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5 new crews, egads

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Must say I feel a bit like I've been drinking from a fire hose. There's a big push on right now to develop and support Venturing in our council. We've been anemic to say the least, with fewer than 5 crews in the district and of those, really only 1 or 2 that can be considered active by any stretch of the imagination. None have more than 10 members, most can barely recharter with 5, and two are going to fold due to lack of membership at recharter time in a couple of weeks (one of these had a focus on special needs adolescents and it never really worked out well; the other is sponsored by a very small church in a rural area and was driven largely by one or two families who are now done with the program).


Now all of a sudden we seem to have new crew opportunities popping out of the woodwork, with 3 near-certain and 2 more highly likely crews in the pipeline for our district in the early part of this year! Most if not all will be outdoor/camping/high adventure oriented crews. As our district membership chair I'm thrilled, of course, but also a little uncertain how best to support these new units. Our district hasn't had any real crew programs in the past. From a membership perspective - what suggestions do you have for how I can best aid these new crews in getting off the ground?

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1) Are these crews competing for the same group of young people? If so, one or more will fail. There's a finite supply of HS students.


2) Did anyone do the interest inventories? Are HA crews where the need is?


3) Are any of the crews going to be co-ed? There's a 50% untapped audience in the upper teen level if they go men only. For that matter, are there any crews which want to be women only?


4) What about the support resources for these young people? Is your District Commish ramping up a Venturing-specific RT session? Are there trainers in place? Is there a running or nascent VOA?


5) Are the Council COPE people ready to handle older teens? Low or high COPE can be a great team-building exercise.


6) Has anyone thought of a Venturing outdoor weekend at the local Scout Reservation? Get COPE up and running; ditto the tower, ditto the ranges. LEVERAGE the full capability of G2SS in regards to ranges (remember, Venturers can use pistols). What about SCUBA?


I'm just scratching the surface here... I'm sure Eamonn, emb021, and acco will have some more ideas.


YIV John

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Well I've had too much coffee tonight so I'm still up reading scouter.com and John, I'll try to provide reasonable answers to your questions. Keeping in mind that the existence of any crews in our district has been almost entirely due to personal interest of specific families (as opposed to council-wide or district-wide support) in the past, there are a lot of gaps to be filled and they don't all fit on my (district membership) plate. But, here goes.


1) Two may compete, as they would be in the same town. However, this town has two middle schools, three high schools, ten packs and four troops (of which, 2 troops are quite large and 3 have lots of older boys and a tradition of keeping tabs with those who age out). The other three potential crews would not be in geographic competition.


2) Honestly, no I doubt the inventories were done. The approach so far has been to find interested COs and interested adults, and then find the youth. Consequently, many adults come from a traditional scouting background and the initial plan appears to be to start with boys who have recently aged out of troops, and sisters of boy scouts who want an outdoor program. One of the potential new crews is looking at more of a fire fighting/first responder focus, which will likely draw a different audience.


Considering that most initial members are likely to come from within scouting ranks, one challenge I see is recruiting new members from outside these circles. Advice along the lines of recruiting high-school aged youth would be appreciated. I know what works with elementary and early middle school boys; after that, I am working with a deficit. I'm not even sure whether it is worth it to try to target 19-21 year olds who were not boy scouts, or where we'd find them (other than local colleges).


3) My understanding is that all will be co-ed.


4) No district or council support in place yet, but a willingness to "do something." I'm taking notes on suggestions. The standard intro training for crew advisors does occur on occasion but when I have seen it, it was typically an add-on to boy scout leader trainings due to the low number of participants. The lack of a real venturing program in the past means we don't have a lot of local resource people to turn to. If by VOA you mean a venturing version of OA? Well OA is undergoing a bit of an overhaul right now in our district and council, but no I don't think any such thing is currently in place for venturing crew members.


5) and 6) I wish we had council COPE people. Our council lacks a boy scout summer camp program (we have camps, just not a summer camp program) and doesn't run ropes,towers, or rock climbing programs, or adult trainings to support these activities either. We do have access to some shooting sports expertise and facilities and could leverage that. In fact that came up tonight as a potential recruiting activity down the road a little ways. While not entirely in our council, we do have access to lots of water activities in the region (great lakes, lots of rivers for canoeing, kayaking, etc.) and these might be a draw for some folks. But it is very difficult to envision water activities as a recruiting tool, since passing the swimmer test would be a pre-req to participating in the recruiting event, right?


