Tips for How to Facilitate Experiential Learning in Outdoor Ministry

Leading others toward personal transformation requires thoughtful facilitation. And facilitation is a learned art. Implementing your desired outcomes and aims requires thinking about how you will facilitate the learning process. It’s one thing to recognize a teachable moment when it occurs, and it’s another thing to make it easy for people to grasp the meaning and pertinence to their own lives. This is especially important in youth and student ministry where learning best occurs through tangible hands-on illustrations. Facilitation is really just a big word that simply means to help or assist others in learning.

The opposite of facilitation is to impede learning. Jesus removed impediments to learning. He did this by helping people grasp the meaning through using familiar analogies in nature as a reference point for learning. Jesus also removed obstructions to learning by speaking in the vernacular language of his region. His intolerance to everything that could hinder understanding caused him to creatively draw upon many figures of speech to evoke response and action from his followers. As you think about leading groups on spiritual journeys in the outdoors, consider how you might better facilitate learning as you ask questions, lead discussions, or initiate dialogue. If you have a hard time knowing how to motivate your group to learn, Jesus provides a tool belt that will make the most average of teachers downright effective. Just imitate what he did.

The method of Jesus’ teaching in the wilderness took a diversity of forms. For example, there were proverbs, metaphors, riddles, paradoxes, ironies, and questions. There were symbolic analogies, overstatements, puns, and poetry. The variety of his expeditionary and verbal teaching techniques is mind-boggling. If you are interested in becoming a better facilitator in the outdoor ministry setting, then I would highly recommend browsing chapter 13 of my book, Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory, and Practice. It analyzes how Jesus masterfully motivated his followers and how he regularly facilitated the learning process in the outdoors.

-by Ashley Denton (some portions are excerpts from Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory, and Practice)

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