Outdoor Ministry: Faith Formation and Sustaining the Church

By Meredith Massey, Program Assistant at Lutherhill Ministries and former Young Adult in Global Mission in Hungary

outdoor ministryThis past Pentecost Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of my confirmation. And this year I contemplated who holds a better understanding of the affirmation and promises I made as a confirmand… my 13-year-old self or my current 23-year-old self?

What exactly does it mean to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?

How, as a 13-year-old, could I have possibly realized the magnitude of the promises I made for myself? How, as a 23-year-old do I live out these promises and intentionally serve all people, seek justice and peace in all the earth? And, in a world where most people my age have no desire to gain similar insight and understanding through the Christian faith, why do I still care? What is it that prompted me to truly claim my faith as my own? What led me to possess a deep and profound ownership of my identity in Christ and member of the church, rather than leaving the church after going through the motions at my parents’ request?

The answer is clear: it is outdoor ministry through summer camp. As a camper for many years, and a counselor during my college years, I experienced the living God in a caring and fun environment that allowed for discernment and growth. Pastor Mary Canniff-Kuhn, Co-Program Director at Camp Lutheridge in Arden, North Carolina, recognizes the impact outdoor ministry leadership has on college-aged students, “Honest relationships, service that requires growth and sacrifice, regular sacramental worship led by people who love you… This combination is powerful and has a lasting impact.”

The reason most college-aged kids apply to be summer camp counselors at outdoor ministry sites all over the nation is because of the transformational experience they had as campers in an outdoor ministry setting.

Here in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, Lutherhill Ministries provides a place for all people, of every generation, to experience the love of Christ in unique settings and new ways. Each year thousands of youth, adults, and families grow in fellowship and community to better understand their identity in Christ. Lutherhill is a place that grows disciples and nurtures those young and old in their faith to question what God is requiring of them. The church will live on because of the growth and faith formation that happens at places like Lutherhill. Take it from Emilie, a 13-year-old who proclaimed this last Pentecost Sunday at her own confirmation,

“I feel God’s presence in community, in seeing others help each other and in friendships. An easy way for me to describe God’s presence is what I see at Lutherhill. Lutherhill was the first time I was around people my age, who openly shared their Christian faith with me. This impacted me because it was the first time I had been around people who were on the same faith journey. We all had similar questions and doubts, yet we could share them and discuss them while maintaining our desire to know God better. Even though the experience left me with a lot of questions, I felt closer to God. I’m not sure yet how God calls me to serve in the world, but I intend to use the gifts I have to love God, serve others, and transform lives.”
–Emilie, 13-year-old confirmand

Lutherhill Ministries and all outdoor ministry sites grow people of faith, cultivate leaders of the church, and provide an environment to experience the living and breathing God. I encourage you to get your friends, your family, and your children involved in the faith formation and community development that occurs in outdoor ministry.

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