SROM Blog: Wilderness, Ministry, Leadership
December 13th, 2018
December 6th, 2018
Are you looking for an opportunity to grow as a leader, gain professional outdoor skills, and go deeper as a Disciple of Christ? Then you should take a look at SROM’s Rocky Mountain Outdoor Semester for the fall 2019 semester.
This can be a life-changing experience for you – as well as give you up to 21 college credits!
Rocky Mountain Outdoor Semester 2019
Experiential Education at Its Finest
The Rocky Mountain Outdoor Semester is SROM’s 96-day outdoor education and wilderness leadership course. This robust learning experience takes place in the context of God’s creation while you earn academic credit from accredited colleges, universities and seminaries.
Your “classroom” will include some of God’s most beautiful creation in Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.
The course is designed to be a transformational college semester or Gap semester. It includes 5 programming sections that focus on integrating and developing the core course components of every SROM expedition:
- Spiritual transformation
- Authentic community
- Leadership development
- Character formation
- Skill acquisition
The Rocky Mountain Outdoor Semester will focus on developing your heart, mind and body using the wilderness and wilderness programming. Activities like backpacking and rock climbing provide hands-on opportunities for development in discipleship, leadership and academics…and work towards your professional degree.
SROM has partnered with Family of Faith Christian University (FFCU) and All Nations College to create the new BA of Church Ministry program with a Wilderness Emphasis. You can earn 21 credit hours for the entire Rocky Mountain semester with SROM and FFCU.
Financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available through Family of Faith Christian University.
Contact email@example.com for more information about academic credit and financial assistance.
But don’t wait! Registration for the fall 2019 semester closes May 15!
November 29th, 2018
November 22nd, 2018
November 15th, 2018
By: Jacob Chmielowiec
How hard can it be?
Can’t be that hard to find a sleeping bag right? You just choose a temperature rating that will get you through your backpacking season and pick something within your budget. Seems easy! Well, not quite. A sleeping bag is fairly simple technology but understanding how to get the right bag can be complicated. It can even be hard to know what you want until you know what is available.
The first problem is that some manufacturers rate their sleeping bags using different criteria. They are motivated to offer the warmest and lightest bag possible for the money. Some choose to rate their bag in a way that supports their marketing efforts. Due to these problems standards have been introduced but are not yet universally accepted.
What’s the Standard?
The first standard, EN 13537, was introduced in 2005 and specifies how to test and rate sleeping bags. In 2017, ISO 23537 replaced EN 13537 and further refined the requirements. Some large retailers like REI have chosen to enforce this by only selling bags tested according to these standards. This is good news! It is easier than ever to find an EN 13537 / ISO 23537 sleeping bag at your local outfitter. Selecting a bag with an EN 13537 / ISO 23537 rating ensures the bag meets industry standards for warmth.
In the EN 13537 / ISO 23537 rating there are 3 ranges:
Example if a sleeping bag rating is 0 Degrees F/-17 Degrees C, it’s lower limit is -5 Degrees F and it’s comfort rating is 9.5 Degrees F.
- Above the highest, or “comfort”, temperature is the range where most women will be comfortable. Like in our example, this would be 9.5 Degrees F.
- From the “comfort” to the middle number is the “transition”or “limit” range they expect most men to begin getting cold. In our example, this would be 0 Degrees F or the promoted temperature rating.
- The “extreme,” “risk,” or “survival” range extends down to the lowest number. In this range the occupant will likely be actively fighting the cold, shivering, and may be susceptible to hypothermia but will probably survive. Below this range you are in serious trouble.
When shopping for your sleeping bag it is helpful to know how warm or cold you sleep. As a starting point men tend to sleep warmer than women. A warm sleeper may be comfortable at the “transition” or “limit” temperature where a cold sleeper may feel chilled near the “comfort” temperature. Your shelter and sleeping pad will also influence how warm you sleep. If you get cold easily you are likely a cold sleeper.
