Have you ever stopped to ask: “Why do older youth and young adults want to join a crew…your Venturing crew?” Not many LDS leaders have to ask that question because the youth come with the “calling,” but how many really become a venturer?
So often this age group loses interest in Scouting and if you don’t take the time to understand your youth to build a real Venturing program that deeply engages them, you will probably lose them.
When we survey youth 14–20 on the question of why they want to join a crew, the answers that come back to us are responses like this:
Though not usually in that order, Venturing can be all those things, but to be effective the program must be theirs and must engage them.
Methods of Venturing
- Leadership and Mentoring
- Activities and Adventure
- Adult Association
- Group Identity
Yet the primary purpose of Venturing is guiding youth into becoming responsible and caring adults.
The goals and methods of Venturing help us do that.
The methods of association and mentoring are the Advisors’ secret weapons. With them we can make a real difference in the lives of the young people in our crews, but first we need to be aware of some of the developmental issues each Venturer is facing.
If you take a moment to think of two or three adjectives (positive and negative) that describe a Venturing-age youth, you will be taking the first steps to understanding these young adults. You observations may include:
Many times we misjudge people based on these and other stereotypical factors, which can make it a lot harder to know what is going on in their heads. Here is just a glimpse into this group’s characteristics:
In addition to these common characteristics, teenagers deal with several opposing emotions that include:
- They fear and crave independence (especially the 14-15 old boys)
- They face a constant struggle for power and independence.
- They want to be unique, but are affected by peer pressure.
But the bottom line is that they are transitioning from the Millennial Generation to Generation Z while most of us are Gen X or Baby Boomers, and often we cannot relate. Our native responses don’t intuitively connect with today’s teens, but we should try by considering these five developmental issues facing this age group:
When you look back that the mental list of two or three adjectives you made above, can you match these to the five developmental issues? Most of the behaviors we see in young adults can be explained by one of these five areas, but we need to respect young people’s uniqueness enough to understand them. Young people need a constant; they need to be connected to understanding and caring adults who can see their potential. We as adult leaders of youth can be a positive influence.
Leadership Styles for Advisors
There are five common leadership styles or skills that you as an Advisor would need in order to effectively coach and mentor Venturers. These of course include mentoring and coaching, as well as walking your talk, understanding a teens’ search for autonomy, being able to relate, showing mutual respect as a team member and using conflict management skills.
Using questions as a leadership style may also be effective, but there thin line between telling and suggesting. This is not often clear, and suggesting a course of action may be seen as a demand, so be careful.
One sure way to use questions as a means to help the crew make their own decisions is a technique called reflection and has been proven to be very successful with this age group.
How to Conduct a Reflection
Reflection is an effective method for evaluating a situation or activity to better understand and improve on it in the future. It is one of the most effective tools an Advisor can use when helping Venturers improve their leadership abilities. (If you are not sure of how to lead a reflection, read this post by Brad Harris, “Reflections – Comparing temporal activities to spiritual lessons)
By asking questions that cause people to think, reflection is a way to look back at recent experiences to understand what happened and use that understanding in looking forward to the next action and new experiences. Additional information on conducting reflections can be found in the Venturing Advisor Guidebook available at your Scout Shop.
What is your best trick to understand today’s teens?
Author: Darryl Alder | Director of Strategic Initiatives, Utah National Parks Council, BSA