First Congregational’s ministries encourage children and youth to explore their developing faith through learning, worship, service and fellowship—all in a warm and accepting environment. For information about programs, see our pages and comprehensive CYF Calendar.

Wilderness Ministry

Why Wilderness?

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.   –Psalm 19:1-4

God is in creation and we are part of God’s creation. Just as the psalmist says, our Still Speaking God is still speaking throughout the marvelous creation that surrounds us. When Jesus wanted to commune with God, he went to the garden and to the mountain tops to pray. Wilderness travel offers us the chance to get to see and know God’s handiwork in new ways and understand our relationship to creation and to God more concretely. God’s beauty is in all things, and one of our tasks as stewards of this world is to know the creation we are called to love and advocate for. Time outdoors helps us to build an ecological theology.

Being in creation and seeing God’s handiwork also provides us the opportunity to know ourselves better. Wilderness travel isn’t easy; we may have to portage a canoe, carry a heavy pack, or be exposed to the wind and rain. Adversity affords us the opportunity to grow in our understanding of personal accountability and commitment to a group.

The Opportunity

Wilderness Ministry at First Congregational has two main goals: to instill a sense of relationship with creation and God, and to teach basic outdoor skills to allow people to enjoy the outdoors on their own. Each experience, whether backpacking or canoeing, will have an age-appropriate curriculum to achieve these two ends. Most likely, all trips will contain components of prayer, alone time and Bible study, along with ecological and wilderness skills education.

The Upper Midwest provides two ideal opportunities: backpacking in Isle Royale National Park and canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe area. Additional opportunities include canoeing in the Sylvania Wilderness, Flambeau River State Park and the St. Croix National Scenic River. Additionally, backpacking is offered at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Porcupine Mountains State Park. Other locations may be added as well.

Lastly, the most important part of leading and teaching others about God’s creation and their relationship to that creation, is doing everything possible to have a good time! Having a positive experience can greatly affect one’s long-term relationship to being outdoors. Every consideration is made to ensure the trip is age-appropriate, people are well informed about gear they need to own or rent to stay comfortable, and that safety and fun are high priorities. While these experiences may provide a level of physical and mental difficulty that you or your loved one may find challenging, you will be provided a lot of support and encouragement along the way. We want you to enjoy yourself and love the outdoors!

The Schedule

Our Wilderness Ministry uses a rotational model to offer backpacking or canoeing experiences for multiple age groups in different wilderness areas. Registration, deadlines and costs will be posted as each trip nears. Each trip will:

  • Target a specific age group or multiple age groups.
  • Vary in length from 3-8 days at a particular destination.
  • Have a tailored set of spiritual and wilderness education resources.
  • Offer pre-trip preparation.

About Pastor Nick

Nick Hatch grew up with a love for the outdoors and especially Northern Wisconsin. He started taking canoe trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in high school and discovered his love of the wilderness. After graduating from McCormick Theological Seminary and spending a lifetime in classroom education, he pursued experiential education, attending an Alaska Outdoor Backpacker and a Sea Kayaker course in Alaska, and a Fall Semester for Outdoor Educators. Both courses were offered through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Lander, WY.

NOLS is the leader in outdoor experiential education. The Outdoor Educator program consists of intense wilderness based expeditions meant for those with prior outdoor experience looking to teach in experiential education programs. Students become certified Leave No Trace (LNT) Master Educators, obtain a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification, and also focus upon Risk Management & Leadership. Pastor Nick considers it a privilege to use these skills, combined with his theological training, to lead the church’s Wilderness Ministry.

Upcoming Trips

Summer 2019 schedule coming November 2018!