How camp challenge courses can build your team
by Tim Kidd, Ph.D.
John* came to the challenge course with a vision for his new store. At the end of the day, he addressed his department managers.
“My highlight for today was to step back and watch each of you shine during all the challenges we faced today. You were amazing! My vision for our store is to provide families outdoor equipment at a good value so they can spend quality team together in God’s creation. With each of us working together at the store like we did today, I feel confident we can have a positive impact on families in our area.”
Such stories of personal insight and renewed commitment to serve others are abundant among those willing to invest time, energy, and re-sources to build team unity through participation in challenge-course experiences.
Equipped to Move
Since the early 1960s, ropes courses have been used to help groups become better equipped to work together. Aircraft cable has replaced hemp rope as the construction material of choice on some elements, and these team-building sites are now more commonly referred to as challenge courses.
Today, about 550 organizations that are members of Christian Camp and Conference Association—more than half—provide challenge-course programming year round for guests of all ages. The settings afford a place of refuge that’s insulated from daily demands articulated through vibrating cell phones and computer pop-ups.
Camps’ professional staff members are committed to guiding groups toward realizing their goals. Quality facilitators can conduct needs assessments in advance with your group’s leaders to identify appropriate objectives and tailor a program to meet your needs. Learning objectives might include increased levels of trust, improved communication skills, and enhanced mutual accountability.
The facilitator can creatively incorporate scriptural themes, such as the fruit of the Spirit, reinforcing biblical principles into challenge-course experiences. Your group can often choose between one-day team-building events and multi-day team retreats, incorporating optional recreational activities that can build on the challenge-course program.
Success in completing course tasks relies on each member’s full participation. While there’s a physical aspect to these initiatives, there are appropriate roles for each member to embrace. “Challenge by choice” encourages personal decisions regarding degree of participation while asking participants to step out of their comfort zones.
The power of these initiatives lies in the intentional reflection time—the debriefing—that the facilitator leads after each activity. Participants discuss what occurred, reflect upon the significance of the experience, and transfer learning to other life areas, especially related to the group. Facilitators often encourage members to identify metaphors from their experience that reveal new truths.
When you arrange for a challenge-course experience for your group, you’ll discover the insights that God may have waiting for you and your team as you learn firsthand the meaning of group unity.
* The name in this article has been changed.
Tim, a team-building facilitator for more than 20 years, has taught outdoor ministry students at John Brown University since 1999. He holds a graduate degree in divinity and a doctorate in educational studies.
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