First look: Major Venturing changes coming next year

venturing-bsa-logoAt age 15, the Venturing program is beginning to show its age.

Membership has declined since 2008. Venturing has the lowest retention rate — 53 percent — of any BSA program. And advancement hasn’t caught on with teens; just 0.66 percent of Venturers earn any awards.

But it’s not all bad news. Beginning next year, big program changes are on the way that amount to much more than just a fresh coat of paint.

I sat down last week with Bob Scott, senior innovation manager, to discuss the complete revamping of Venturing that will change the way the BSA’s youngest program serves young men and women.

The new “Venturing Road Map,” which outlines the program’s first substantial change since its inception, is broken down into six parts: 

Part 1: Create National Venturing Committee


The BSA will reinstitute the strong, national Venturing committee supported by parallel structures at the region, council, and district levels.

The new committee will be lead by the National Venturing Committee Chair, who is an adult volunteer, and the National Venturing President, who is a youth member. The National Venturing Staff Advisor is a professional who will provide assistance as needed.

The National Venturing Cabinet will continue to function and will be represented on the National Venturing Committee by the National Venturing President, who serves as one of the Venturing Key 3.

Part 2: Use JTE Approach in Venturing

Venturing will benefit by modifying Journey to Excellence criteria to gain a balanced focus on membership growth and bring increased attention to the Venturing program.

Over the next year, the National Venturing Committee will redevelop Venturing JTE measures at unit, district, and council levels, which should positively affect retention and growth for Venturing.

Part 3: Completely New Advancement System


As mentioned, fewer than 7 out of every 1,000 Venturers completes any type of advancement in the program.

So the Venturing task force set out to make the advancement system simpler and more attractive to teens.

That means…

  • the Venturing Bronze, Gold, and Silver awards are on their way out.
  • a new four-by-four advancement program — outlined in the graphic above — will replace the Bronze, Gold, and Silver awards beginning in 2014.
  • a young man or woman who reaches the fourth level in each of the four pillars will have earned the highest award in Venturing.
  • the names of the levels haven’t yet been decided, but you can be assured they won’t be Level I, Level II, Level III, and Level IV.
  • the focus of the awards will be on continual growth in the four pillars of Venturing: Adventure, Leadership, Service, and Personal Growth.
  • each level will challenge the Venturer to first learn the skills, then demonstrate them, then teach them to others, then mentor others in those skills. (Sounds like a smart application of the EDGE method to me.)

The new program will be phased in slowly, meaning Venturers currently working on the Bronze, Gold, and Silver awards can continue their progress. Here’s the plan:

  • If working on current awards:
    • May continue working on current awards until Dec. 31, 2014
    • May convert to new awards after May 2014, beginning with the Level II Award
    • Must utilize the new awards requirements after Dec. 31, 2014
  • New awards:
    • May convert to new awards after May 2014
    • Beginning with the Level II Award for current Venturer
    • Beginning with Level I Award for new Venturers
    • Must switch to the new awards requirements after Dec. 31, 2014

Expect many more details about program specifics in the coming months.

Part 4: Change Membership Reporting

Beginning in 2014, Venturing, Varsity, and Sea Scouts will all be counted together as an older youth program for membership reporting purposes only.

This won’t change anything in Varsity or Sea Scouting program structure or administration. It just groups all older-youth programs together for counting purposes.

Part 5: Training Changes

Even though their roles are drastically different, Venturing Advisors and Venturing Crew Committee Chairmen currently take the same training.

That’s going to change.

The National Venturing Committee will adopt and develop specific adult and youth training continuum, including defining required and optional training and recommended timing.

They will separate position-specific training into crew Advisor and crew committee training, update Venturing Fast Start training to be consistent with new program approach, and develop youth training programs necessary to support the new program matrix.

Part 6: Incorporate National Uniform Options

I don’t have many details on this, but I know the committee plans to discuss including “uniforming” as one of the methods of Venturing by incorporating national uniform options as follows:

  • Venturing field uniform: Current (or revised) Venturing field shirt
  • Activity uniform: Nationally developed and offered Venturing polo shirt or polo/T-shirt of crew design

Still have questions?