Research the nighttime lows in the area you plan to explore. If you plan to be out on an extended trip prepare for weather that is colder than average. It is easy to cancel a weekend trip when the weather turns but if you are deep in the wilderness you will want the extra warmth to stay safe and comfortable when nearing record lows. You should be able to buy a bag with the “comfort” rating at or below these temperatures. If you are a warm sleeper you may be able to get a lighter, less warm, bag.
Great! So I’m ready to buy a sleeping bag right? Not quite yet. There are a few more considerations.
Now that you know the temperature range you need to be comfortable for your trip you need to decide what size, shape, fill, and features you need. The one most people talk about is fill. Fill is what provides the insulating properties of the bag. There are two main camps: down and synthetic.
Down vs Synthetic Fill
Synthetic fibers are heavier, less durable, and less compressible, a highly compressible sleeping bag packs smaller. Down on the other hand is lightweight, compressible, and durable. That seems obvious enough down is better right? Well, down also has some disadvantages. First, it tends to be more expensive, and second when down gets wet it no longer insulates at all. Conversely synthetic bags preserve much more of their insulating properties when wet. With this in mind the ideal sleeping bag is the one that matches the environment.
Backpacking in the coastal ranges of pacific northwest you may want a synthetic bag due to high humidity and frequent rain. Backpacking in high desert of Wyoming a down bag is more appropriate. Synthetic insulation is rapidly improving and some of the new bags are getting fairly close to the performance of down . A high end synthetic 20℉ sleeping bag will be around $200-$300. An equally warm high end down bag may be as much as $500 or more but will be lighter and smaller to carry.
There are cheaper options and prices of down sleeping bags generally correlates with the fill power of the down. Higher fill power down will be warmer per ounce of fill and more expensive. A high end 850 fill power sleeping bag will be lighter and smaller packing than a standard 650 fill power bag of equal warmth and size. I personally find the high fill power bags to also be more comfortable.
Sleeping bags come in sizes? Why yes they do! Length and girth vary within and between models.
Generally it makes sense to buy the smallest bag you fit in but some people prefer having extra room to move around in their bag. For winter camping it is nice to have extra room to keep clothing, water, boot liners, etc. warm for the morning. Smaller form fitting bags will be lighter but also may restrict your movement. Find what is comfortable for you. There is always a trade between pack weight and in camp comfort.
Some bags will also have features such as a phone or watch pocket to keep your alarm near you during the night and others allow two bags to be zipped together. Women’s bags tend to be a little warmer at the feet and are wider at the hips. Many cold weather bags have additional features to prevent cold air from leaking into your bag and most cold weather bags, as well as some summer bags, have waterproof, or highly water resistant, shells to protect the insulation from moisture.
Can I buy a sleeping bag now? Yes, go! Frolic to your favorite outfitter and examine some of the bags that may meet your needs!
- Is it warm enough?
- Is it EN / ISO rated? If not, am I still confidant it is warm enough?
- Does it have enough room?
- Will it take up too much room in my pack?
- Does down or synthetic make more sense in my area?
- Can I afford it?
- Does it have the features I need?
You may not find the perfect bag but it should be easy to find one that will work. Everybody would likely love the $500 sleeping bags but most of us can get a good bag for less than $200.
Is the lightweight and extra features worth the money? That is completely up to you, but as someone who spends a lot of time in a tent, my sleeping bag is one of my most important pieces of gear. My bag is extremely lightweight yet warm. This allows me to carry extra equipment, like a heavy camera while maintaining a reasonable pack weight.
Alternatives and oddities: There are now options on the market that differ from traditional sleeping bags. There are some with no hood to save weight. Some have no insulation on the back of the bag but allow a sleeping pad to be inserted. Some people prefer to use a lightweight quilt instead of a sleeping bag. For most people a standard bag is the best bet, but all of these are viable options in their own right.
November 1st, 2018
By: Audrey Stelzer
Will you try something with me for a moment? Will you, please? It won’t take long!
As you read this paragraph imagine what my words are describing.
You are laying down in a field of grass on the most perfect day. The sun is shining on your face as you breathe in the smell of flowers and hear the bees happily buzzing around. There is a stream bubbling in the distance and the leaves are dancing ever so slightly in the breeze. You let out a big stretch and settle back into the soft, pillow-like grass…
- What, if any, memories did that bring back for you?
