I have been on staff for 28 years. That’s a lot of contact work, J.V. sports, Chipotle burrito bowls, last-minute mixers, whipped cream, and Monday night clubs.

When I add up all the summer assignments, fall weekend camps and countless summer experiences, I realized that I have been on a trip, at a camp, sleeping under the stars or on a bottom bunk for over 4.5 years of my adult life. Literally that is “years of camping.” With so many trips over the last few decades, you would imagine that they are all a blur, however, it is not hard for me to identify my favorite type of trip. NOT favorite property, adolescent generation or graduating class, but my favorite style of camping.

The answer? Adventure camps! Whether backpacking, houseboats, mission trips or sea kayaking, those have been some of the richest experiences I have ever had with students.

What happens on these trips that is different?

  • The 168 hours (a seven day week) of an adventure camp is a rare un-programmed event so you have to be INTENTIONAL.

  • On a trail, or in a boat you are forced to talk, and over time the conversations go from the superficial to the REAL.

  • Most of these trips are designed toward second-timers or students at an “AGE AND STAGE” that is pivotal in their discipleship and maturity. Those “crossroad” moments are few and far between.

  • In a culture that can be comfortable and numb (physically, emotionally and spiritually), BROKENNESS is rare.

  • Jesus was “dangerous” in a few contexts: when He asked questions, when you were with Him one on one, and when you encountered Him on a road or trail. ALL THREE of those happen during an adventure camping week.

  • Believers grow when they ask heartfelt, sincere QUESTIONS too. It takes time to ask the question behind the question.

Over the past few years we have had an opportunity to focus on the second half of the mission statement through discipleship experiences. When you design your camping plan for all 11 years of ministry (from junior high to college) it makes sense to include some of the gems of our adventure camps.


This fall you will have the opportunity to apply to be part of an adventure camping pilot where Young Life areas that have not yet had a long history of camping at these camps would be given the opportunity to schedule trips, receive a discount and foster a culture of discipleship camping.

The draft application is on this link. The application opens up in September and each U.S. region can submit one area that fits the criteria. We want Young Life areas that have NOT traditionally utilized adventure camps to start fostering a culture of discipleship camping. The pilot application process opens in the early fall of 2019, but look over this LINK and contact your regional director.

Hope to see you on the trail!

Written by: Ken Tankersley