This is an excellent book if you are thinking about starting an outdoor ministry in your church. I found it to have really good thoughts and points. I will say that I would have appreciated a little more personal experience from the author along with additional practical thoughts and advice. It is quite heavy on theory and biblical application, maybe a little too heavy. Still, an excellent resource.
Because of my vocational background of leading groups in outdoor adventures--backpacking, river running, rock and mountain climbing, and organized youth camping--I was eager to read Christian Outdoor Leadership by Ashley Denton. Here is a book I wish I had when I began my career many years ago. Denton's lifelong love of the outdoors, his years of experience in wilderness ministry (much of it in the Colorado Rockies), his vast knowledge of the Bible's use of the outdoors, and his ability to articulate in writing the theology, theory, and practice of outdoor leadership, make this a valuable tool.
This book does not teach outdoor living skills such as fire building, packing a backpack, or food preparation. It is about how leaders use the wilderness experience to impact the lives of campers. Denton writes from a Christian perspective for biblically sensitive outdoor educators. However, I believe that even those who are nonreligious, such as those I observed during my experience at the Colorado Outward Bound leadership school, could greatly benefit from the many valid educational principles Denton sets forth.
In his preface, Denton builds a strong case for the importance of getting urban youth into the outdoor setting and, much as Jesus did with his disciples, using nature to teach them valuable life lessons. He shares solid theological, psychological, and educational grounds for why adventure-based learning helps young people.
Denton probably does not intend for this book to be carried in one's backpack. He has skillfully organized many outdoor leadership principles into acronyms for easy transference by the reader to a trail pocket journal. For instance to make your outdoor teaching "stick" use the S+T+IC=K model. Combine Setting & Timing with Intentional Content to tie the Knot of learning. Come to think about it, the book itself could be seen as a backpack full of ideas about how to conduct successful wilderness experiences.
Denton calls for a standard of excellence in the field and invites leaders in churches, organizations, and universities to cast a vision for more experiential approaches to ministry.
Gary K. Fawver Professor of Outdoor Ministries Emeritus George Fox University Newberg, Oregon
"Throughout history, God has used the wilderness as a special place for transformation. The Biblical text indicates that God's strategy for developing mission-focused leaders has often involved transforming wilderness experiences. This is an integral part of God's design for apprenticeship."
As a youth pastor, this book brought leadership and ministry into perspective. It is easy to be bombarded with quick tip books, stacks of summer camp flyers, ads for new and improved bible studies. There is a seemingly endless supply of flashy material that can cloud a ministries direction. Christian Outdoor Leadership brought a renewed sense of vision and focus to our ministry that is replicable, applicable and verifiable. There has been much fruit in our ministries from the easily reproduced principals and strategies that are illustrated in this book.
My wife and I have a passion for the outdoors and we were searching for a way to use the wilderness to help others discover who they are in Christ. After reading Ashley's book it was so apparent to use the world around us as Christ did, in experiential teachings for our students. We have replicated several of Dr. Denton's useful tools for building student leaders and adult leaders in our church and have seen great fruit being produced. It has been amazing to see our High School students learning these same tools and teaching our Jr. High students. Everything from group dynamics to apply Gods word to the world around us, the students were replicating it on their own. We are currently training several more folks from our church and others using this book as a tool to go from the trees and rivers, into the city buildings and streets! It is amazing to see how hearts called in the wilderness, come back to the city, ready to change their World!
This book has been essential to our student ministry and our outdoor ministry. In the front of my bible I have several of the acronyms from this book to help me in my walk following Christ, in order to lead others. This is a must have for anyone with a heart for students, a heart for the outdoors, a heart for missions, and a heart for Christ.
Aaron Banks - Student Director Chapel Hills Church Colorado Springs Colorado Founder YOLO Backcountry. <...>
I know that this book is from the Lord for two reasons: It came around just when I needed it and it is based on an exhaustive study of the scriptures detailing how God uses wilderness experiences in the lives of his people to purify their faith and to transform latent unbelief into an undivided heart for the Lord. Simply put, this book is trust-worthy. As a pastor, that is what I look for.