- What is “perfect weather” for you?
- How did your senses react when imagining these things?
Now, try this:
It is fall, what are the correct answers:
|You are laying down on
|What animals are flying by
|The sky is
- Partly cloudy
- Partly sunny
Thanks for participating! There was a pretty big difference, huh? I dramatized it a bit, but these are contrasting examples of how people are being taught. The first is Experiential Education (EE), and the second is a traditional classroom style. There is much to say about both, but today I want to introduce you to what experiential education is, and its benefits.
The Association of Experiential Education describes both the process and definition of Experiential Education:
Challenge and Experience followed by Reflection leading to Learning and Growth
A philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities.
The process and definition sound great, but how does it actually work? To understand this, we first need to understand how the brain learns. The brain is constantly acquiring information. In order for it to remain functioning it immediately wants to dismiss or store that information. Initially, the brain will put all information worth storing in its “short-term” memory. Neuroscientists have determined three main factors that aid in acquiring information from “short-term” to “long-term”. These factors include: urgency, repetition, and the most influential, association.
Let’s briefly visit each of these factors:
Urgency– This can be when you are fully immersed in a task that is time sensitive. Looking back on this task, you will remember the feelings, general information, and who was involved. Example: You are writing your final paper at 11:53pm… and it is due at 12:01am.
Repetition– Doing something over and over. Practicing a skill, doing a science experiment multiple times, reading a poem to memorize it.
Association– Moments that you can recall that have informed your decisions of today. Ex: Placing your hand on a hot burner for the first time.
So how does Experiential Education fit in with all of this? Good question! Experiential Education engages all of these factors to get someone to truly learn new information. For example, in my first paragraph I used association to call on experiences you are likely familiar with, and combined it with a new experience I was facilitating. Then, after, I asked questions so that you could provide words to this new experience. I could then use repetition by having someone else read the paragraph to you, and then you do it for someone else, and then you re-read it, so that repetition is happening through different experiences! Urgency? Say whoever recited the visualization first would get $100.
The traditional side of things requires very little engagement with all three factors, and very little depth within the factor it is touching on. Let’s take the third question from above:
It is fall, what are the correct answers:
You are laying down in
This calls upon your experience of fall, so association. Great! But… this question implies that everyone has the same experience of fall. Yet, someone in Florida will have a different fall experience than those in Michigan or inner city New York. One of these options has to be right though… right? The experiential visualization is not perfect, but it does allow for questions, it enables others to teach others about their fall experience, and to discuss a new experience.
Overall, Experiential Education is making a new wave. More and more studies are suggesting that the brain learns best through facilitated experience and reflection, and that a lecture with note taking is not benefiting the learner in a significant way. Experiential Education is opening up new doors for creativity, teamwork, long term recollection, communication within an era of technology, and increasing overall levels of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. So why is this important to an outdoor company like Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries (SROM)?
Here at SROM we take experiential education seriously. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” If we do not experience him through the senses He has given us, if we do not taste and see Him, if we do not educate ourselves in more than just reading and religious regulations, how will we know and experience the refuge of God? We must have a personal relationship with the Lord that welcomes the experiences He wants to give us to learn and grow. So, at SROM, we strive to do just that on our courses.Throughout course, we provide facilitated experiential education with pointed debriefs to keep our courses open to God and His movement. Experiences, with God at the center, change lives.
Folks, this is only the surface of experiential education. There are so many resources- articles, books, videos, even classes to dive further into! I encourage you to continue to learn about this amazing teaching method and apply it in a Christ-centered way to your friends, families, and communities. Who knows, maybe next time the sun is on your face, you hear happy bees, or are laying in a soft, pillow-like grass, you’ll think of the power of experience and remember to share it with others.