Read these answers supplied by the National Venturing Task Force:

FAQs – New Venturing Program

Q.  What is a quick overview of the new vision for the program?

A. The new vision for Venturing uses youth-led adventures and a simplified program model to provide a means of developing leadership skills, reinforcing the value of service to others, and creating opportunities for personal growth in line with the Scout Oath and Law

Q.  What are “adventures?”

A.  Adventures are any Venturer designed and lead experience that interests Venturers and help carry youth out of their comfort zones. In Venturing, adventures can be based on STEM exploration, outdoor adventure, faith journeys, arts and hobbies, or anything that appeals to the members of a crew.

Q.  Will this still work with existing crews?

A.  Yes.  The new program model enhances Venturing’s current strengths while allowing crews flexibility in terms of the program “vehicle” used—outdoor adventure, STEM, faith-based experiences, arts and hobbies, among others. The new vision for Venturing is adaptable to any activity or interest that allows for opportunities for continuous, youth-led adventure. The continuous process of reflection and goal-setting built into the new model helps youth better appreciate the deeper purpose behind the activities in which they already participate as well as encourage them to explore new growth opportunities.

Q.  Relatively few Venturers take advantage of the current awards program in Venturing.  Will advancement become more central in the new program?

A.  In the new program model, goals and objectives take center stage, providing a structure for organizing crew-organized adventures. The new structure offers core elements that can guide all crews and that will give each Venturer an opportunity for learning and growth. The changes made to the Venturing awards will better align Venturing recognition with what crews do. As Venturers achieve the goals they set under the new structure, they will also advance up through the several award levels.  Each element of the award program also provides a benchmark for a successful crew. An overall goal of the new system is to recognize more Venturers for doing what Venturers do best:  having fun as they pursue adventure, leadership, service, and personal growth.

Q.  Will the current bronze awards remain?

A.  No. All five of the current bronze awards will be retired. The new advancement program will have one award at that level.

Q.  Will the medals continue to be used as the main recognition devices?

A.  It has been recommended, but not finalized, that only the highest award be signified with a medal, while the others will be represented using a patch and/or a pin. This will also align Venturing with current practices in Sea Scouting and Boy Scouting as well as the traditions established from Exploring.

Q.  Will the Ranger, Quest, and TRUST awards be retained?

A.  Yes.  All three expert awards will remain under the new Venturing model. However, because the separate, specialty Bronze awards will be retired, all of the current requirements for these awards will need to be satisfied while working specifically on the Ranger, Quest of TRUST award.

Q.  How is the new model structured?

A.  Venturing will be organized around four “pillars”: adventure, leadership, service, and personal development. These pillars are informed by the work of the BSA’s 411 Task Force and research on the wants and needs of this age group, helping to ensure that Scouting is a continuous program for youth from ages 7–21 that uses age-appropriate program models to achieve a common set of youth development outcomes. Under each pillar, youth will be encouraged to set and meet goals in order to earn Venturing awards.

Q.  What is the vision for the new Silver Award model?

A. The aim of the new model will be to ensure that recipients of the capstone Venturing (whose name is not yet final) have achieved and demonstrated skills that identify themselves as effective leaders and valued community members. Through a balanced program that involves serving others throughout their Venturing tenure and through a capstone project, organizing adventures, exercising leadership, and setting and achieving challenging personal goals, Venturers will be recognized for distinguished character and leadership.

Q.  What is the difference between advancement and recognition in the new Venturing model?

A.  Advancement takes place within the progressive program system described in the program matrix. Levels of performance and achievement are provided within the four pillars of adventure, leadership, service, and personal growth. Recognition comes thru the development of skills and experiences throughout the Venturing program including the specialty awards of Ranger, TRUST, and Quest.