As I see it, we have a real opportunity to get things off the ground in the right way this time. Venturing isn't new to the district but I think it wasn't well supported or perhaps it wasn't well understood in the past, and now that the original crews are pretty much all gone, we're getting a shot at launching it again, district-wide.

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I would recommend focusing one crew on shooting sports. Our most visible crew is the shooting sports team. They work in conjunction with the local 4H club and share the range facilities at the Boy Scout reservation. They travel the state competing and we have several state champions. This is one sport where the girls do better than the boys. Shooting is still an Olympic sport and colleges compete as well. However due to political situations very little opportunity is presented to youth in the school system. Shooting sports is an opportunity for young people to compete in a sport that does not require particular size or strength yet there are still scholarships and potential Olympic glory available. Even state trophies look good on the mantle. The members of the shooting sports team are a resource for the district as well acting as Junior rangemasters for cub scout day camp and as instructors for summer camp programs. Picture the female 15 yr old State shotgun champion announcing to the group of 12 & 13 yr old boy scouts that yes that's right I am your Shotgun shooting instructor. There are even special programs available for equipment.

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If the Crews have been formed "correctly", then the youth already know its supposed to be their program so until you know the youth's desires, its a bit early to start comming up with activities that may or may not interest the youth. Are the adults all trained? One thing you could do is organize a Venturing Leadership Skills Course (VLSC) for the crews as a lock-in. Have the youth gather friday night for a social event. Have them bring their favorite movies and them vote on which ones will be seen. Then run the course the next day, the adults can be trained in another room. The VLSC is required for the Venturing Gold and it would be a good way to get the youth in one place and see where the interest lies. Is it COPE? Water events? HIking? Find out what they want do do

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John-in-KC pretty much covered thing, but will add/expand on things.



Training is vital, for both youth and adults. Make sure you make available the Venturing Leader Specific Training asap for these adults. Be sure the crews are aware of the on-line (also now on CD) Crew Officer Orientation to get their crews off to a good start. The idea of doing VLSC (Venturing Leadership Skills Course) for all the crews is another good idea. Have it run by good adults with the intention that following years it be youth run (by the graduates of this course). Doing VLSC all together will also get the crews to met one another. Be advised that VLSC is for the ENTIRE crew, not just the crew leaders.


In future years you can expand upon training, by adding in stuff like shooting and climbing training.


Consider a district Venturing roundtable, at least 4 times a year. Crew youth leaders are welcome to come. (get the Venturing RT Guide, now recently renamed Venturing Program Forum or something).


VOA is "Venturing Officers Association", NOT "Venturing OA". The VOA is a district or council group made up of crew officers or representatives from all the crews in the district or council. The purpose is to give the youth a forum to met, share ideas (give a chance for 2 or 3 crews to do a joint activity), and ideally plan and carry out district or council-wide activities for Venturing. Unlike in Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting, Venturing events ideally should be planned and carried out by the Venturings (with adults advisement and assistance).


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emb021, have you had your coffee today, kind Sir?

"and carried out by the Venturings"


OK, now I'm back...


Lisa, thanks for the feedback. Helps target the comments :)


emb hit VOA smack on... the Venturing Officers Association... it's a grouping of Crew youth leaders from your District or your Council (indeed, the VOA concept reaches all the way up to a National Youth Cabinet IIRC) who gather to pool resources and make even bigger things happen.


I'd absolutely encourage interest inventories as these nascent crews come together. EagleSon has moved his primary youth membership to a Crew which has a lively arts emphasis. They're band/orchestra/choir/theater geeks... they're also the core of our camp staff for council Bear Resident Family Overnight Camp... longer story than I'll tell here. Point is, at HS level, interests matter.


OK, population pool is adequate. We'll let that one drop.


Co-Ed crews. Units will need to recruit and train women program and support staff. The rules of youth protection in Venturing are different, all the more so when having co-ed activities! Urgently recommend Venturing YP training for selected District Committee folks as well as the units... Activities Operations Committee and your Membership Committee both need to understand the deltas, so that the right resources can be available for events.


