Waterlogged, Students Get a Taste of Leadership Challenges

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (July 3, 2012) – The concept of servant leadership became a reality for 21 high-school students when five inches of rain drenched their four-day canoe trip through the Boundary Waters.

The students, participating in the Northwest Conference’s (NWC) Adventures in Leadership program, slogged through soggy and sometimes overgrown portages, carrying packs and canoes, while soaked to the core. “They learned how to make difficult decisions for the team and to consider the needs of others before their own,” said Jon Kramka, NWC director of congregational vitality, and a key planner and facilitator of the event.

“I never knew that carrying a canoe would mean so much more than carrying a canoe,” said student Micah Friez.

“I came wanting to learn something and to change, and I got it in a way I didn’t expect,” said another student, Holly Brown. “When I let God lead, he took me places.”

The students were joined by their youth leaders and several guides on the trip that took place June 16-23.

“Participants were challenged in conversations, teaching times, and time out on the trail, to discover what gifts and talents God has given them for leadership and how they need to steward those gifts in ministry and in their communities,” said Ginny Olson, NWC director of youth ministry. “They discovered how their personality impacts their leadership, how to collaborate together under difficult circumstances, how to cultivate a disciplined spiritual life, and how to serve sacrificially when that’s the last thing you want to do.”

The conference has held the retreat for 20 years and has been recognized for its success in developing leaders. Later this month, youth pastors from several other conferences will participate in a trip to experience the adventure with some of their students. Afterward, they will explore how the training model might be replicated.




  • I had the privelage of participating in AIL a few years ago and it was a life shaping experience. I hope this catches on and makes its way into other conferences. I can’t speak highly enough of John Kramka and the wonderful people who organize this program.

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