April 2024 childrens blog great outdoors
Missions Discipleship

The Great Outdoors: Reducing Risks for Your RAs this Camping Season

Did you know the woods are dangerous? It must be true; I saw it on TV and Facebook. From deranged bear attacks to tornados to dying of hunger, the great outdoors is just too dangerous for us average folk, and we must lock ourselves in our homes and never venture out into God’s creation.

Except, that’s not really true.

The National Park Service (NPS) keeps tabs on the number of deaths in the national parks each year. Out of curiosity, and to see if runaway bears really were that big of a problem, I recently reviewed the data from CY 2007 through CY 2023. During that time period, the NPS classified 2,403 deaths as unintentional (as opposed to intentional or medical).

The leading cause of unintentional deaths? Nope, not lions, tigers, or bears (oh my). Wildlife incidents only accounted for nine of those deaths.

The leading cause of unintentional deaths was drowning. The NPS reported 831 drowning deaths during that time period, of which 698 of the victims were males (roughly 84%). The second leading cause of death was motor vehicle crashes, with 694 total fatalities.

What does this mean for Royal Ambassador leaders planning a camping trip this year?

Might we suggest that, as you plan for your trips, you ensure your adult leaders receive proper training. Why not have a leader become a certified lifeguard? Organizations like the American Red Cross offer certifications — a quick internet search will tell you what is available in your area.

Why not have those adults who will be driving boys to their camping destination obtain a chauffeur’s license or your state’s equivalent? Again, a quick internet search will tell you what is available.

To be sure, there is an element of danger in the great outdoors. But with the proper training, we can reduce the risk to the young men God has placed in our care.

Royal Ambassadors pledge to become well-informed, responsible followers of Christ. By getting appropriate training, your leaders are demonstrating just how being well-informed and responsible can lead to better and safer experiences in the woods.

Happy camping!

Keith Gates is the WMU ministry consultant for RA, Challengers, and Youth on Mission.