Q.  What handbooks and resources will support the new Venturing model?

A.  The BSA will issue a new, youth-focused Venturer Handbook that will include all of the basics about the Venturing program, guidance for effectively participating in and leading a crew, and setting goals and earning awards. In addition, a new adult guide will help advisors and other volunteers work effectively with youth. There will be an additional book that will serve as a resource document for Venturing program opportunities.

Q.  Will there be on-line resources available?

A.  Yes.  The plan is to make many “how-to” materials available on-line for easy reference.

Q.  Phone apps for Venturing have been talked about.  Will they be produced?

A.  Perhaps. This is something that can be pursued after the program is completely defined and ready to use. Our first task is to generate the content.

Q.  Is it true that Venturers will now use the Scout sign and salute? What about the Scout Oath and Law?

A.  Yes, Venturers will adopt the Scout sign and salute, used worldwide by older youth in our programs.  Venturers will also begin using Scout Oath and Law.  These changes are effective May 2014, although we hear units are already adopting these practices.

Q.  Who was involved with this project?

A.  The vision for this approach to Venturing was based on both general and BSA-conducted research in youth development—as well as grounded in the practices of current Venturing Crews. The members of the task force that developed this program model came from all over the country. There were youth as well as adults in the process, led by volunteers and supported by professionals. All of the adults have experience with Venturing (and Exploring) and work regularly with local crews.  

Q.  What is the timeline for roll-out of the new program?

A.  The plan is for new materials and award requirements to be released starting in May 2014, with a phase-in period for youth who are currently working to complete Venturing awards under the current requirements.  

Q.  What changes are anticipated to provide stronger leadership to the Venturing program??

A.  The National Key Three has endorsed the re-establishment of a National Venturing Committee (NVC) to roll out and realize the recommendations of the National Venturing Task Force. The NVC will report to the Council Operations Group Committee.  The NVC will be headed by a National Venturing Key Three—the national chair, National Venturing President (youth) and the National Venturing Staff Advisor and will include a Venturing Chair of Venturing from each region and at large members.

Q.  What changes are anticipated for the area and regional support structures?

Support at these levels will be maintained and will be connected to the National Venturing Committee in the method described above.

Q.  What is the status of the college-age Venturing proposal?

A.  The expansion of program ages is still under review but will not be part of the changes being announced for implementation in 2014.

Q.  Can new awards be worked on simultaneously, i.e. can one do something for the new Level IV Award while still working on new Level III Award?

A. In some cases, yes.  These opportunities will be detailed when the advancement guide is updated to reflect the new Venturing advancement system. While some specific requirements can be “frontloaded,” such as taking advantage of a training opportunity, most of the advancement will take place at each level while seeking to achieve that level.

Q.  Venturing has, since its inception made use only of recognition. How is the new system different?

A.  Advancement takes place within the progressive program system present described in the Silver Award program matrix. Levels of performance and achievement are provided within the four pillars of adventure, service, personal growth, and leadership. Recognition is present through the use of the expert awards of Ranger, TRUST, and Quest.

Q. What changes are coming in youth training?

A. Training of our Venturing youth will be enhanced in a number of ways. Existing syllabi are being updated, but more than that, five new courses are being created to support the new program matrix. Each of these new courses is designed to give Venturers a more competitive advantage in the world. Skills such as project management, goal setting and mentoring are just some of the things to look forward to. These courses are being created with the understanding that true learning is not a passive experience. Both the existing courses and our new ones will be updated and created with hands on experiential learning at their core. Our Venturers will be growing by doing.

Q. Will Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews (ILSC) be changed?

A. Although it won’t be a major overhaul, there will be some modifications made to the current syllabus which will enhance individual learning and give youth leaders the tools they need to fulfill their roles more effectively and readily. You will see more practical application and less theory.

Q. Over the past several years there have been changes to Venturing training that lessened the uniqueness of the Venturing program and made it more like Boy Scouts. What adjustments are being made to recapture Venturing’s unique spirit?

A.  The program-neutral aspects of our training materials are being replaced with situational learning which is specific to the Crew structure and program. Terms that now seem to need translation and skills that are broad in their delivery will be targeted to this unique program and the youth who are drawn to it. Giving Venturers age-appropriate challenges and leadership tools will serve to take their Scouting experience to the next level.

