PROFILE: Calling Men to Adventure

by Christina Quick

Crawling through mud in a cold, dark cavern. Dangling from a climbing rope high above the ground. Splashing through icy slush on a wilderness bike trail. Sharing a pre-dawn pot of coffee around a crackling campfire.

Such scenarios aren’t typically associated with church, but they are part of a high-octane men’s outreach at South Hills Assembly of God in Bethel Park, Pa.

AdventureMen ministers to guys through outdoor activities, such as cycling, mountain biking, fishing, hiking, camping, caving, rappelling, and ropes courses.

“There’s nothing like experiencing Jesus when you’re 60 or 70 feet up on ropes — or while getting the endorphins going cycling to the top of a hill,” says Greg Nass, men’s ministries leader at the church. “Just getting guys out there and being brothers to them is a great way to build friendships and start conversations.”

Nass, a credentialed Assemblies of God minister, founded AdventureMen in 2009. An avid cycler and outdoorsman, he says nature provides an ideal backdrop for breaking down barriers, forming bonds, and discussing spiritual issues.

“We’ve found that when we get guys in these settings, the conversation just naturally goes to Christ,” Nass says. “Outside the church, guys tend to be more real. They open up. It’s all about sharing the good news of Jesus.”

AdventureMen offers activities throughout the year that appeal to a wide range of male interests, from fly-tying seminars and golfing to hot rod building and motorcycle riding. The outings include prayer and Bible discussions. The group, along with several other churches in the region, also hosts an annual lakeside gathering called AdventureFest. This event includes a chili cook-off, praise and worship, a church service, and water baptisms in the lake.

“It’s like other men’s retreats, except we do it outside,” Nass says. “We usually sit around until after midnight, talking and sharing. A lot of these men go to church, but they’re not conference-type guys. They like to be outdoors, so they’ll come to something like this. It’s also an easy way for a guy from church to invite his unsaved friend from his neighborhood or workplace to come out and be exposed to the gospel.”

Other churches in the region and throughout the state are taking notice of the successful men’s outreach at South Hills Assembly. More than a dozen congregations now operate their own AdventureMen groups. Nass says he hopes other churches around the country, both inside and outside the Fellowship, will follow suit.

“Ministry shouldn’t be limited to the activities inside the church. We’re called to be outside the church, fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Nass says he ultimately wants men to discover that living for Christ is the greatest adventure of all.

“A lot of guys who love the outdoors are used to going there with a case of beer and some drugs,” Nass says. “We’re trying to create an environment where guys can pursue outdoor activities in the context of ministry and discipleship.”

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Christina Quick, freelance writer, Springfield, Missouri