As an outdoor leader, I always find summers end to bring a time of debriefing and rest. Summer, while amazing and full of adventure, can be quite draining. Leading others into the wilderness is physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding. This rest is welcome and necessary, but I have learned to not let the off season get away from me without receiving the gifts that it has to offer. I have come to believe that some of the things I do in the off season are the most important things for making the next the summer successful.
SELECT THE TWELVE
In Robert Coleman’s book the Master Plan of Evangelism, he takes an in-depth look at the method Jesus used for reaching the masses. He says, “His [Jesus] concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow…Jesus started to gather these men before he even organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public.” In the context of outdoor ministry, gathering guides who have a shepherding heart is far more effective than the program itself. Spending time with people is critical to be able to identify guides that others will follow. Jesus could have called everyone, but “He chose from them twelve.” (Luke 6:13)
Whether you are in the ministry start-up phase or have a long time running organization, the people who will guide your trips next summer are key to reaching your goals of outdoor ministry and evangelism. Spend time with people! Recognize people who have a shepherding heart and who are teachable. They may not be an outdoor guru necessarily, but if they have the “soft skills,” then the “hard skills” can be easily taught to a teachable spirit. Select a few people who you can invest in that will lead others well, not just anyone who says they are interested. Chances are the people you need might not even see their potential. Show it to them!
PRAY AND BE IN HIS PRESENCE
Jesus went to the mountain side and called those he wanted and they came to Him. – Mark 3:13
Recognize that God is the ultimate shepherd and the one leading all of our efforts. It is only through his love that we are able to do outdoor ministry. It is His voice, after all, that we go outside to experience. The only way we will be able to select those he wants (the twelve), is to be in tune with Him. The only way we will be fruitful is to be in His love and presence. Relationships are not on accident. Pay attention to His voice and to people.
Incredible things happen on the trail. While many are not thinking about their backpacking plans for next summer, we as outdoor leaders are! Now is the time to start casting vision. Help people see a glimpse of the impact and get them excited to be a part of it. Believe in people and be willing to walk through the process with them. Give people time to be ready when trips start opening up. Share stories. Ask questions. Stir excitement.
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Let spring arrive with your tank full because, during the off season, you have spent time in His presence and heard what he is calling. Let there be value in relationships with people so that when spring comes, planning trips is not about a program, but about people.
- Identify people that you see potential in who you can spend time praying for and intentionally pursuing.
- In what ways do you feel loved by God? Reflect on how this empowers you to lead others outdoors.
- What are you most hopeful for this summer for your outdoor ministry?
By: Catherine Banks
Catherine is on staff with WMI and participates in church-based outdoor ministry.