I’m not saying all of this to make anyone leading outdoor ministries feel bad or defensive. Think of it this way. What do you have to lose by stepping back for a minute and assuming that your service or outdoor ministry approach is bad? It won’t hurt you to do this exercise and I guarantee it will force you to improve something. This is one of the valuable lessons ministries can learn from business leaders… they know that they have to assume their service is bad to force improvement.
NEVER STOP IMPROVING
Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus… (Luke 1:3)
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)
Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. (2 Corinthians 3:5)
I’m convinced that way too many of us believe our own press (I include myself at the top of the list) and need regular reminders such as these passages from Luke and Paul. By assuming the quality of our outdoor ministry programs are average at best, we open the door to start improving. Here are three steps to get started:
STEP 1 | ADMIT YOUR PROGRAM IS PROBABLY AVERAGE AT BEST
In reality, the odds are that your outdoor ministry program is average at best. The first step toward quantum improvement in the way you conduct your outdoor ministry is to assume that your service is poor. Then you can think outside of the box to overhaul aspects of your outdoor ministry program that need an extreme makeover.
STEP 2 | LEARN FROM OTHER OUTDOOR PROGRAMS
In ministry we don’t “compete” with one another, but we for sure need to learn from one another. Start looking around at other outdoor ministries to see what they do and how they do it. Get on Twitter and Facebook to find other outdoor ministries. Inquire and see other programs with the goal of learning something and improving the quality of your own organization. One of the reasons I’ve put together my Recommended Outdoor Programs (ROP) list is to offer a platform for comparison and learning from a variety of other like-minded outdoor programs.
STEP 3 | DON’T BELIEVE YOUR OWN PRESS ANYMORE
When you start hearing yourself tout your program as the “best” one around, beware, you are probably becoming irrelevant. If you hear your staff, guides, volunteers, etc. ever start talking about how excellent your program is, take note of this and go 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Remind yourself that you are probably still average in a bunch of areas of your ministry and start focusing on improvement and not celebrating how great you are. That’s a sure way to kill your program over time.
- Be honest and give your outdoor program a grade (1 being highest and 10 being lowest) in the following areas:
- Content: Teaching Biblical content experientially in the context of outdoor adventure.
- Guide Training: Confidence and competence in a variety of interpersonal (soft skills), and technical (hard skills).
- Administration & logistics: planning, marketing, recruiting, and administering outdoor ministry programs.
- Dream a little: If you stepped back and assumed that your program was average at best, how would this help your program improve?
- Start learning again. Visit my ROP list to learn from other programs, find other like-minded ministries on Facebook, get on Twitter and start learning from what other like-minded ministries are tweeting about… there’s a lot of good chatter out there but most outdoor organizations and colleges that offer outdoor leadership are still deaf to it because they are too busy believing their own press.
- If you truly do believe your program is on the top shelf and probably is one of the best programs around, then start blogging and tweeting your wisdom and best practices. Unless you share what has made you excel, you’ll start becoming irrelevant before you know it.