A colleague recently shared an interesting article; “7 Reasons Why Church Based Outdoor Ministry is Taking Off” (Click HERE to see the full article – it will open in a new tab).
The author of that article states:
Jesus intentionally used adventure to get to the hearts of his disciples. And having led youth ministries for over 24 years and trained youth workers from over 50 countries, I am more convinced than ever that there are specific and compelling reasons why churches today should double their efforts to get people out into the wilderness.
The author suggests that wilderness experiences remove the participants from everyday distractions and help the group to really focus on spending “intentional” time together — building real relationship and focusing on the message from scripture. Campfire circles and hiking time on the trail encourage people to “open up” and share personal stories — removing our “artificial masks and false fronts”. These experiences teach us to trust each other since we’re in a genuine remote situation and must rely on each other.
Having spent many years camping as a family and with outdoor programs, I see the author’s point and agree that there are many advantages to getting out of the youth lounge and getting into the wild.
Also, this ministry isn’t just focused on “youth” — moms, dads, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers of almost any age and physical ability can benefit from treks that are tailored to the group. While there may be a learning curve to encountering wildlife, depending on getting a fire started to cook dinner, or using water purification filters to stay hydrated, these skills are helpful during natural disasters and get us off of our normal “center” long enough for the ministry message to penetrate deeply into our hearts.
Driving to a lodge and having prepared meals served in a climate controlled dining hall may not be the type of trip that the author had in mind, but you wouldn’t need to cross the Grand Canyon on mules, either.
The advantages of programs like Trail Life USA are many, but in this one area, it can be very helpful for pre-teen and teenage boys to learn critical skills (i.e. cooking, navigation, first aid, etc.) while also learning about sin, confession, repentance, restoration and sanctification.
If you’re looking for a program to engage boys and get them out camping, hiking, boating, etc. then consider Trail Life (www.traillifeusa.com)