Q. Will there be any changes to the training for adults?

A. Yes. Leaders need to know how to do their jobs and a clear definition of what it takes to become successful. As such, training for Advisors is being separated from training for committee members. In addition to the new syllabus for Crew Advisor Position Specific Training, The Crew Committee Challenge, is being created to help those adults working at the committee level know how best to work with crew members and how they fit into the Crew structure. Learning by doing will be the mantra in our adult training updates.

Q. What will be the definition of a trained leader with this new program?

A. For the adult leader, the definition won’t change much. They will be required to complete Venturing Youth Protection Training, and the leader specific training for their position (i.e. Venturing Leader Specific Training or Crew Committee Challenge).

Youth who complete both the Crew Officer’s Orientation and The Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews (ILSC) will also be eligible to wear the ‘Trained” patch.

Q. Will an adult who is currently considered “trained” be required to take any additional training with the new program?

A. Like all of Scouting’s programs, a leader who has completed the basic training courses for their position, is considered trained from that point forward. Keep in mind, however, that previous trainings will not have included the features and enhancements of the new program. Leaders are strongly encouraged to update their training in order to delivery a vibrant, relevant and quality program to their Venturers.

Q. Will there be any training for current adults that help explain the changes in the program and how to utilize the new program?

A. The new Venturing Leader Specific Training will be the quickest and most comprehensive method of getting our leaders up to speed on all of the changes. Its content will be specifically designed around the new program.

88 thoughts on “First look: Major Venturing changes coming next year

  1. I have been a scout since wolf and I am currently a life scout at the age of 17 working towards my eagle rank. I have been in the Venturing program for about a year now and have never had any issues with the advancement system. The BSA’s lack of rank advancement within the Venturing program is not due to the fact that the Bronze/Gold/Silver system does not work or is unappealing. From my observations the lack of advancement is because venturers do not join the program for rank, they join it for the activities and adventure, the high adventure.

    After all, that is what Venturing is, a high adventure program. When venturers are rock climbing a 9 pitch climb, going down class 5 rapids, participating in triathlons, or snowboarding a black diamond route, the last thing on our minds is “what can I get signed in my book now?”

    When scouts are in their troop they do activities and projects to attain rank, when venturers are in their crew they do activities and projects to DO activities and projects. Venturers don’t do something because they need to for their award, they it because they want to. Because of this it makes it a lot easier for venturers to simply just forget about advancement.

    It’s not that the program doesn’t work, it does EXACTLY what it is intended to do, it’s just that the advancement system doesn’t reflect the adventure behind Venturing. A “new, sleeker and cleaner looking” system will only run into the same problem as the current system. If you ask me the requirements for awards need to be re-looked at, not the system. A new system with the same requirements won’t accomplish anything, and if you ask me the BSA is simply just wasting time and effort on braking a program that works just fine.

    • As a Crew Advisor going on 3 years, my Crew is very laid back. They are interested in doing some activities but there isn’t any pressure to do a particular activity. We are active in the Chapter Order of the Arrow, in Community Service activities, in supporting the District and Chapter. When the opportunities arise for the Venturing Camporees, as the Advisor I put it out to the Members to see what or who is interested. Much like the other comments, Rank Advancement is at the bottom of the list for the Crew. Believe it, they got a lot of pressure to advance in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and once they got into the Crew, the vote was to have fun, wear a minimal Uniform, and not concern themselves with rank advancement.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with Hunter, That is what my 16 year old daughter told me, no test, no requirement to advance, just have fun doing things other kids only dream about. She just finished the BSA merit badge this past weekend so she could get a fam. flight in a small cessna,not part of the merit badge but offered by the instructer, and yes the instructer let her take the yoke and roll the wings abit. She was grinning ear to ear when she got off that flight as well as 7 scouts from our troop. Now wants to go to flight school. She attended NYLT this summer and said it was great! She was invited back next summer to be on staff. Her Crew goes indoor rock climbing and eating take out pizza till they pass out a couple nights each year and has a ball. Has gone to Venture event in tennesse two years in a row in hopes of snow skinging, but comes home dissapointed no snow just rain. But she had a good time. In my opinion they don’t want advancement they want Adventure with a Capitol A. in a safe supervised atmosphere that Venturing offers. If you want to improve it make High Adventure more available and afordable to them.