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
October 25th, 2018
By: Audrey Stelzer
It is time to bring up the very real and pressing issue of the lack of Crocs in the backcountry. I ask, as a concerned outdoor woman, where have they gone? I realize that some outdoor industries will not allow traditional crocs in the backcountry due to the shoe having holes, and a loose hold around the foot while doing river crossings. Yet, I can only assume they do not know about the large variety of Crocs available! Shoes like the Swiftwater Cross-Strap, Offroad Sport Clog, LiteRide Lace, or LiteRide Pacer are perfect camp shoes after a long day backpacking, crushing at the craig, coming off the whitewater, coming down from a backcountry ski (Blitzen clogs or the Shearling Boot are good for this), or crossing a river while hiking. There are good Croc options for students in professional industries, and for an everyday outdoorsmen!
Crocs dry quickly, protect your feet, are light, have comfort soles, can be adjusted, have a backstrap (I call it the adventure strap), float, are nearly indestructible (my dog chews on them daily), and, contrary to common belief, are very fashionable coming in a wide variety of designs and colors. These shoes are completely functional for the outdoors! Trust me, I can vouch for my Crocs…
In a last ditch effort to my fellow outdoor folk, I have made guidelines for “How to Croc in the Backcountry”.
- To reduce sweaty feet on hot hiking days, wear socks with the Crocs. As you put on the socks and slip back into the Crocs, the people left around you are your true friends. Yes, Crocs hold the power to help distinguish true friends.
- Use the adventure strap/ankle strap. The adventure strap is an important tool when facing tough sections of a hike. All you have to do is move the strap from above your foot, to behind your ankle. This allows for further stability in the Croc.
- Crossing a stream is now a dream! Tighten your Croc, or put the adventure strap on, and cross the stream using whatever safety method is appropriate. On the other side, set the crocs in the sun while changing back into socks and boots. The Crocs will be able to dry quickly and be near ready, or ready to pack once you are back in your boots.
- So easy. Since the Crocs are so light, you can easily store them in an accessible area when backpacking and keep them much cleaner than shoes with cloth fabric. The weight will be minimal, and when you get to camp the shoes will be breathable, comfortable, and easy to get on (no straps to worry about going between your toes or by blisters).
- Know your limits. Wearing Crocs may make you feel limitless, so remember, they are just a shoe. Still use good judgement calls to ensure safety and fun in your Crocs.
October 11th, 2018
By: Emily Cable
What if I told you my job is to spend 60 days out of each year experientially teaching people how they can safely enjoy spending a few nights outside. What if I told you I frequently don’t shower for 10 days at a time because there’s no faucet in close proximity and the weather is just too cold to get wet sometimes. What if I told you I carry a backpack, which frequently weighs half my body weight, up steep slopes for many miles only to come down them again. What if I told you I still get bruises on my hips and blisters on my toes every time I lead a trip.
What if I told you I like it! What if I told you those few nights hold some of my favorite moments!
Would you believe me?
Would you join me in relishing the thought because you’ve been there too?
Would a longing spring up in you to join me, perhaps for the first time, because the mystery of adventure draws you?
Would you think I’m crazy?!
What if I told you I’ve seen stars too bright to look at for longer than a few seconds; so densely covering the sky they pierced the darkness putting it to flight. What if I told you I’ve been caught in a blizzard in the middle of July while crossing a 12,800’ mountain pass forcing us to hike late into the night. What if I said that was the coldest I’ve ever felt.
What if I told you I’ve stood on the highest point in Wyoming and watched a butterfly flutter overhead in the perfectly still air.
What if I told you I’ve half swam/ half squirmed my way through a muddy slot canyon in Utah so narrow in sections you have to turn your head just so in order to fit.
What if I told you I’ve stood in awe watching God set the sky ablaze night after night from the depths of the Grand Canyon and smelled the honey and strawberry of Monkey Flowers. Or swam an alpine lake fortified by snow and ice, felt lightning so close my hair stood on end, watched a family of mountain sheep graze the hillside, rejoiced when the first rays of morning sun began to thaw my nose.
What if I told you all these wonders are not why I go to the wilderness. What if I told you the reason I spend time in the wilderness is to seek the Lord and be found by Him, to encounter Him in ever deeper ways. I sit in the silence at His feet… sometimes broken hearted, sometimes weeping over the greatness of His love for me, sometimes in joyful song! I need the silence, the pause, to reflect, dream, and just be.
