Venturing Leader Specific Training
By Darryl Alder
Jan 29, 2016

Venturing Leader Specific Training Part 3: Understanding Venturers

You can read other parts of this blog series here:

Today we will describe typical developmental characteristics of Venturing-age youth and young adults. We will also Identify effective leadership styles to motivate Venturers and learn how to perform a reflection.

Have you ever asked: “Why do you think older youth and young adults want to join Venturing?” Probably not, since most LDS Venturers are conscripted into the program, but if you intend to keep them active in the program and thier non-member friends interested, you will need to know why youth join. Most common reasons include:

  • High adventure
  • Leadership skill development
  • Fun activities
  • Community service
  • Social experiences

Venturing can be all those things, but the primary purpose of Venturing is guiding youth into becoming responsible and caring adults. The goals and methods we have already discussed will help us do that. As Advisors, we can make a real difference in the lives of the young people in our crews if we are aware of the many developmental issues each Venturer is facing.

Adolescent Development

If you stop consider two or three adjectives (positive and negative) that describe a Venturing-age youth, some of the first the first things you notice include:

  • Size
  • Behavior
  • Dress

Many times we misjudge people based on these factors. It is harder to know what is going on in their heads. Teenagers deal with opposing emotions:

  • They fear and crave independence.
  • They face a constant struggle for power and independence.
  • They want to be unique, but are affected by peer pressure.

There are five important developmental issues that Venturing-age youth are facing:

Experimentation Venturer aged youth want to try out life! They want to experience a variety of social roles, responsibilities, values, and personalities. This can include risk-taking.
Movement From Dependence to Interdependence Venturers are moving away from being dependent on parents, teachers, and other adults (including Advisors) and moving toward becoming interdependent with them.
Social Relationships Quality social interaction with others is as important for Venturers’ health and well-being as it will be at any other time in their lives. The significance of their identity and experiences is in large part created by their social relationships.
Physiological Changes and Sexual Maturity Teens of this age are experiencing great physiological changes that influence their relationships with each other and with adults.
 Reevaluation of Values Venturing-age youth are capable of thinking critically and analytically about their personal, family, and social values, making it possible for them to see inconsistencies in our values and leading to the search for opportunities for commitment to new values.

We need to respect young people enough to understand them. If you think back to the positive and negative adjectives you choose to describe Venturing-age youth, you will see they fit into one of the five categories above.

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 several leadership styles or skills that you as an Advisor would need in order to effectively coach and mentor Venturers. These might include:

  • Be a mentor.
  • Be a coach.
  • Walk your talk.
  • Be understanding of the teenage years and teens’ search for autonomy.
  • Be able to relate.
  • Show mutual respect as a team member.
  • Develop and demonstrate conflict management skills.

Using Questions as a Leadership Style

The thin line between telling and suggesting is not often clear, and suggesting a course of action may be seen as a demand. Using 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. 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. Further it is a way to add meaning to activities.

In his book Trails to Testimony, Brad Harris suggests we use reflections to compare temporal activities to spiritual lessons (see related blog post for more insight). Additional information on conducting reflections can be found in the Venturing Advisor Guidebook, but  good way to practice this skill is with an initiative game like the Human Knot.

Ask your youth to face each other in a tight circle. Each person holds out his or her right hand and grasps the right hand of someone in the circle, as if they were shaking hands. This should be done in unison.

Now have each person extend his or her left hand and grasp the left hand of someone else in the circle so that each person is holding the hands of two different persons. This hand-in-hand configuration should come out equal.

With hands tightly held, arms intertwined and bodies close together, it’s time to explain the problem. The group’s members then try to unwind themselves into a hand-in-hand circle. To accomplish this, they will be stepping over, between, and around each other.

The initial hand-to-hand contact cannot be broken during the exercise. Hand connections may pivot on one another, but skin contact may not be lost. Sometimes these human knots will produce two or three distinct circles, and sometimes they will be hopelessly intertwined. Be flexible; the teamwork lesson in this activity is worth the effort. If a group quickly solves their knot, have them make a new one. Observe the group dynamics to help in specific questions during reflection.


When your group has untied their knot, break for a reflection. Ask:

  • Did you feel frustrated at any time during this activity? Why?
  • How is that feeling like life
  • Did someone emerge as the leader? Who? Why?
  • Was it our President? Why or why not?
  • Was the leader effective in solving the problem?
  • What does that tell us about sharing leadership in the Church and our quorum?
  • Was cooperation necessary to achieve success?
  • How is that like something you can recall in the scriptures?

All you have to do is remember, reflection is simply the process of the youth talking about their experiences immediately after an exercise or activity with a little bit of wise adult moderating.

Take a moment to reflect on this third session of training and comment in the section below.

Continue to Venturing Leader Specific Training Part 4: Advisor Responsibilities.


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