  3. I do not want the Bronze, Gold, and Silver awards to go away. The problem is the BSA does not support the awards. I thought that these were also extra, Venturing was not about rank we are all equal according to what I thought. We dont want or need to change the awards, we just need to promote it more, nobody has heard about it, so nobody does it when no one does it it becomes nothing.

    • It’s true! BSA doesn’t support the awards. There is a lack of attention to venturers in most councils in general. They rarely offer training to venturers, and it is even rarer that they provide opportunities to help with advancement

  4. I took over as an Advisor for a local crew when the previous Advisor past away(He was a legend in our Council). He left some pretty large shoes to fill. I found that youth that want award; earn them. Those of them that don’t; do even crack the book. Venturing is about discovery and having fun. Most of my youth ar in multiple activities and spent their spare time packed with extra activities all year round. They are not your typical teenager, they do Venturing to unplug from society and climb a mountain. I think Ventuiring is great the way it is, But if it will help others were up to the challenge. My youth that are not into awards support those who are.

  5. I know it’s early to weigh in with opinions about names for the new Venturing advancement matrix, but I am seeing all kinds of confusion and misleading names possible with the four pillars. You say that level 1, 2, 3, and 4 certainly won’t be used, but they may actually be clear! Even the time-honored names of apprentice, journeyman, and master to describe levels 2, 3, and 4 of each pillar may be clumsy. I am envisioning a sectional patch that looks like the pillar model and gets filled in as the Venturer advances. The completed patch would indicate that the medal has been earned. Keep it simple and easily recognizable.

  6. I have a Media Venture Crew. We make PSA and half hours shows about teenage problems (drugs, alcohol, dating and drinking and driving. All my crew wants to do is write and produce shows. Some will go for the awards so they can put it on a college application. They chose if they want to go for the awards. They are given a DVD of the show they worked on so they can use it for college or for a job. Our motto is “Run by kids for kids.” We have tried to go to summer camp and was told no facilities for girls. Never get a scouting ID card. Fliers that are put out are about cub and boy scouts. I never see anything about ventureing. It seems that scouting want a program but does not listen to what the kids want. Those of us who run a good crew listen to what the kids want. Scouting should do the same.

  7. Until leaders who create new programs or map roads to motivate youth to get out of their comfort zone, being able to understand the complexity and variety in adolescence and emerging adulthood in a fast compass world they live now and all the variants….will be one more shoot in the dark.
    In my best knew-logy is wen more I know about how they function , what is peculiar in each one of them and how I can be genuine supportive and enthusiastic about their success and failures , we will be close to results we would like them to achieve in their lives, that’s is no or more than the mission of the Boys Scouts of America , to prepare them to make ethical and moral choices over their adolescence,emerging adulthood trough over their lifetimes., by bring the best on them from the best of us and by installing in them the values of Scout Oath and Law in with we truly believe and live by .

  8. I am currently the committee chair of a very large (144 scouts) boy scout unit. Many of our highest ranking boy Scouts are only 14 & 15 years old. We are an active unit and support at least one over-night campout/backpack per month. Our 14 & 15 year olds are losing interest in troop outings. Many have experienced each outing at least once. The PLC, which is comprised mostly of younger scouts, wants to offer those outings again because they keep hearing accounts of how great and memorable those trips have been. At this stage, I believe the only program that will enable us to retain our older membership is the Venture program. We plan to test aren’t a dual membership, troop and crew, in 2014. In our case ranks and advancement are part of the culture. we hope gone able to integrate some leadership positions with the Troop. However, my big concern is that as we built the crew membership the proposed changes will cause confusion and ultimately turn-off the Scouts we are trying to retain. I sincerely hope that national and local councils devise a training program for Crew leaders long before the release of the new program.

