I have led youth ministries for over 22 years and have trained youth workers from over 30 countries. I am more convinced than ever that there are specific and compelling reasons why churches today should double their efforts to get young people out into the wilderness. I recently wrote the book, Christian Outdoor Leadership as a tool to help youth pastors and leaders see the importance and value of outdoor pursuits with young people. Sky Ranch Ute Trail is leading the way, setting a model example for how camps can link arms with local churches to help more young people encounter Jesus in a meaningful way in the wilderness. Sky Ranch has been leading youth groups in the wilderness safely and effectively for a long time, and for that reason I am recommending churches take a look at what they have to offer.
Sky Ranch’s WILDERNESS program is a classic backpacking trip with 6 days and 5 nights on trail that results in a lifetime of impact for youth groups. I have experimented with all sorts of models and I believe the week-long expedition model that Sky Ranch uses is the most effective for small groups.
DIFFERENT FROM SHORT TERM MISSION TRIPS OR TYPICAL CHURCH CAMPS
Different from Mission Trips or Church Camps, Sky Ranch WILDERNESS offers:
- The ability to spend focused, intentional time together as a group
- A retreat from the distractions of our over-connected lives (or 100% creation, 0% distractions)
- The sharing of Life Stories, where masks come off, facades drop and everyone gets real
- Deeper relationships – with Jesus and with each other
- More trust built within the group – carrying each others’ burdens physically translates into also doing so emotionally
- The opportunity to be more like Jesus – Jesus had a rhythm of retreat in His ministry, using the outdoors for renewal, teaching, trials, and trust-building (paraphrased from your book)
7 REASONS YOUTH PASTORS SHOULD CONSIDER A WILDERNESS TRIP
As a fellow pastor, I want to share 7 reasons why I believe youth pastors who want to be on the cutting edge of reaching the culture will prioritize wilderness trips with their youth:
1. In our ‘over-connected’ world, there is a great need to escape to the wilderness – to places where God’s creation is clearly evident and unscathed, and He can get our attention.
2. God’s creation of the wilderness offers unprecedented beauty and perspective.
3. Combatting busyness with more programs is not going to transform the souls of people. Developing Jesus’ rhythm of retreat will.
4. Experiential learning offers natural decision-making scenarios that teach young people how to avoid trivial emotional distractions that can consume them. Wilderness journeys draw out the best in people by confronting their fears and exposing the traps of entitlement. The wilderness helps sever the entanglements that strangle away God’s epoch vision for our lives.
5. When the stakes were high, the Wilderness was one of God’s favorite instruments to make sure that permanent community transformation took place.
6. Jesus chose a group of young people to turn the world upside down, he used the wilderness as his primary classroom, and he employed adventure to produce radical commitment toward his mission.
7. If Jesus chose the wilderness as a favorite setting to shape his disciples into dynamic leaders, then is it not equally critical in our increasingly urban world for young people to encounter Him through wilderness adventure?
SKY RANCH MAKES IT REALLY EASY FOR YOUTH PASTORS TO BRING THEIR GROUP
All you have to do is show up (with the right clothing, from a list Sky Ranch provides) and then be prepared for a life-transforming adventure. As one of my Recommended Outdoor Ministry Programs, I highly recommend you check out Sky Ranch!