal activities we did during the day. A good spiritual tone emerged around the fireplace. The young men started to talk less about the temporal activities and pulled out their favorite scriptures. It turned into a mild testimony meeting. We had a discussion on the second coming and how to prepare for it. Everyone was involved. We were not in a hurry.
“It was so effective and the spirit was so strong there that after the campfire as we were preparing to retire for the evening, some of the boys hung around my tent and wanted to talk. These young men wanted to clear up some of their transgressions and sins they had committed. Right there in the woods we had sincere confessions. These confessions and discussions in the woods created a new path for each of these young men that led to their mission calls a few months later.
“The next day, back in our ward in testimony meeting, the less active member bore testimonies, expressing how they felt the spirit during the camping trip at the campfire reflection discussion. They said that it was a life-changing experience for them. After sacrament meeting, one of the wives of the men at the camping trip came up to me and said, ‘I’m not sure exactly what you did to my husband, but he is different since he returned from your camping trip.’
“We have had several very effective reflections. In most, spirituality was obtained. Comparing temporal activities to spiritual lessons helped the boys frame things for them and the activities in our quorum became more meaningful at all levels.”
Now that we know what a reflection can do, let’s earn how to conduct one.
How to Conduct a Reflection
The reflection facilitator acts as a kind of moderator, initiating conversation by asking questions and encouraging fruitful conversation that leads toward the objective of the teaching segment. When a participant states an important point, it is worth repeating or restating to strengthen its impact on the group, or seeking additional clarification or viewpoints from the other youth.
Another kind of reflection asks these questions:
- Start: “What should we start doing that will make things better?”
- Stop: “What should we stop doing because it isn’t helping?”
- Continue: “What is working well that we want to continue doing?”
A poster that contains the three sentences above will help your youth keep these three questions in mind. If you are using this method, encourage comments that specify what to start, what to stop, and what to continue.
Regardless of how you lead a reflection, the main idea is to get discussion going by eliciting responses from as many youth participants as possible. In Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews, it states:
- It is essential that you conduct meaningful and relevant reflections and draw out the teaching points.
- Reflection provides an opportunity for everyone in the group to have input into what happened.
- Reflection is best accomplished by asking open-ended questions such as “What,” ‘“How,” “When,” and “Where.”
In reflection there are no right or wrong answers, just ideas, opinions, and insights. You can use reflections to evaluate crew activities, and it will result in improved engagement by your Venturers in future planning and execution of activities. Leading reflections is a simple process that can greatly enhance the learning process. Lay the ground rules for discussion. Have the Venturers sit so they can see one another, and ask them to agree not to interrupt or make fun of each other. Let them know they are free to keep silent if they wish.
Adding meaning to your event, will take some ground rules. You and your Varsity Scouts or Venturers should learn:
- No putdowns allowed; every response is welcome and valid.
- The person conducting the session should not show disapproval of a response or a person, either verbally or nonverbally.
- Facilitate the discussion. As the leader, avoid the temptation to talk about your own experiences.
- Reserve judgment about what the Venturers say to avoid criticizing them.
- Help the discussion get going, then guide the discussion to the teaching points through effective open-ended questions.
- You want the teaching points to come from the Venturers, but you want them to get to the key points.
- If you describe what you saw, be sure that your comments don’t stop the participants from adding their own thoughts.
- Above all, be positive. Have fun with the activity and with the processing session.
- Use thought-provoking questions. Have some questions in mind prior to starting the reflection.
- Know where you want the reflection to head and what lessons you want to ensure are drawn out of it. The reflection discussion may head in directions you had not thought of or known about, but ensure it also covers the key concepts that you as the leader saw as important to the training or activity,
The following types of questions are useful in reflecting:
- Open-ended questions. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
- Ask things like: “What was the purpose of our activity?” and “What did you learn about yourself?”
- Feeling questions require Venturers to reflect on how they feel about what they did. “How did it feel when you started to pull together?”
- Judgment questions ask your youth to make decisions about things. “What was the best part?” or ‘‘Why was it a good idea?”
- Guiding questions steer your Venturers toward the purpose of the activity and keep the discussion focused. ‘‘What got you all going in the right direction?”
- Closing questions help Venturers draw conclusions and end the discussion. ‘‘What did you learn?” or ‘‘What would you do differently?” .
Close the reflection.
Wrap up the discussion and briefly summarize the key points and ideas that were raised during the reflection. If the facilitator is successful in getting the participants to state all the reflecting points, then little follow-up is needed beyond a summary statement. However, I always like to ask youth for a gospel tie in. This is a very effective method of teaching and supports the Sunday “Come, Follow Me,” style of instruction.
Because the participants learn actively and because the adult leader gets to hear the digested learning of the participants, he or she will know if important lessons have been learned. This kind of end to things will always take more than one minute.