Activity resources. If the emphasis of your Crews seems like it will be HA stuff, then I recommend your Council contact neighboring Councils. We've done Venturing overnight all-nighters at various climbing gyms in the area, but that adds up pretty darn fast. Access to a proper tower and COPE course can lower expenses for individual Crews as well as District/Council Venturing events.


I like OGE's idea of an initial combined VLSC. The inital seminar is certainly unit-run, but the course can be unit or area, depending on resources. Showing the youth that the District leadership cares and is willing to assist with supporting the program will go a long way to embedding Venturing in your District.


One final point: Horizontal integration of the various District Committee operating committees is a "must have" to provide Scoutings' side of the Charter Agreement support for these nascent Crews. Relationships, Training, Activities, and your Membership shop all have a role in making this happen.


Have fun :) This is gonna be rewarding for you!(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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Thanks John,


Lisabob, based on your position, and as a Mate on a Sea Scout Ship, here are ways I would like to see a district membership chair suppport us.


1. There are membership flyers available through the Scout office. I would be impressed if some arrived with a recommendation on places in the community that we would find youth who would be potential members.


2. I would be impressed if we got a phone call asking what our membership plan was and offering us resources for publicizing it through council and district communication avenues.


3. I think a lot of units would benefit from a quarterly e-mail blast telling what other crews (even if they were in other councils) did to result in significant membership growth.


4. Be an advocate for the crews with the council/district advancement committee to see that there is an effort on their part to develop programs for Venturing. The retention rate for Venturing is the worst in the BSA. Membership will not improve until unit programs improve and I think they are going to need the Council/district to start modeling what a good Venturing activity looks like.


I don't think most Crew members see a difference between Venturing and Boy Scouting other than the fact that the uniform is differnent and there are no young scouts around.

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Went back and re-read your midnight post. :)


I remember in my Venturing leader specific seeing an age chart of the demographics. Something of a fast up-ramp from 14/8th grade to a peak at 17 or so, then tapers off to 21. It's not a normal distribution. btw. Many of the 19-20 year old young people seem to have Scouting connections which justify an ongoing youth membership status, such as employment on a Camp Staff, or collegiate activities.


While I'm writing you broad brush, I know you as a sister WoodBadger. I know you'll share info and feedback through your peers on the District Committee and with your Commissioner service.


BW's post hit my mind on something: While I assume your chartered partners will be folks other than schools, is it possible that area high schools may be willing to recongize a Crew as a club on-campus? That may give the crew access to facilities and some expert faculty support...


One thing my district used to do was have periodic officer's association meetings in conjunction wiht roundtable. Gave a chance for youth to get together (often with pizza...) and for cross-fertilization between youth officers and advisors. This dovetails real well with what emb021 said about Venturing RT...


As I said, have fun with this. FWIW, as a recruiting target, you might consider talking with area HS band directors... they tend to have band leadership councils, but they don't often have the training tools for leadership. There's a potential for a win/win there...

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OGE wrote:

I might point out that Venturing does not have Roundtable meetings


Then why is there a Venturing Roundtable Guide?


From www.scoutstuf.org


Venturing Roundtable Guide

A guide to planning a successful Venturing roundtable. Includes "how -tos," activities/games, and program features.

Item: 34342


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Yah, Lisa'bob. Nice to see Venturing expanding in your area.


I'll echo BW and others...


Help find capable female leaders! Especially young women who like the outdoors.


Offer Powderhorn. In da context of offering Powderhorn, develop a list of "consultants" and outfitters within a good, long driving-time circle from your district.


Partner with other districts or neighboring councils for other kinds of unit support.


For at least the first few years, whack anybody who proposes district-level stuff over da head with a wiffle bat. Your goal should be on gettin' out and supporting unit-level programming and development. District-level stuff is just an adjunct, and can come later.


Work actively to get understandin' and buy-in from area SM's. Nuthin' worse than developing a negative "those crews are going to steal my kids!" attitude early on.


Make sure the crew advisors and AA's aren't all Boy Scouting people. In my experience, most of da Boy Scouting people who tryo to move up to Venturing are just like Cub Scouters who try to move up into Boy Scouting. They have to be deprogrammed first or they'll just make a hash of things. ;) That goes for commissioners, too! Try to develop Venturing-only commissioners, rather than usin' cub and boy scout commissioners.




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