Christian Wilderness Programs – What Works, What Doesn’t

It can be heartbreaking when your teenager expresses behavior problems. While it is typical for teenagers to test their limits, there are extreme cases that have to be dealt with. You can’t allow your entire household to be turned upside down due to what your teenager is engaging in. Nobody in the home should have to be stressed out or fearful of that teenager either..

There are some Christian wilderness programs out there that can offer support. While it may seem harsh to remove your teenager from the home, it can be a decision that positively impacts them. It can also be a method of ensuring the entire family is able to benefit from those changes..

Too many parents blame themselves when they have problems with a teenager. However, there can be many reasons for them acting inappropriately. There can be circumstances that the parents aren’t aware of. There can also be chemical imbalances in the brain that the teen doesn’t know about.

What Makes a Christian Wilderness Program Work?

Part of a successful Christian wilderness program should be a complete assessment. Each teen needs to have an individualized plan that works well for their needs. As the program progresses, goals can be set for them to reach by the end of it. Counseling is a vital part of any successful program. It helps the teen to explore what is going on and in their own feelings..

Education is another key factor that makes a Christian wilderness program work well. By showing teens that they have control over their choices, they can start to make better ones. Rules at a Christian wilderness program help them to understand that there are consequences for their actions. Those consequences could be either positive or negative depending on what they choose to do. Because consequences are usually immediate and dramatic when one is in the wildness, lessons are learned quickly..

The Faith Connection.

This type of program is typically faith based as well. The program doesn’t operate with the strict guidelines of a military boot camp. Instead, it is more compassionate. Many parents like that because there are situations where they feel their child would not respond well to harsh methods of discipline..

In many households, young people share a faith that serves as a strong bond of the parents. However, it can be harder to get children to stay with their religious training when the temptations of youth come to call. A wilderness program that is faith based can help teenagers to see the value of their faith. They may be more willing to embrace it in such a setting than they were at home..

In many cases, getting teenagers out of their current environment and even away from their peers is essential. It allows for the problems they have to be evaluated by caring professionals. They will be around kids their own age that do have similar problems. They can form some strong relationships with each other wild in the Christian wilderness program..

There are many other elements of such a program too. They expose children to positive activities that are commonly done outdoors. For example the use of horses or dogs that they can work with is fun. It also gives them a chance to care about another creature. Hiking, exploring, and really taking time to think about who they are can make a profound difference about how they act when they return home..

When Christian Wilderness Programs Don’t Work.

Even the most evangelistic proponent of a Christian wilderness program will advise parents to think through the decision to send a child to such a camp. There are situations where this kind of setting is not the best solution for the problems the child may be having. It is good to set the expectations of parents in line with what a Christian wilderness program can and cannot do to turn around the life of a young person..

· The problem of resentment.

Some Christian wilderness programs have been compared to a military boot camp in terms of desired outcome. Many young men have pointed to boot camp as a turning point where they learned to be a responsible adult. However, going into the military is a much different experience than being “put” into an aggressive rehabilitation program by parents..

It is very easy for youth who find themselves in a Christian wilderness program to feel betrayed and abandoned by parents. That is why it is important for parents, youth and the experienced counselors at the Christian wilderness program to work as a team to achieve desired goals of change in the life of the youth person. If the youth feels that his or her parents “dumped them” at a camp because the parents could no longer cope with the teenager, that will foster a resentment and desire to strike back at parents that can undermine all of the good that a Christian wilderness experience can provide to a young person..

· Kids with substance abuse problems.

It is necessary and in many cases required that parents have a consultation with the administration of a Christian wilderness program to assure that the issues that parents hope to be resolved in their child are achievable. If the youth has addiction or substance abuse problems, wise counselors at a Christian wilderness program will decline the admission. A Christian wilderness experience is an adventure into the outdoors, living in tents, preparing food in camp and enjoying many very physical activities during the day like hiking, climbing or exploration of caves..

This is not the proper environment to put a youth who has a problem with an addiction. Instead, parents should seek a specialized rehabilitation program for their youth where the staff and counselors understand how to help a youth resolve both the causes and outcomes of substance abuse addiction. After the youth has graduated from rehabilitation and is free of that addiction, then an experience at a Christian wilderness program may be a perfect next step..

· Shoving religion down their throats.

In many ways, a Christian wilderness program is similar to secular wilderness curriculum because they use the value of the adventure of living in the wilderness to give a youth the chance to get away from the routine, from bad influences of peers and from daily struggles to let nature guide the youth toward a time of reflection and growth..

The added value of a religious curriculum is that the counselors and leaders will be committed believers so the program can deliver a spiritual point of view on the process of growth. This is a great setting for a youth who is grounded in the Christian faith but needs the intense setting of a Christian wilderness program to make that next big breakthrough in his or her spiritual life..

But a Christian wilderness program could be a disaster if the youth who attends is not a believer and has no training or grounding in Christianity. In that case, the youth will often become defiant and see the camp as, “shoving religion down my throat.” The outcome can be a resentment that is so deep that it can result in a lifelong resentment and distrust of Christianity which is opposite from the goals of a good Christian wilderness program..

By learning all you can before enrolling your child in a Christian wilderness program, you can determine if it is the right kind of program for that young person that you love. If the experience at a Christian wilderness program is a good fit to the needs of the youth, it can be one of the most profound experience the youngster will experience and a turning point for him or her for life. And that will make the investment you make in a Christian wilderness program for you son or daughter entirely worth the costs..

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

What Is Life Like in a Wilderness Camp?

Wilderness Camp Therapy Programs