Outdoor Leadership Ministries at John Brown University aims to fuse recreational activities with Christian ministry.
The major is taught at the University with the goal of equipping students for any path they choose to take in the outdoor industry.
“A lot of people think that outdoor leadership ministries is majoring in camp,” sophomore Emily Tumilty said. “It can be, but really, it’s anything you make of it in the sense of how this major will prepare you to have a job in the outdoor ministry.”
The major covers areas of outdoor activities and vocational service. Fittingly, it includes classes from the youth ministries major as well as its own specialized classes.
“Basically, it’s equipping us with the right tools to utilize the outdoors in order to share the gospel,” sophomore Carrie Lane said.
As part of their studies, students are required to do physically demanding team-building activities for the purpose of learning how to react well under certain conditions.
Senior Matt Hardwick said that a stressful environment is sometimes what they aim for. “That’s why people go hiking out in the woods, because it creates a high-stress environment if you set up the circumstances the right way,” Hardwick said. “Then you can talk about how you reacted to that.”
The major also uses athletic activities to build teamwork. Tumilty experienced this firsthand last summer when she led backpacking and rock climbing trips.
“There’s lots of things you can do,” she said. “Backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking and even leading teambuilding activities can build camaraderie.”
“Really any sport can be used to build teams,” Lane said. “I like having campers make up their own sport and play it so it’s theirs and they can bond through it.”
As a result of such training, students also become certified in areas of outdoor expertise before graduation. Hardwick specifically mentioned the Ropes Course and Wilderness First Responder certifications, which are necessary for obtaining the degree.
“You can also get some fun ones like river kayaking and sea canoeing,” Tumilty said. “Those are just some very logistical trainings that you’ll get and have the opportunity to use because of the major.”
The activities offer specific opportunities to minister to others. Even though senior Josh Campbell is not an outdoor leadership ministries major, he notices such instances in his job as ropes course technician at New Life Ranch.
“My job is all about getting kids out of their comfort zone and getting them to do things that they’re not used to doing,” Campbell said. “Through that, it pushes them in a way that they’re not used to. You get to share with them and say, ‘Hey, even though this is scary and you’re not used to this, the Lord has got you through it. Just like this rope is going to hold you if you fall, the Lord will as well.’”
At the end of the day, the major recognizes and fully utilizes the outdoors as a vessel to glorify God. As Tumilty said, “The outdoors is a way to experience sportsmanship and teamwork.”