  9. I know I am late getting into this conversation but I just want to throw in my 2 cents. I truly feel that the BSA just really doesn’t get why youth join Venturing.

    My Troop of 100+ has a Crew that has 40 of its 52 members dual registered. Our model is a bit different than National may have had in mind but as Crews wither and die all around us we just get stronger and stronger.

    Our Crew is intertwined with our troop and supports the troop on some of our outings and it is where we pull our youth leadership. We have a 98% retention rate. We also boast a group of college aged Venturers who consistently come back on vacation to camp and hang out with their friends.

    Even the BSA in their Venture training state that what teen age youth seem to mostly want is to hang out with their friends. I know that if you ask the youth in our Crew what they enjoy most they would put advancement very low on their list.

    It is the autonomy of being a Venturer, creating their own program and the ability to choose who to hang out with and when that keeps our youth coming back.

    Why does National believe that making advancement more and more vanilla and easy to achieve will increase retention? Did research show that youth are leaving the program because they feel the advancements are too hard?

    Would I be very far off if I was of the opinion that most Venture aged youth are still working towards Eagle? I know that that is the case with us. They are not concerned at all with earning the awards in the Venturing program. And then when they are done with Eagle (most of ours are at least 16) they want a break from having to do things rather than doing events because they want to.

    Now my daughter is very interested in earning the awards. She has Bronze and Ranger and is working to finish Gold and Silver before they are no longer available. She has enjoyed the challenge.

    I am not sure why youth are not staying in the Venturing program but I have to believe that most of the blame, if you will, lays at the feel of the adults who don’t understand what motivates them to join in the first place.

    • I’m not sure about blaming the adults, and most of my Crew either already have their Eagle or aren’t Scouts, but I agree with everything else you’ve written! Most of the youth want to create their own program and want to hang out. Of the original 6 program areas, “Social” has always been most important to Venturing age youth!

  10. Hi Jo-ann,
    Yeah I didn’t say that last part very well. If the adults who are guiding the Crew don’t understand what motivates and excites the youth then that is an issue.

    This new program that is being rolled out is not going to help with this type of misconception. If leaders are struggling now to keep their Venturers and see this new focus on advancement as a way to save their programs then they may be hanging their hopes on the wrong pegs.

  11. Here’s the problem: Youth want adventure. In the BSA, to do council-specific “high adventure” activities (or at least to earn the high adventure awards), you need adults who’ve had specific high adventure training (HAT training). I’m a BSA Outdoor Skills Director, a LNT Master Educator, a Project COPE Director, and if I were to take kids out on high adventure activities they couldn’t earn any of our councils high adventure awards because I haven’t had the high adventure training: LOST, Map & Compass, and Basic Backpacking. Scout troops, Varsity teams and Venturing crews go out and do high adventure all the time, then you have this ancillary high adventure thing that has its own separate requirements if you want to participate. Integrate it. Stop making ancillary awards/programs that include their own barriers to participation which don’t mesh with anything else.

    Try this: you’re going to keep TRUST, Quest, and the Ranger awards, right? Ok, so make each of those one part of the “Venturing uber award” circle — when you complete the circle, you get whatever the uber award is. If you make those three awards completely ancillary to getting whatever the uber award is, you’re going to be much more likely to have people ignore either the main or ancillary paths. Integrate these things.

  12. Also, you’ve got to redo the age thing. Nobody who’s older than 18 wants to be told that they’re still a youth because they’re in the Venturing program. Legally they’re adults. They should be treated as such and called adults.

    • My Crew has youth who WANT to be called youth after age 18 (just like OA) so they stay in Venturing. There seems to be some cachet to being able to sign your own permission form yet be a youth – youth in Scouting definitely enjoy some privileges that adults don’t! I know some Troops form Crews just so they can have more “youth” at the high adventure bases, but that’s not true in our case.

