Casting a New Vision for Outdoor Ministry

“Outdoor ministry… provides a unique and essential context for faith development, spiritual exploration, and personal growth. Outdoor ministry programs provide varied opportunities for people of all ages to encounter the sacred by connecting with both the natural world and a community of people. By creating spaces that interrupt the routines of daily life and invite people to experience a balance of rest, play, learning, reflection, connection, and solitude, outdoor ministry programs can be transformative and life-giving experiences for individuals, families, and communities. These programs have the potential to strengthen the ministry of the Church by developing, nurturing, and sustaining leaders and creating a strong web of relationships throughout the wider Church.”

The above words are from the opening paragraph of the document, “An Emerging Vision for Outdoor Ministries in the Minnesota Conference UCC,” that was shared during the spring of 2019 as part of the series of Conference Conversations and the broader discernment process about the future of outdoor ministry in the Conference.

We continue to work toward articulating a bold new vision for outdoor ministry and exploring of new models and program opportunities. We are bringing together people from around the Conference, who represent the wide diversity of interests, perspectives and experiences of our congregations and their members, to help us dream and plan for the future.

The Conference Faith Formation Team joined this work during the fall of 2019. Members of the team were asked to help refine the vision and purpose statements for outdoor ministry. They diligently worked to clarify the role of outdoor ministry as key context for faith formation for all ages. The team also wrestled with big ideas for the future, including how outdoor ministry can become a primary nexus for people of all ages to explore eco-spirituality and eco-theology and to engage the work of environmental justice and advocacy.

We are now at a place to widen the conversation. In February and March 2020, a work group will meet to articulate a clear vision and purpose statement for outdoor ministry and to draft the priorities, strategies and goals that will guide our work for the next three to five years. The group will include Conference staff, representatives from the Faith Formation Team, individuals who served on the Pilgrim Point Camp Committee, and folks from around the Conference. The proposed vision and model for ministry will be presented to the Conference Board of Directors at their meeting in May 2020.

We are looking for a few additional people to be part of the visioning work group. If you are interested in joining this generative conversation, please contact Rev. Kevin Brown via email.

To help inform the work group conversations about the vision, priorities, and goals for outdoor ministry, we need to hear from you. In next week’s COMMAntary, you will find a link to a survey with questions about your previous experiences with outdoor ministry programs and your hopes for the future. The survey will be open from February 5 – February 19. Please take a few moments to complete the survey and share your experiences and perspectives with us. Also, please share the survey link widely within your network of connection. We need to hear from as many people as possible in order to develop a relevant, vibrant and sustainable model for outdoor ministry.

Please look in future issues of COMMA for more information regarding the future of the Conference’s outdoor ministry programs. And please hold in your prayer the visioning work group, Conference staff, Board of Directors and all those working to articulate a bold new vision for outdoor ministry in the Minnesota Conference UCC.

As the Wind of the Spirit moves us forward into new spaces, may we be reminded of our connection to all creation. Let us travel together through this season of change and possibility with open hearts and souls reaching for the stars, firmly grounded in the sacred earth that surrounds us.

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