What if I told you every time I return from the wilderness I am never the same?
What if I told you time in the wilderness could change your life?
What if I asked you to join me? Would you?
October 4th, 2018
By: Laura Albert
Backcountry cooking is a passion of mine. I not only love the time on the trails and in wild places, but when you get an opportunity to eat a gourmet dish with an epic view, it always makes the food and the experience that much better! But, backcountry baking can be a bit hit or miss. This pizza recipe is sure to dazzle your senses and be the best slice of “pie” that you’ve ever had!
- 2 c baking mix
- tomato powder
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 T olive oil
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- cheese, and other pizza toppings desired sliced and diced!
The first big thing is to get your stove set up just right. We at SROM use a one burner MSR Whisperlite in the field. So we take the wind screen for the stove and make it tight around the burner so that the flat skillet is not on direct heat. Then, find a rock or use another pot to be able to set the skillet on both the wind screen and the rock or pot.
Once you have your stove system set up, take some water and mix it with your baking mix. You want a soft, pliable dough that is not too dry nor too sticky. Add little bits of water at a time in a u-line or ziplock bag to keep contained. Once dough is correct consistency, take the lid of the skillet and roll out dough to the size of the skillet.
Light the stove and put a little olive oil in the skillet and allow to heat up. Once pan is warm, place dough in the skillet and put the lid on to bake. Every few minutes, rotate the pan to keep with even heating of the pan so that the dough will rise and bake. No twiggy fire needed!
While the dough is baking, take 1/4 c of tomato powder, spices, garlic powder, olive oil, brown sugar, and mix in a small cup or bowl. Add water to mix to get the consistency of tomato sauce desired. Slice and dice pizza toppings. Check up on the dough and keep rotating it. Once dough is mostly cooked through, remove the lid and add sauce, pizza toppings, and cheese. Replace lid and continue the rotating baking system until the cheese is melted on the top.
Once the cheese is melted, remove skillet from stove and turn the stove off. Allow pizza to cool and then cut into even pieces for your cook group. Sit back with your pizza pie and your cup of tea and enjoy the food, the company, and the view!
September 27th, 2018
By: Rachel Engle
One of the core values at SROM is “The Nations” which comes from the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (emphasis added)
It is God’s heart that all people come to know, love, and follow God. It is a global movement.
Early this month we had three leaders who work in China or specifically serve Chinese students come do a custom, shortened version of our Wilderness Ministries Professionals Course (WMPC), in essence our instructor training.
It was amazing to hear what God has been doing in China and through Chinese student ministries in the states. Let us introduce you a little to each one:
Brent has been serving in China and Chinese campus ministries for the past 30 years
and currently serves with LeaderSource SGA. The executive director of LeaderSource SGA, Malcom Webber, is the author of many books on spiritual leadership. At SROM we use his 5 C’s model of healthy leaders. Brent has been reflecting on his past 30 years in ministry and starting to dream about what the next 30 years will hold.
Please be praying for Brent and what God will be calling him to do over the next 30 years – that he would be encouraged by what has already been accomplished and excited for what God will do next.
Ed’s story and coming to Christ is truly remarkable. More of his story and how our two ministries could come together next summer is below.
Sue Hong is a pastor in China. He understands the power of outdoor experiential education and they have been leading 2-3 day trips, sometimes taking 100 people on a single trip! They are in need of developing spiritual, outdoor experiential education leaders and expanding this part of their ministry.
This is why Sue Hong came on this trip with SROM – to experience how we develop those leaders and start thinking about how he will develop leaders in his area and start his own development strategy.
Please be praying for the work that God is doing through Sue Hong and that he would continue to fearlessly proclaim the gospel. (Ephesians 6:19-20)
Ed grew up poor in China but excelled incredibly in school and got into Bejing University. Bejing University is like getting into the Harvard of Harvards. It is the best college in China, period. His future wife also got in.