      • What privileges do youth enjoy that adults don’t? Especially if these young adults were also still Venturers until 21. While it may be really fun to be able to sign your own permission slip, have you asked them whether they wouldn’t rather not have to sign a permission slip in the first place?

    • I have never heard any of the Scouts here complaining of being considered youth at 18 or even 21 if it means extra chances to go to Philmont or Sea Base. If they really struggle with being considered youth, then go back to a Troop and be an ASM. There are plenty of units out there that are begging for 18-21 year old leadership.

  13. After having discussions with my daughter and her crew mates, I can echo the sentiment that the youth are simply not interested in advancement. The girls in the crew came up through Girl Scouts. They did the whole badge thing and earned their awards there. Now they want to get out and do things. Exciting things. They have homework and tests to go back to at the end of the weekend. The boys in the crew came in from Boy Scouts after earning their Eagle or burning out on advancement. In a nutshell, it’s all about getting out and doing things.

    • I totally agree with you! I came up through Girl Scouts and want the same as your girls. High school is tough and it’s a way to spend time with people in a productive way. I want to get out there and have fun with people who want the same things and not necessarily have to be competing with each other for badge achievement. Let’s just go on an adventure and have fun! 🙂 I love my crew and what we do, and that’s why I am a part of Venture, not for some badges

  14. It occurs to me, part of the problem may be summer camp staff/participants. Every Council has a Venturing crew that they register staff/participants in who aren’t already part of a Scouting troop. Naturally, these “temporary” Venturers don’t really care one whit about advancement. Why would a summer camp hire people who weren’t part of a summer camp before? Well, if you’re having a hard time finding trained people over the age of 18 to help run your ropes program, or to run a raft down the river, or do any other more demanding thing that sort of requires experience and you aren’t getting any more applicants who already posses the necessary experience, you might go out of your way to find experienced applicants. It may also be that some people joined the Council’s Venturing crew for the camp just to avail themselves of more opportunities while at camp, for instance if they were summer camp staff and there was a pistol-shooting class for staff that only Venturers could participate in (since Boy Scouts can’t shoot pistols), they might join the Venturing crew even if there wasn’t a Venturing crew back at home for them outside of summer camp. Or you might have Eagle Scouts who’d gained their eagle at 13, then dropped out of Scouting, and at 15 or 16 were hired for summer camp and added back onto the rolls as Venturers. I have personally seen several people in all three of these categories — they were all good people, they all worked hard, but they were just there for the summer and to have fun while they worked and they couldn’t care less about advancement outside of summer camp.

    • One of the boys in my Venturing Crew was totally anti Scout because his older brother loved Scouting so much. He joined the Crew because he had so much fun on activities he was dragged to by his parents, who were GREAT helps. Then he joined his brother’s Troop because he had so much fun Venturing. He may have been the only active Scout in our Council who was still a Tenderfoot when he aged out of the Troop, and never earned an award in Venturing though he participated in almost every activity.

  15. I know you need to measure the success of the program and a comfortable way to do that is by “how many merit badges/rank advancements did the unit achieve?” As stated in this blog, that is not the main reason youth join Venturing. They are after adventure not badges/ranks. Develop a measuring tool for having fun, developing leadership and having adventures and you will be on to something. Sounds like merit badges and rank advancement but at this age and stage it is not. Perhaps you have been Boy Scouts too long and don’t see an alternative. Sometimes just the fellowship of a crew is enough to make the youth happy and to feel like they belong. That counts for something in this day and age when bullying is such a big problem. Too bad this is a numbers driven issue instead of a youth success issue. It’s hard to measure but not that hard to see.

    • Perhaps if Venture advancement worked like Boy Scout ranks. You have the initial “here’s” the bare minimum for things” and then you focus on whatever you want, with a few mandatory focus areas, and then you lead a big service project and you end up with your Eagle. Then you could join the Venture program which presupposes a familiarity with knots and orienteering that it seems like all the women and half the men simply don’t have because they either couldn’t join Boy Scouts or are otherwise new to the program and you have to complete a solid block of mandatory activities, or you could just blow it off, hang out, and do fun stuff.

