Outdoor Crisis’ & Decision Making Fosters Unity in Diverse Communities

by | Decision Making, Group Dynamics, Outdoor Leadership Training Tips (Blog Series), Rapid Decision Making

I’m thankful to Ryan Kerrigan for his recent guest post. What a great story about how the wilderness is a place that naturally brings about crisis’ that challenge group dynamics and can help us learn good decision making!

I think we all can point to specific moments in the outdoors where we faced adversity and experienced growth through good decision making. For me, a significant one was where I was alone for 12 days on Mt. Aconcagua, sick, scared, exhilarated – and with a palpably strong sense of God’s presence.  I’ve also been able to see experiences like this take place for teens through The Bower Adventure Course (BAC), a one-of-a-kind immersive outdoor leadership and discipleship program offered by Peak 7 Adventures. Last year we worked with partner organizations, friends and families to find eight teenagers who really needed a course like this and who were also in a good place to be able to grow spiritually and as leaders. Through several crisis’ and decision making scenarios, the group was deeply transformed.


The eight young men came from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some came from broken families. Some came from drug abuse. One young man had recently emigrated from Burundi. But some, too, came from good families with strong Christian values – it was an incredibly diverse group. Would we be able to survive together in the mountains? Our lead guide, Kevin, wasn’t sure at first. As he prepared for the summer and worked on Bible studies and discussion topics, some key verses and themes began to emerge, which he hoped would bring together this disparate group. As central verses, he chose Philippians 2:3-16 and Psalm 133. At the beginning of the summer, Kevin guided the students through discussions on these verses and encouraged them to begin memorizing and internalizing them. At the same time, the students took wilderness medicine training, climbing training and learned about gear for the outdoors.

Outdoor Crisis' & Decision Making Fosters Unity in Diverse Communities

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

RELATED POST: How You can Experience True Family in Temporary Community


The first real group crisis came on Day 6 of our 10-day thru-hike of the Olympic Peninsula. We had set the goal of summiting Anderson Peak by the once-standard Flypaper Pass route, but when the glacial basin came into view we discovered that the glacier had melted dramatically since the last time route beta had been published. The students and guide were forced into a great decision making scenario. They concluded that we didn’t have the equipment to try another viable but very exposed route, so the group turned around and headed back to camp to pack up and leave.

After we trekked out, tempers grew raw and soon the students were snapping at each other in irritation. The words that were being used had the potential to be very harmful to our group and it was still early in the summer. So Kevin had the group sit down on a cold, windy pass and reflect on the verses that they had been so excited about a week earlier – In humility, value others more highly than yourself. How good and pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity!

RELATED POST: 3 Ways to Prepare for the Most Common Crisis’ in Wilderness Leadership


As the students and their guide sat there shivering, something wonderful started to happen amongst them – repentance. Apologies were made, regrets were shared and forgiveness was offered. On that pass, God was present to those students through his Word. The rest of the summer included amazing moments of climbing at Smith Rock State Park, mountaineering at Eldorado Peak in the North Cascades, rafting the Wenatchee and Deschutes rivers and serving at a local Christian kid’s camp. There were many bumpy times after that, but no one in the group forgot what it was like to ask for and receive forgiveness so that they could be brothers living together in unity. One of the incredible things about wilderness experiences is that they challenge participants through a variety of crisis’ and they also bring growth opportunities to guides as we are faced with decision making scenarios that cause us to lean on Jesus and be attentive to the needs of the group.

Guest post by Ryan Kerrigan

Ryan is the founder and Executive Director of Peak 7 Adventures. Peak 7 Adventures started eleven years ago to help all kinds of people, especially young people, to have access to these kinds of experiences.  To date they have taken some 24,000 kids and adults into the outdoors who wouldn’t have had the chance to go otherwise. The BAC (named in honor of  a former guide who passed away prematurely in 2015)  will be back and better than ever in Summer 2017, now with parallel girls and guys trips to help both young women and young men to grow spiritually and as leaders. If you know of a young person who would benefit from a course like this, take a look at www.Peak7.org/BAC

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