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I was doing some internet strolling this past week while in prayer and thinking about ministry leading and I kept getting this picture of a trail guide. Once that was in my brain I did a little searching and came across an article on WikiHow called “How to lead a nature walk“. I found it very interesting and things started to pop up in my brain as I went through each step and compared to the local church and leading towards a vision. Below is the list on leading a nature walk and how it translates to the church
1. Read up about the local plants and animals that live in your area. Field guides are a good introduction to acquiring this skill set. So is tapping the wisdom of long-time naturalists who might live nearby.
Church: Study the word, be in prayer, read books, find a mentor
2. Take a hike through the area beforehand and note any unusual features about the area. Are there nests to observe or evidence of animal activity (beaver damage to trees along a riverbank for example)?
Church: Plan and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Canvass the field. Make sure to grab your compass (Jesus) and fix your eyes on him
3. On the day of the tour, gather your group and assess their physical limitations if any. Will the weather impact slipperiness of trails? Is there a more comfortable, safer alternate?
Church: Assess the people you are leading and their spiritual limitations. Take a look at the plan ahead and see if you need to disciple more to prepare for the road ahead.
4. Introduce yourself. Provide your group with a brief explanation of the planned walk. Give out maps if relevant. Point out comfort facilities; it is a good idea to suggest a rest stop before heading off. If you have any heavy props to show, this is a good time to do it (to avoid carrying them, or forgetting them at the end of the walk).
Church: Introduce vision, preach vision, and then repeat. Make sure to communicate so everybody understands the vision.
5. Have the members of the group introduce themselves to one another. This way they can get to feel comfortable around one another quickly.
Church: An effective team is most often a team with real relationships. Foster authenticity and community.
6. Ask members of your group to let you know what they would be most interested in viewing, for example, edible plants, birds, nests, burrows, medicinal plants, etc. You can then tailor the hike as much as possible to their interests.
Church: Make sure to ask people their desires and hopes and give them ownership along the way.
7. Find out if anyone is phobic about snakes, spiders, insects or any other animals that you may see on your hike. You may actually be able to help them face their fears if you show them how to correctly handle the animals. At the very least, provide appropriate reassurances as to the group’s safety.
Church: Sin, addiction, fear, etc will always thwart moving forward with a vision. Creating an environment where you can put everything on the table is important. As hinderances come up you will be more prepared to address them.
8. During the tour, ask questions, don’t talk at people. Engage them by pointing out a few things and then let them take it from there. Be open to questions.
Church: Engage people and hearts. Lead by example and as a servant. Don’t dictate.
9. Collect your walk items. Ensure that all your other carry items are with you, such as demonstration props, and essentials such as First Aid, maps, two-way radio, water, snacks, etc. When it’s time to set off on the walk – either lead the way or point the way where appropriate.
Church: Be prepared and well planned. The same God that can change anything with a word also honors those who plan and are good stewards of His work
10. Give presentations where appropriate during the walk. When you make your stop to wait for the group to catch up, adjust your position so that you are positioned in the middle of the group. With you at the middle of the group, the whole group has a better chance of hearing your talk and seeing any activity.
Church: Use every opportunity to preach Jesus. In the same way Jesus entered our story we have entered His and taking time to remind people along the way is important.
11. Be aware that there will always be stragglers. If you’re leading without others, take a head count and silently add up the numbers at regular intervals. If you’re lucky enough to be a leader with a few sweepers, use the sweepers to check if everyone has arrived at a stop. One of the sweepers can always be elected to return to base if needed, without disrupting the whole group. If you have a very large group that feels unwieldy in terms of managing, it might be better to break this large group into smaller groups, making sure to keep people with their family/friend groupings.
Church: Press forward and take care of those who drift. Make sure not to let one persons problems monopolize or deter the group from the vision and instead equip people to care and mentor them.
12. Prefer frequent shorter stops over longer, less frequent stops. When you have a group of mixed fitness, interest levels, and stamina, it is best to make stops short and frequent, so as to maintain the group’s attention.
Church: Short rests are fine. Burn out ends vision. Avoid long breaks because it breed complacency and makes people selfish and give up on the vision
13. Children are amazingly observant – and they usually are more interested in animals than plants and other non-moving things, so if they’re along, focus on their interests too!
Church: Jesus said let the children come to me and we are to have the heart and faith of a child. We need to watch them and listen to them along the way because they see and feel things in ways we never will.
14. Allow time for photo-taking. Depending on the length of the walk, drink and refreshment breaks will also need to be considered. Find clean, dry, sturdy logs, mossy or grass patches, etc. to sit on for a rest where needed.
Church: Take time to breathe. Go out with your wife. Play and enjoy life. Take a rest and get away from the noise. Getting burned out kills vision and drive
15. When the tour is completed, ask people what their favorite part was and note that for your next field outing.
Church: When tasks are done; when vision is complete; when God brings visions and victories… talk about them; document them; take pictures so you can learn and always have a reminder of God’s faithfulness
16. Finish with a stirring message that recaps the experience. Ensure that it includes conservation messages that draw on what the group has seen, so that their experience informs them about the future opportunities for stewardship that they might be able to participate in directly too.
Church: With every journey make sure to lead people in a way that teaches that each “hike” is a trip towards the larger vision of caring for people and leading them to Christ.