      • Keep in mind that the Venturing award system is not an advancement program, it’s a recognition program (advancement isn’t part of Venturing methods but some Venture Scout may be working on advancement from another program). There is a distinct difference. With that said, I am in agreement with many of the responders, that changing up the Venturing awards probably isn’t going to increase Scout retention. Retention is really more of a unit challenge. When a unit (i.e., crew) is run correctly with properly trained advisors and Scouts who take the lead in their program and who make fun and engrossing activities happen, then retention will follow. I think that the awards can be a lot of fun, the requirements for which can be incorporated into the crew’s adventures if they wish, but the push is recognition, not advancement. I’m not sure about the requirements for the proposed new awards, but the previous awards are quite challenging and any young man or young woman who achieves those awards has really accomplished something. In turn, their character, citizenship, and mental and physical fitness – all aims of Scouting – are increased. Not that the the awards are the only place to achieve those aims, but they can be useful, just probably not overly powerful in boosting retention.

        • Do you do activities and earn rewards, ultimately culminating in a “super award”? Then what’s the difference? :p

        • The point is Venturing focuses on awards in a different way (recognition vs. advancement) than other Scouting programs (Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts). The emphasis to earn the awards, in my mind, is less in Venturing. There isn’t the push to earn them. The awards do, however, provide some opportunities for directed character development, citizenship training, and mental and physical fiitness. Nonetheless, the Scouts don’t have to earn them (recognition is only one of the methods of Venturing). Perhaps the development of these new awards is to help increase excitement in the overall Venturing program. We’re probably in agreement that the awards are not likely to help with Scout retention. There are other more effective ways to do that (see my last comment).

  16. For our crew its all about the activities. We go places and do things. Want advancement? Stay with your Troop. The males & females are there for group fun and interaction, not how to tie a knot. Are crew even does a lot of community volunteering- not so much for the volunteer aspect but as a way to hang out together without the pressure of you must learn this. Works for us.

  17. For our Crew (Crew 223, Wichita, KS) it’s the love of our hobby/sport that brings us (and keeps us) together. We are a shooting sports Crew. We have had a few young men work on Eagle palms with the Crew, but most of our young ladies just want to learn about and shoot cool stuff, and hang out with their friends. We try to let them know that we will help them with advancements. Sometimes, we point out that they have earned credit towards them by simply doing what we do, For example, we ran the BB gun range at one of the largest winter camp outs in the mid west. Our teens put in over 18 hours (total) of service time that day alone.
    I think if the adult Cadre helps the Crew recognize that the things they do are actually (gasp) filling requirements, they may be more inclined to track and apply themselves to do more. One example, I have watched experienced campers teach inexperienced ones how to pitch a tent, including teaching them knots in a “unofficial” way. Look for things that happen, and say. “Oh, By the way… ” I love Venturing and just want to help make sure it thrives. I am off to Wilderness First Aid next month, so I can add that to my training.
    Mark Madden
    Crew 223 chartered by Thunderbird Tactical
    Wichita, KS

  18. Interesting article, but the BSA’s proposed makeover of the adult bureaucracy behind the Venturing program won’t address why some Crews will probably fail to attract and retain new membership and ultimately fold: Boredom with the individual Crew’s program, or frustration from a lack thereof.

    Some Crews are spawned by Boy Scout Troops, and are set up and run simply as an appendage of the Troop. Occasionally, such an “attached” Venture Crew is started as a surreptitious way for adult Troop leaders to, in essence, enroll their daughters in that Boy Scout Troop.

    Crews like these often don’t have separate adult leadership (“advisors”); separate Committees; or a separate program that would appeal to older, co-ed membership. In some cases, they might not even have a separate treasury or fundraising activities.

    Youth who might have joined–and stayed with– Venturing because it supposedly promised a more “advanced” alternative to Boy Scouts will leave such a Crew when they figure out that the promise was empty.

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