by Ashley Denton
There is a growing number of people around the world who love introducing people to Jesus through outdoor adventure ministries. Especially youth workers are discovering that outdoor ministry programs are cost-effective and incredibly fruitful for building relationships, presenting the Gospel, and helping young people grow deeper in their faith.
I’m not sure of all the reasons why there are so many small outdoor ministries popping up, but some possible reasons are:
- Some Christian camps are becoming too expensive…
- Young people today are coming from such broken families that small groups are the most effective way to really minister to most kids…
- Youth workers are seeing the ineffectiveness of entertainment-based youth ministries and are looking for ways to offer young people real opportunities to forge a deeper faith through missions, challenge, adventure, etc.
Trends in Outdoor Ministry Point to Opportunities and Concerns
All of these ingredients open the door for more church-based outdoor ministries to pop up in the future. This trend is pointing some incredible opportunities and some concerns. On the opportunity side of the spectrum, this movement will lead to more young people being introduced to Jesus Christ which is incredibly exciting. But on the “concern” side of the spectrum, there is potential for any “Tom, Dick, or Harry” to start-up an outdoor ministry without considering issues of vision, effective longevity, and safety.
Fortunately there is a growing number of camps and organizations who have experience in outdoor ministry. Some organizations, like Wilderness Ministry Institute (WMI) and Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries (SROM) focus on training Christian outdoor leaders in the skills to work for outdoor ministry organizations or develop new outdoor ministries altogether. I have a growing ROP list of Recommended Outdoor Providers if you’d like to take a look.
Sharpening the Focus of your Outdoor Ministry Marketing
In this article I want to emphasize the issue of “effective longevity” by asking 5 questions that might help you sharpen the focus of your outdoor ministry. The overarching principle behind all five of these questions is: Be crystal clear on your desired outcomes. This will help you clarify your motivations and name key goals on which to build your whole program. If the foundation is built of stone, then the house will stand (Matthew 7:23-25).
In the book, Christian Outdoor Leadership, practical and theological tools are presented for identifying the five most typical outdoor ministry outcomes that you can expect from leading others on adventures in the wilderness. This biblical and practical resource helps leaders focus better on how to implement outdoor ministries that work. Once you have a solid grasp of your desired outcomes (i.e. “what transformation I want to see happen in people who participate in my ministry”) then you are ready to think about marketing your ministry to sign people up!
5 Questions that will Focus the SCOPE of your Outdoor Ministry to Make it More Marketable
Recently I was skimming a leadership booklet called, Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Questions by Tony Stoltzfus. It gave me some insight that I’ve adapted into five questions that could help you turn your desires and dreams for an effective outdoor ministry into definitive fruit. For ease of memory, I’ve adapted these questions into an acronym called “SCOPE”.
1. SERVICE: What service will your outdoor ministry offer? What is our ultimate vision or dream for our outdoor ministry?
- What do I/we do better than 90% of other people?
- What are the gifts and talents of our guides?
- How could our outdoor ministry enhance the distinctive attributes of our church?
- What is your specific focus?
2. CORE COMPETENCIES: Why would my target audience want to take part in our outdoor ministry?
- What are they feeling or needing that we are especially equipped to address?
- How does what I have to offer meet the specific needs of my audience?
- What sets me/our ministry apart, or gives us unique credibility?
3. ONLOOKERS: Who is our audience? Who do we want to serve?
- Who might be attracted to what we have to offer? (Youth, adults, small groups, leaders, etc.)
- A friend of mine, Greg (who is the director of the Denver Urban Semester), puts it this way: “Who do I lament for?” In other words, who am I naturally drawn to serve in a more holistic way?
- Who really needs to experience what our ministry has to offer?
4. PITCH: What specifically will we say to our potential participants when we get a chance to tell them about our ministry?
- How will we get the word out to let our audience know that we have a great ministry for them to be a part of?
- How am I going to pursue those who want to participate in our outdoor ministry get them to commit to attending a camp, retreat, etc.?
5. ENVISAGE: What is our master plan for effective longevity?
- Where do I start?
- First steps?
- Action steps I’m going to do now.
- How will I determine what is entailed in a master plan?
- Timeline: When will we be launch-ready?
- Who can mentor me in getting from point A to point Z? A key mentor?
Hopefully this SCOPE list will give you some ideas to improve your outdoor ministry marketing plan so that more people will encounter Christ through the beauty of Creation and through the wonder of Christ-centered community which people will experience through involvement in your outdoor ministry.