Build Christian Community through Outdoor Adventure

There’s so much in our Bible about what healthy Christian community looks like. And the outdoors is one of the best places to build it!

"Build Christian community Outside" with image of a group of women with canoe paddles standing on a canoe landing at a lake

Community could mean an individual church…THE Church…families…friend groups…roommates…church staff…ministry staff…classmates.

There are tons of ways we as Christians can build loving, healthy community with each other.

Watch out video below or keep reading for more…

Want a free printable for this Bible study? Click here: Build Christian Community through Outdoor Adventure

What IS Community?

The American Heritage Dictionary says it’s “a group of people living in the same locality under the same government.” It can also be “a group of people having common interests.” says it’s “a social group of any size with common characteristics or interests.”

Whether large or small, some Christian communities are healthier than others. But we have plenty of instruction in the Bible to help make ours thrive. It takes humility, sacrifice and commitment!

So first let’s look at what our Bible tells us Christian community should look like — no matter its size. Then we’ll get into how outdoor adventure is such a great environment for building this kind of community.

It’s not surprising that most of what we learn about healthy Christian community is in the Epistles of the New Testament. These are letters that were written to the various churches that Jesus’ disciples had planted around the Meditteranean region.

These letters were for encouragement, instruction and sometimes rebuke. They’re a great source to know how God wants us to live — both individually and with each other, which is called community.

five women hold up kayak paddles while standing on shore next to their kayaks
Last day of a 4-day kayaking trip—super community-building time! (photo courtesy of Brittany Dokter)

Romans 12 Focuses on Community Life

First we’ll look at Romans 12. The whole chapter focuses on how to live in Christian community in a way that honors the Lord. I really encourage you to take some time to read through it, maybe more than once.

Here are a couple of key verses:

“I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

So the first step in healthy Christian community is that each member is surrendered to the Lord. As much as we try, none of us can be perfect. But if Jesus is Lord of each one of us, it sure makes it easier to live His way.

Here’s more:

“Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way, we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:4-5)

We belong to each other! We need each other.

Starting at verse 9, Paul gets super practical:

  • Don’t pretend you love others—really love them
  • Hate wrong and stand up for good
  • Delight in honoring each other
  • Don’t be lazy, but serve enthusiastically
  • Be patient
  • Pray all the time
  • Help people who need it
  • Invite people into your home
  • Work together with joy
  • Don’t brag or try to impress important people
  • Stay humble
  • Don’t pay back evil for evil
  • Don’t argue but be at peace with others as much as you can

That’s quite a list! But wow, what if we lived like that most of the time?

women try to jump on snowshoes on a frozen lake
Winter adventures count too! (photo courtesy of Alison Givand)

OK, Let’s move on.

Community Life in 1 Corinthians 12

1 Corinthians 12 also focuses on how to live in community together as the Body of Christ. I’ll just read verses 12 and 13, then verse 27:

“For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

Here’s verse 27 from The Living Bible, because I just love how it says it:

“Now here is what I am trying to say: All of you together are the one body of Christ, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.”

More Christian Community Instruction

The next ones are in Colossians. They lay out three key elements to healthy community: love, peace and thankfulness.

“Above all, put on love — the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14-15)

Ephesians has some great counsel too:

“…walk worthy of the calling you have received with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…” (Ephesians 4:1-5)

one woman saws through a log at a campsite while another holds the log
“Each is a separate and necessary part”!

Further down it says:

“Speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Do you get the idea that we’re all in this together? Not just in our personal community, but as the body of Christ!

Philippians is also super-practical:

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

And then down in verse 14: “Do everything without grumbling and arguing.”


Obviously, all of 1 Corinthians 13 applies to living in Christian community of any size. That’s the famous “love chapter.” I’m not going to write it out here, but if you’ve never read it in The Living Bible version, I really recommend it. It’ll give you a fresh take on it for sure!

one woman holds the canoe bow while the other gets ready to lift it for portaging
Healthy community means Jesus’ people are “fitted and knit together” in practical ways!

There’s a lot more we could go through, but the last one is from John 17. This is Jesus praying to the Father right before He goes to the cross:

“I pray not only for these, [His disciples] but also for those who believe in Me through their message [that’s us!]. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)

It’s so important we get this! Our unified Christian community tells the world that Jesus really is who He says He is! Those are Jesus’ own words.

Again…true biblical Christian community can and should happen in every size community. And it’s for the global Body of Christ as a whole.

Not only is my family, my local church, my small group a community. Jesus’ prayer was that all future believers be one, just like He and the Father are one.

We need the Holy Spirit for that! But it’s so clear in the Bible how to live it out.

OK, so…why is outdoor adventure a great setting to build Christian community?

four women on a beautiful overlook with bright fall colors
Being in God’s amazing creation together is so life giving!

To walk out Christian community? To practice it? There are a few reasons…

Why the Outdoors is a Wonderful Place to Build Christian Community

First, the outdoors is usually a more basic environment and usually requires more physical work from us than most of us are used to. The extras kind of get stripped away.

We have to slow down the pace of life because we’re limited by things like no electricity and no running water. We might have to hike or paddle more miles before we can stop for the day. We might have to gather or split firewood and then build a fire to be able to cook our meals.

It’s a perfect environment for everyone to pitch in and help with all the extra things that need to be done.

It’s also a perfect environment to practice thinking of others more than ourselves—to not grumble and complain. It’s a perfect environment to be able to encourage others when they’re struggling or exhausted or discouraged.

We Face the Unexpected

With outdoor adventure trips, it’s not uncommon for unexpected things to happen that really challenge us.

Like someone gets hurt, or a canoe portage is overrun with fallen trees (Been there! Not fun trying to get a 17-foot canoe through there!) or the altitude makes it harder to breathe than we thought.

woman portages a canoe on a wilderness trail, followed by another portaging gear
This wilderness canoe portage is fine…but you never know what to expect! (photo courtesy of Brittany Dokter)

We have to accept these things because we don’t have a choice. We’re out in the woods or on a mountain together.

We can’t just quit. And we have to stick together or things’ll get even worse!

So all the things we read about earlier? Outdoor adventures are the perfect place to practice them for a few days at a time in a restricted environment we can’t get out of!

Organic Mentoring and Learning

Another reason the outdoors is really wonderful for building Christian community is because it’s a great chance for those who have more skills to teach those who don’t.

I’ve been on a lot of trips with complete beginners—especially canoe trips. And we’re all beginners at some point. I was a beginner on my first canoe trip, and I loved learning from my tripmates who taught me what they knew.

There’s something amazing about having that setting where you can pass on things you’re good at to others who wanna learn. And learn things that others wanna teach you. Like…

  • Building a good campfire
  • How to paddle a canoe so it goes straight
  • Packing a backpack so everything fits
  • Planning out meals
  • Identifying trees or wildflowers or bird calls

It’s all discipleship!

It’s living life together in a totally different environment than we’re used to, most of us.

a mom and two young boys wash dishes at their campsite
This was on a 2-week family camping trip when our kids were young—the perfect chance to teach them how to help out in camp!

I know it isn’t for everybody! But almost all the outdoor adventure trips I’ve been on have taught me so much about myself, about living in community and about the Lord.

I highly recommend it!

The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

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Sharon Brodin