It was here that he got involved with a mountaineering club. When he joined the club, he was very shy and had very little confidence. He got to experience first-hand how outdoor experiential education can dramatically impact one’s character, confidence, and leadership.
After getting their undergrad degrees in China, both Ed and his wife decided to pursue MBAs in the states. Ed got into the University of Michigan and it was here that he met Brent who was running a campus ministry to Chinese students at the time. Ed had little interest in learning about Jesus, except for more cultural knowledge and information, which was fairly common for the Chinese students. However, Brent and Ed developed a friendship.
Fast forward to after Ed and his wife receive their masters and are both working at prestigious companies. Ed and his wife were living in two different states, far apart, and neither wanted to switch their jobs so they could be living in the same place. This added great tension to what was already building in their marriage and Ed’s wife asked for a divorce.
This is when Ed turned to Brent to save their marriage. Brent told Ed only Jesus could save his marriage but he would be willing to sit down with them both. However, they would have to both meet with him together. So, Ed’s wife flew in to meet and after both of them shared, Ed reiterated that he could not fix their marriage, only Jesus could, and asked them if they would like to hear about Jesus. They said yes and Brent shared the gospel with them both and they both accepted Christ that day.
After the two of them accepted Christ, Brent told them that they had to be living together. Ed asked who should move and Brent said they would have to pray and ask Jesus about that. Ed was convinced that Jesus was going to ask him to move as his wife is a very strong-willed woman, what he called a tiger wife. It would practically be a miracle if she moved. You can imagine Ed’s amazement then when his wife told him that she felt like Jesus was telling her to move to be with him.
Now they are both working in Austin, TX and God has led Ed to start a ministry to Chinese exchange middle school and high school students. Ed, having been part of the mountaineering club at Bejing University, understands the power of outdoor experiential education to develop character, confidence, and leadership and now spiritual transformation.
Ed eagerly desires for these trips to be a part of the exchange students experience and we are looking at creating some custom trips for them next summer.
SROM would be honored to partner with Ed to further change lives through encountering the living God in the wilderness, learning who God is and who God created them to be, that they may become points of light through all the nations!
END OF ONE ADVENTURE AND THE BEGINNING OF MANY MORE
It is exciting to see what God has been doing in and through each of these men’s lives. Please continue to pray for them and for China, that God’s work will continue to grow and flourish – that more leaders for the Kingdom, sons and daughters of light, will be born.
By: Andrew Arnold
For 35 years SROM has influenced youth and young adults ages 14-35. It has not been the only demographic we have reached but given the demands of wilderness programming our courses have primarily served this age group through the years. In the United States today there are essentially 6 distinct generational demographics that comprise the population of the country.
Using a broad brush stroke, those generational demographics are approximately defined as follows:
- The Greatest Generation–born between 1910-1924 this generation grew up during the Great Depression and were the ones to enlist and fight in World War II. Many came of age as soldiers during the War and few are still alive from this generation.
- The Silent Generation–born between 1925-1945 this generation was born during the Great Depression. Their early lives were often marked by severe hardship. They were not an outspoken generation but one marked by a silent work ethic.
- The Boomer Generation–born 1946-1964 this generation was the result of American soldiers returning from war to marry and begin a family. Boomer’s grew up during a time of prosperity and relative peace (until Vietnam) and became a generation of consumers. Many Boomers challenged status quo norms, giving rise to major social and cultural movements both positive and negative. The consumerism of the Boomers in many cases led to a certain narcissism.
- Generation X–born 1965-1979 this generation is smaller in size with lower birth rates than previous generations. Generally marked by pessimism, skepticism and angst this generation experienced the latent self-interest of their early Boomer parents and found themselves angry at the status quo.
- The Millennial Generation–born 1980-1994 this generation grew up with the advent and popularization of the internet and internet connected devices. Millennials are the most technologically sophisticated of any prior generation and one of the first generations to grew up in a globalized and post-modern world.
- Lastly Generation Z–born 1994 to 2012 this generation has also been labeled iGen. The first generation to grow up with handheld internet connected devices from infancy, Generation Z is a truly “wired” and “global” generation. They have grow up with more access to global information than any prior generation.
