Thursday, September 27, 2012

Outdoor Leadership


I really believe that the future of outdoor leadership is brighter than ever. Young people especially are interested in meaningful interactions with people, they are concerned about the environment, and they are in desperate need of opportunities to gain leadership skills through experiential learning. Businesses are finding it harder and harder to find people with excellent work ethic, and know how to work well with other people. Outdoor leadership shapes leaders and gives novices ample experiences reach challenging goals through teamwork.


The need for small group camps and retreats has never been greater due to the break down of family and the need for establishing an ecology of trust among individuals and groups. Our game-bingeing, texting, web-surfing culture enjoys the benefits of information sharing, but it is entering a famine of truly meaningful relationships.

With the marriage and family carnage in our culture growing exponentially, young people especially are not growing up experiencing the normalcy of trust. Nor are they learning the social skills and graces that earlier generations took for granted. The consequences of this will be more and more fractured neighborhoods, cities, workplaces, and even churches. The bright beacon of hope, though, is that although our society is crumbling at its foundations (marriage and family), and although our institutions tearing apart at the seams (schools, etc.), the church will always have the answer to our greatest societal ills when the world is ready to listen: The answer is the Gospel of Jesus.


Unfortunately, history tells us that the church is often a bit slow to adapt (link to blog post on adaptation) to social changes. Take Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s criticism of the state church during the rise of Nazi Germany, for example. Things became really grim when the church turned its head. I for one believe that the signs are becoming clear that our younger generation is trying to find its way without the help of good leaders. The church must take the lead. The same ancient problems that are rooted in sin and pride must be addressed with new methods and approaches that capture young people’s attention.

We must give them compelling vision to break the chains of hopelessness they feel from profound parental neglect and a the long spiral of social degradation caused by entitlement programs and the spineless, leaderless vacuum we have seen from leadership at the highest levels in our society. To radically overcome what many call “unsolvable problems” like social security, Medicaid, and our national debt, etc., we need biblically minded leaders who will call a spade a spade and boldly lead where no one else is willing to go. The problems that overwhelm young people today as they look through the fog toward their future are only “unsolvable” if we continue to have leaders who have no resolve, and no moral compass to tell them the difference between right and wrong.

RELATED POST: 6 Ways that Studying God (Theology) Outdoors Leads us to God Himself

Christian outdoor leadership is a subversive way to “show” and “demonstrate” how with a little effort, some basic skills, and a supportive team-like community, even the most intense problems can be overcome. Even the most profound crisis can be conquered, and even when peril abounds, we can prevail with proper leadership.

There are already around 20 Christian colleges and universities that offer outdoor leadership, and dozens more secular universities that have training for careers in this field. And even Harvard Business Review published an article in 2012 about the merits ofWilderness Leadership and how it prepares people for successful careers in business. The world is catching on… and my hope is that Christians who have a heart for Jesus, the outdoors, and adventure will be able to creatively pursue jobs and volunteer opportunities in this growing field so that Christ is put on display in every corner of this field."

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