Camping | A Doorway Into Men’s Hearts
Gunfire erupted on the edge of the canyon like thunder, followed by exclamations, “wow” “nice shot,” and laughter. No, it wasn’t a gun club, just a bunch of guys from the men’s ministry in our church on our first Bibles and Bullets camp out.
For years I had done solo camping in my 4wd pop-up camper while climbing Colorado’s fourteeners. That’s peaks over 14,000 ft, 54 of them, which I finished up several years ago. Being a pastor, my camping was primarily a get away retreat, with lots of Bible, prayer, reading and hiking. Because I gained so much from it in spiritual enrichment, I invited another guy to go with me on a few camp outs. That added a discipleship to our men’s ministry.
Men Need a Place for Real, Honest Conversation. The Outdoors Naturally Invites Men to Drop their Masks
Conversations on the trail and around the campfire got us to a depth of life discussion that’s rare for guys. I shared my routine of Bible and Christian book reading in the morning, hiking in the afternoon with relevant conversation sprinkled in around the campfire. The remote location was conducive to digging into life and theological issues.
So, I decided to invite ten guys, along with the original guy, to see how it worked. We traveled a couple of hours from home to the rugged high desert of Western Colorado. I had discovered this campsite several years before and it presented a dazzling view across the multi-colored canyon near some sandstone goblins. These are formations that resemble robed figures, standing stark against the background. The guys were awed with the setting.
Taking a Risk With Some Men Paid Off
We set up our camps, some guys in tents, some campers, some threw sleeping bags on the ground in the late spring afternoon. Everyone was ‘self-contained,’ bringing everything they needed including camping gear, food, Bible, etc. While I enjoyed recreational shooting and had several guns, I didn’t know how it would play out with a group of guys. But when the first gun was pulled out, almost everyone brought out his weapon. Although the guys didn’t know each other very well, talking while plinking into the canyon broke the ice.
Later that evening, after dinner, I gathered the guys around the campfire on the canyon rim. I played some worship music on my CD player and instructed the guys to get comfortable and contemplate God’s presence as we gazed on the canyon in the setting sun. There’s no way to adequately describe that view at that time of day, brilliant, eye-popping, just awe-inspiring!
The Open Sky Invites Realness
After maybe a half hour of silence we transitioned into campfire conversation as each guy introduced himself by giving some background, where he grew up, family life, spiritual experiences and condition. I was amazed at how moving it was for all of us to hear these guys expressing themselves, authentically and deeply, some were moved to tears.
After a good night’s sleep and breakfast we reconvened around the campfire to read and discuss Luke, chapter 4. Then I instructed the guys to go off by themselves, meditate on the passage and pray. An hour and a half later they returned and we shared our insights. Some guys told about struggles they were experiencing and we worked through a few, looking for God’s way through the tangles.
After lunch we strapped on our packs for an afternoon hike. Guys marveled at the landscape and some struggled with the difficulty, but we bonded on the trail. Different guys would hike together for a while, reflecting on what they’d read and what had been said that morning. Guys found allies in the challenging agenda of being men, husbands, dads and sons. These relationships carried back to church and daily life.
This is Only One of Hundreds of Stories Just Like It. Why Not Start Using Outdoor Adventure In Your Church’s Men’s Ministry?
Since that time I’ve taken hundreds of guys on overnight and extended campouts where Bibles and Bullets became an integral part of our church’s men’s discipleship ministry.
• What do you think would happened if your Men’s Ministry in your church started using camping and outdoor recreation as a way to get guys to open up and take more ownership of community?
• What types of outdoor activities do men in your church like to do? Fishing? Hunting? Backpacking? Water Skiing? Sea Kayaking? Mountain Climbing?
• What is one simple step you can take to organize a weekend or several day outing this year?
Doug Self, pastor of The Orchard in Carbondale, Colorado for 22 years. Married to Rebecca, three kids in their thirties, all married and one grand-daughter, with a grand son on the way! Grew up in New Mexico with an outdoorsy family, hunting and fishing. Have loved Colorado’s outdoor sports, fly fishing, skiing, down hill and cross-country, backpacking, camping, hiking and climbing. He’s climbed all 54 of Colorado’s peaks over 14,000 ft. You can reach him on Facebook.