So why does all this matter to SROM? As a ministry that is primarily serving the youth and young adult demographic at some level it is imperative that we understand the broad themes, interests, challenges and realities of the people we serve. Each generation has been shaped by historic, cultural, social and economic factors that impact the worldview, paradigm and hearts of the generation. It would be presumptuous to think that we can operate, lead and facilitate a SROM course the same way we did in 1983 with a group of Generation X students as we would a 10/10 Teen course today with Millennials and Generation Z students.
In light of that reality, it is important to understand some of the distinctives and patterns that are emerging among Generation Z. Furthermore, it is important to understand how wilderness ministry and the work of SROM meet the needs and address some of the concerns of this generation.
The Barna Group, a leading research group that studies and identifies trends in American life, recently conducted research to better understand Generation Z. You can read more about the findings from the study by clicking here. I highly recommend you take a deeper look by reading the full article. One aspect of the Barna research was to understand and survey the religious or spiritual beliefs of Generation Z. The findings are summarized in the list below.
- Generation Z is the first truly “post Christian” generation, meaning that they have grown up in a country where the influence of Christianity is on the decline and, for larger portions of society, is seen as irrelevant. They have grown up without Christianity and the Bible having a prominent role in shaping culture and society.
- Consequently, the percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population. Atheism is on the rise.
- Relativism–the belief that there is no absolute truth is on the rise, with Gen Z leading the way with the belief that is it not possible to know for sure God is real or that truth is objective–“what may be true for you is not true for me.”
- Interestingly, many in Gen Z have a positive perception of church, but few attend believing God can be found elsewhere.
- Many in Gen Z that do not identify as atheist consider themselves spiritual and find value in spirituality. This is actually encouraging, because these individuals are often open and receptive to learning about “spiritual things” that will make a difference in their lives.
Additionally, Generation Z also self-reports as the loneliest generation. In a recent USA Today article that can be read here, young people in the current Gen Z demographic report higher rates of loneliness than previous generations. Interestingly, this sense of loneliness is not explicitly linked to increased technology use that can isolate people and erode quality communication. It is also tied to the reality that Gen Z is spending less time interacting with others in public and traditionally social settings. Public spaces that have historically been places of interaction such as the workplace, neighborhoods, worship centers, and extracurricular opportunities are not being visited and interacted with as a places of social exchange. Many in the Gen Z demographic cohort interact with peers in online spaces such as Snapchat and Instagram but the face-to-face physical interaction and socialization is increasingly absent. The lack of physical interaction, human contact, and human interaction creates an increasing sense of loneliness.
SROM and the wilderness based programming we offer has a distinct ability to meet these needs that are felt by Gen Z. Although many self -report as either atheist or spiritual, the desire to discover and explore the possibility of a Christian God is present. The outdoors and created world is a place that reveals the attributes and nature of God. It is a source of general or natural revelation. Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:20 clearly explain that creation is a context where God reveals to all of humanity who He is and what He is like. To be surrounded by the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, unplugged, and unconnected from the common distractions of life such as school, job, and various technologies often has a life-changing impact and paradigm shift for SROM participants.
When a person is removed from a world predominately created and shaped by humans and placed in a world created by God for His glory, it is hard to deny the reality that: there is a God, I am not God, and my life is small compared to His existence. One is confronted at some level with the truth that God is real. So what does that what does that mean for my life, my identity, my purpose, and the lives of those around me? We help students to discover these questions, and mentor them as they begin to answer these questions for themselves.
Who is God and what does He do? In light of those realities, who am I and what I am called to do? We have found that both the Millennial Generation and Generation Z are longing to know and discover these questions. In the context of authentic communities, many young people sincerely want to have meaningful conversations and discover Abba Father and His son Jesus. Many want to know God, understand His plans for their lives, and how He can make sense of the world around them. We have found that when young people can get away from the noise of the world and into a place of majesty and wonder surrounded by a loving community, they want to be seen and known. At the same time, they want to know who is the God of the Bible and who is His Son Jesus.
Pray for us, that whenever we speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. (Ephesians 6:19)