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Adventurous Christians

Canoe Trips that Inspire Leadership


Adventurous Christians hosts and guides groups through the Boundary Waters every summer. Often times, these are youth groups, groups of friends or families looking for a challenging, but rewarding experience in the wilderness. However, AC also has a long history of providing leadership specific experiences for teenagers and young adults. So what is it about the wilderness that inspires leadership and transformation in an individual? After wrapping up two specific leadership canoe trips in June, here are some of our thoughts.

Jon Kramka, Director of Congregational Vitality for the Northwest Conference heads up the Adventures in Leadership trip through the Northwest Conference, where youth pastors nominate students to go on this trip. David Hoffner, Executive Director of Faith Formation at Minnehaha Academy, brought a group of students who just finished up their first year in the Minnehaha Leadership Fellows Program up to AC for the first time for a Minnehaha Academy Leadership Adventure. Here are both of their thoughts on their experiences.


What is the purpose of your trip? 

Kramka: Adventures in Leadership (AIL) is a leadership camp for high school students facilitated by the Northwest Conference to develop and strengthen their leadership skills. The purpose of this event is to provide student leaders with a Biblical foundation and leadership framework that challenges and enables them to discover an effective lifestyle of Christian leadership, unique to their own abilities and giftedness.


Hoffner:MALA is a capstone experience to engage in hard work and build trust with your peers, while going into the wilderness – a formative place! It’s the perfect bridge between year one which focuses on knowledge of God, and year two which focuses on knowledge of self.


What is the value in holding this trip at Adventurous Christians? 

Kramka: AIL has been a historic partnership between the NWC and AC that leverages the relational capitol & established constituency of the NWC with the leadership  and expertise of both organizations and the profound contextual learning laboratory of the BWCA.

So what is it about the wilderness that uniquely stages the potential transformation of a person? This space that is primarily uninhabited, uncontrollable, unpredictable, desolate, wild, removed from the “normal”, and yet remains under the steady care and presence of God.


How will this trip impact these student leaders in the future?: 

Hoffner: The first ever MALA experience was a huge success in forming whole and holy servant leaders. The students gained deep experiential insights into the practice of leadership, who Jesus is, and going deeper as a community. The lessons learned by our students will be cherished for their lifetimes, and I’m excited to see the ways that the Lord will use this experience for his glory and the good of others. We’re grateful for the partnership of the NWC and AC in making this possible.


Trip Highlights: 


“I spent a little over a week learning who I am, who I can be, and who God wants me to be. Then I was challenged in all of this by being thrown into the wilderness, and it was a perfect way for me to try out everything I had learned and find out actually what it is to lead.” – Lydia


“No students complained! The leaders at both MA and AC were astounded by this, especially because they had rough weather for the first two days! Cheerful endurance through challenge.” – David Hoffner 

Final Thoughts: 

Matt White, Camp Director at AC believes that the social, physical and mental adversity of a canoe trip truly proves to ourselves who we actually are. While in the wilderness, you figure out how you respond to things when things aren’t perfect. In doing so, you gain confidence in your ability to solve problems and also feel a sense of belonging to contributing to the needs of the group as a whole. A week on trail is hard – and how you respond to those challenges shows you a lot about who you are.


We are so proud of the students that participate in these trips.