Sea Kayaking Adventures | Outdoor Loners vs. Outdoor Leaders

Sea Kayaking in New Zealand with Young Life

Amanda Mahnke’s article in Bryn Mawr-Gladwyne Patch newspaper introduced me to Jon Bowermaster. He is a world-renowned journalist, oceans expert and National Geographic Society explorer. Jon produced the “Oceans 8” collection, which documents his sea kayaking adventures on many of the world’s oceans. Mahnke reports:

Shot over a 10-year period, Oceans 8 not only chronicles Bowermaster’s adventures, but also shares the stories of locals who rely on those ocean waters for their livelihood.

A Difference between Outdoor Leaders & Outdoor Enthusiasts

One of the things Jon said while commenting on the Oceans 8 project resonated with me. It is a profoundly important outdoor ministry maxim: “Kayaks are not my passion: what motivates me is where it gets us to and the people it takes us to…”

Outdoor Loners vs. Outdoor Leaders

As an outdoor leader I feel this way about sea kayaking adventures, rock climbing, back packing, snow boarding, etc…. I love recreation, like sea kayaking adventures, but the main reason why I enjoy them so much is because they provide opportunities to lead others into an experience. It is a privilege to have a front row seat to observe people encountering Jesus through outdoor ministries like sea kayaking adventures. What Jon highlighted makes the difference between an outdoor guru, and an outdoor guide… or what a friend of mine, Dave differentiates between a “Wilderness Loner”, and “Wilderness Leader”.

A Weighty Leadership Maxim for Outdoor Ministry Leaders

In the book, Christian Outdoor Leadership, I reflected on the weighty importance of this leadership principle:

As an outdoor enthusiast, do I love adventure for what I can get out of it, or do I love it because it humbles me and bends me toward getting glory for God? (Denton, 201)

I have observed that the most influential outdoor ministry leaders love the sport not for what they can get out of it. Instead they love outdoor ministry for how it can used as a conduit for connecting more intimately with God, for building community with other friends, and for how it can be a platform to help others experience radical transformation through experiential learning. Now that is genuine outdoor leadership!

If you would like to learn more about how to incorporate sea kayaking adventures into your outdoor ministry, my friend Wayne Dickert has a great blog called Living Waters: Christian Life Applications for Paddle Sport Activities. He provides Biblical experiential learning illustrations that work well with paddle sports.

About the author of this post: Ashley Denton is director of Wilderness Ministry Institute, and author of Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory, and Practice.



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