Director, Rob Ribbe

The purpose of the Master of Arts degree program in Outdoor and Adventure Leadership (OAL) is to build Christ's church and benefit society worldwide by fostering the development of spiritually maturing, thoughtfully grounded, and practically skilled leaders for the outdoor and adventure profession.

This degree is offered through HoneyRock, Wheaton College's Center for Leadership Development, located in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Since 1951, HoneyRock has operated as an experiential leadership development laboratory that integrates leadership of camp and college programs with liberal arts training and coursework to develop leaders for Christ's church worldwide. HoneyRock operates as a fully functioning year-round outdoor-oriented campus, providing a variety of youth focused camp and undergraduate programs as the context for graduate student learning. Our faculty are fully engaged practitioner-scholars, simultaneously leading an organization while they study and teach in the field.

A Masters degree in Outdoor and Adventure Leadership seeks to apply the biblically grounded, historic principles of whole person development and formation to leadership in the Christian camp, outdoor, and adventure ministry movement worldwide. Throughout human history, God has used temporary community experiences and engagement with creation to equip leaders for His mission of calling people to Himself, disciple-making, building Christ's church, and benefiting society worldwide. This program is designed for current professionals, as well as those looking for excellent training to launch them into the field. This degree is applicable to those in the fields of Christian camping, outdoor education, challenge course facilitation, wilderness ministry, and outdoor related programming in college, church, for profit, or other organizational settings. Beyond the 26 OAL hour core, students choose one of three 12-hour concentrations: Program Leadership, Organizational Leadership, and Higher Education Leadership.

By the end of their program, OAL students be,

Spiritually Maturing in that they will have:

  • Demonstrated ownership of their personal faith formation and wholistic growth within Christian community, embracing creation as a context for transformation.

  • Discerned their strengths, calling, limits, and passions for serving the needs of the church and the world.

  • Demonstrated an understanding of and affinity towards the ministry of biblical hospitality, reconciliation, and solidarity with those from diverse cultures, backgrounds and traditions.

Theoretically Grounded in that they will have:

  • Articulated the biblical, theological, historical and philosophical foundations of formation and ministry.

  • Identified and applied established frameworks for context analysis, effective ministry planning, organizational effectiveness and leadership development.

  • Formulated a philosophy of ministry that utilizes experiential education, temporary community and experiences in creation as a context and process of transformation.

Practically skilled in that they will have:

  • Designed and facilitated effective programs that foster personal and group development.

  • Exercised leadership by effectively collaborating within an organization to accomplish shared goals, foster organizational health and facilitate leadership development.

  • Demonstrated the necessary curiosity and skills of a practitioner/scholar: critical analysis, oral and written communication, and program evaluation.

Delivery Options

It is expected that all OAL students have an active role in an outdoor related ministry while completing the degree so that coursework is immediately integrated with ministry practice. As a result, students have two options for completing the degree.

First, students can apply to live, work and study full-time as employees with HoneyRock. Students complete all courses as a cohort by taking linear or modular intensive courses with faculty at HoneyRock. An occasional online or hybrid course may be necessary based on a student's schedule. All students at HoneyRock may apply for a role as a graduate assistant or graduate program specialist, coordinating some aspect of HoneyRock's programs as the hands-on laboratory for ministry practice and collaboration. An employment application process is required in addition to the graduate school application. Residential students take 8-12 hours per semester and can complete the program in 2 years.

The second option is for students to participate from a distance while maintaining their role as an employee or graduate assistant in another camp or outdoor ministry related organization. In this model, students take courses in online, hybrid, and modular intensive formats. This may require 1-2 weeks of residency at HoneyRock, the main Wheaton campus or an OAL partner organizations site once per semester during the program. The non-residential students typically take 4-8 hours per semester and can complete the program in 3 years.

Accelerated Degree Option

Wheaton undergraduate students have the option to take graduate classes in OAL during their junior and senior years as part of their block tuition. These courses cannot count towards both their bachelor's and master's degrees. If done wisely, students can complete the MA in one additional year after completing their undergraduate program. Contact the OAL faculty or Graduate Admissions for more information.

Master of Arts, Outdoor and Adventure Leadership

Requirements for the Outdoor and Adventure Leadership MA, students will complete 26 hours of credit in OAL core courses and 12 hours of credit in one of three concentrations.

OAL Core Courses26
Christian Theology
Foundations for Biblical Interpretation
Global Church History
Cultural Engagement
Leadership and Spiritual Formation
Assessment and Innovation
Program Philosophy and Planning
Theology and Practice of Outdoor Ministry
Organizational Leadership and Staff Development in Outdoor Ministry
Integrative Seminar
Concentration Courses12
Total Credits38

Students choose one from the following three 12-hour concentrations: Program Leadership, Organizational Leadership, or Higher Education Leadership.

Program Leadership Concentration

Program Leadership Concentration Core Requirements4
Care and Counsel in Ministry
Foundations of Experiential Education
Camp Ministry in Global Contexts
Women in Outdoor Ministry
Gap Programming and Leadership
Challenge Course Leadership
Temporary Communities and the Church
Wilderness Programming and Leadership
Wilderness Program Management
Creative Project
Thesis/Applied Thesis
Total Credits in Program Leadership Concentration12

Organizational Leadership Concentration

Organizational Leadership Concentration Core Requirements8
Strategic Management
Leading Effective Organizations: Structural, Financial, and Legal Foundations
Leading Multicultural Teams
Foundations of Leadership in a Globalized World
Organizational and Change Leadership
Entrepreneurial Marketing
Introduction to Nonprofits
Mental Health and the Leader
The Best and Worst of Christian History: Key Insights for Today's Leaders
Camp Ministry in Global Contexts
Creative Project
Thesis/Applied Thesis
Total Credits in Organizational Leadership Concentration12

Higher Education Leadership Concentration

Higher Education Leadership Concentration Core Requirements8
Higher Education: Past, Present, and Future
Emerging Adult Development
Holistic Growth in College: An Integrated Approach
Foundations of Experiential Education
Well-Being in Young Adults
Care and Counsel in Ministry
Total Credits in Higher Education Leadership Concentration12

As part of this 38-credit program, all graduate students are required to complete a theological studies requirement of 6 semester hours. For OAL students, this consists of OAL 662 and either BITH 565 Christian TheologyBITH 566 Foundations for Biblical Interpretation, or BITH 578 Global Church History