I love hearing the stories that come out of this creative journey into simple/organic church-without-walls (or whatever else one wants to call it). One of the keys to what God is doing is that we are all unique and there is no cookie-cutter way to gather, grow, and reach out. We will miss it if we seek to copy what someone else is doing. Nevertheless, hearing each others stories can help us break out of own boxes and allow our imaginations to be engaged with God in a greater way.
With that in mind, I want to share Craig's story of "The Outdoor Church."
While still in full time traditional-church ministry, Craig recalls reading an article by Ted Stump called “Entertainment Evangelism: The Spinning Act." He realized that his high-octane efforts among youth were not producing spiritual growth in the young people and was surely leading him into a major burnout.
After several years of transition and recovery, he began to see the possibilities of incorporating "outdoors" into ministry:
During this time [of recovery], we bought a canoe when we moved to WV. We spent a lot of time together canoeing and recovering from the hurts and pains of ministry. We started talking about maybe starting a canoe livery or better yet a canoe ministry or a church using canoes as a main part of their outreach. Then the seed started to grow, a church that uses the outdoors for outreach.
During the recovery years, I continued to hear from God and see that while cell-based churches are good, house churches really are better. House churches are closer to NT churches than either cell-based or program based, and God kept speaking to me about a church using the outdoors to reach the lost.
In 2007, we met a couple who had a lot of the same interests as we do and the more we got talking, we realized that we all were called to do an outdoor ministry. So in the summer of 2008 we started meeting unofficially.
The premise behind ODC [Outdoor Church] is that we will operate as a House Church and we meet on Sunday Evenings at 5:30pm 3 times a month. On the fourth week, we call that Adventure Week. We will go hiking, fishing, canoeing, camping or some other outdoor event. My goal is that as we collect offerings, that we will have enough money to buy 10 canoes, and with these canoes we can offer free canoe trips. We are hoping this will open the doors to meeting and building relationships with the people who hate a traditional church but love the outdoors.
Our normal house church meeting includes a relaxed atmosphere with relational connecting, an opening crowdbreaker question, worship, biblical group discussion, personal ministry time, more relational connecting with food.
The Outdoor Church was started with the belief that people in our area of West Virginia love to hunt, fish, hike, camp, etc. but they may not like church. Our goal is to speak their language, the outdoors, and hopefully be able to build a relationship with them in the outdoors and show them God’s love, and maybe they will want to be a part of what God is doing in our county. We live in a rather rural area, maybe 20,000 in the entire county, so our target area is the entire county. I’m hoping and praying, that as our church grows, we can start a house church network of The Outdoor Church. Multiple house churches throughout our county.
You can see the Outdoor Church website here.