I have learned from and leaned on this book extensively in developing our Wilderness Passage course. The theology is the bedrock of the book and his teaching on putting it in to practice is the superstructure. This book is a must have for those who are just entering outdoor ministry as well as for those who are seasoned yet would like a deeper biblical understanding of what God is trying to do when He takes His own out in to the wilderness.
Buy it. While you are at it, get one for each of your staff and co-workers. You will not be disappointed.
I bought this book the day it was released, and could not put it down until I was done! To say I agree would be an understatement. I am currently finishing my bachelor's in Adventure Therapy, with a minor in Religion-came back to school at 40 and majored in Theology, but that didn't seem to fit what the Lord was leading me to. I'm currently working with a group of at-risk (some foster) kids, while working as a student pastor, and when I graduate I intend to work full time in the Adventure Therapy industry, with a program specifically designed for the Christian community. I have seen the results of such organizations as Outward Bound, Summit for Someone, and others, such as Richard Louv, who are from the secular community; and wonder what can happen if we include the Lord in our dealings with those at risk-both young and old. Your book inspired me, and made me understand that outdoor leadership is not a checklist, it is a concept-everything is subject to change, and you use what works! Thank-you again for putting your experience in print!
My husband loves the outdoors and has been throwing around the idea of a ministry for kids that will get them out shooting and enjoying God's creation, rather than being in the street! He hasn't read all of this yet but, what he has read he said was very good!
Christian Outdoor Leadership was inspirational! This book made my top ten list after only a few minutes into it. If you've ever been on a hike that involved heart-to-heart talks between hikers as they traversed along a day's trail, then reading this book is a lot like walking behind Dr. Ashley Denton and listening to him integrate the beauty and power of the backcountry with the joy and challenge of following Christ in today's world. I loved the way he keeps pointing the reader to Jesus and how Jesus used outdoor experiences to speak truths to hungry souls. Whether you're in ministry as a Christian leader or just drawn to outdoor experiences that bring you closer to God, this book is foundational. You can read it from cover to cover, or browse the table of contents and pick your way through to your heart's content. I will always have a copy of this book in my library and recommend it without hesitation.
As I think back through this book the image that I get is of duct tape. On any wilderness adventure you want to pack light and carry good multipurpose tool that can handle any job thrown at it. Duct tape is sticky and will adhere to almost anything making it very useful in many situations. You can repair a tent, a pack, a shoe. You can write on it and even use it to play a game. Duct tape will do it all. This book is theological and can be used to propositionally defend and promote wilderness journey. It also points to the bible as an experiential book. God did not lay down a bunch of laws. God interacted with us and even sent his Son as the example to follow. Relationship is more important than knowledge alone. This book is also practical and can be used by the novice and professional to become better skilled at creating an environment that will stick to participant's minds and hearts in a way that is relational and experiential.
As an avid back packer who has taken around 20 groups into the back country, I found,through reading this book, that there was so much more possible in terms of evangelism, leadership development and evangelism. The analysis of the disciples and Jesus teaching methods in this book make it great for every person who wants to communicate the gospel and influence young and old alike. I am going to teach a class at the local Bible College with this book as the main text book. I am looking forward to many more years of taking young people into the backcountry with more enthusiasm and more tools. Thanks for this book.
An extremely well written and well thought-out book. Dr. Denton has done a masterful job of revealing that Jesus truly loved his outdoor ministry. This book should be required reading for all aspiring Christian outdoor leaders. An aspect of this book I find especially helpful is the numerous references to scripture that are laced throughout the book, enabling the reader to better grasp the teachings of Jesus and further illuminate the points that Dr. Denton is attempting to make with the reader. This book is well worth a third and a fourth read.