campers sitting around a fire at night

Wilderness Ridge is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, registered in Texas. We are governed by an independent Board of Directors.

The purpose of Wilderness Ridge is to provide a Christ-centered, servant-leadership-focused, wilderness camping experience for young men through safe, healthy, and financially accessible programs. We leverage the participation of volunteers in order to operate with a minimum of compensated staff. Our goal is for campers, volunteers and staff to grow into a complete realization of Biblical Manhood in order to further the cause of Christ Jesus.

CWR Philosophy of Ministry

The Wilderness Ridge philosophy of ministry was originally developed from a vision of ministry given to Dwane McNabb and Isaac Pape in 1986.  Dwane had a deep appreciation for ministry to boys and Isaac owned 90 acres of property in the Lost Pines of Smithville, Texas that he wanted dedicated to ministry.  God brought these men together with a group of Christian Service Brigade (CSB) leaders serving at Spring Branch Community Church in Houston, Texas.  A position paper (which this document attempts to reproduce) described the how they hoped to meet the needs of young men using a mix of CSB ministry principles and the unique wilderness nature of Isaac’s property – mostly unspoiled stands of tall pine trees in a rolling, rocky/sandy terrain.  That challenge led to the formation of a leadership team, a 501(c)(3) corporation, and the beginning of the formal ministry of Wilderness Ridge Camp at the site in Smithville.

The Need

Boys these days (a timeless fact) are struggling with a lack of:

  • wild, yet safe outlets for their energy
  • outdoor experiences where they can develop basic life-skills competency
  • exposure to servant leadership principles
  • environments that affirm their unique design and value in God’s eyes
  • safe environments and structures in which to learn and practice leadership skills
  • exposure to adult role models worthy of emulation (in life-skills, serving, caring, teaching)
  • exposure to the truths about who God is, as expressed in His nature and in His Word, the Bible (as described in Psalm 19)

Key Elements of the ministry

  • Outdoor Living Experience – boys and men in an unfamiliar, unpampered, somewhat stark environment where there are sticks and rocks and creatures and trees (vs. screens and man-made sounds) and where they experience a real night morning, day, dusk cycle.  This environment is different from “home” – likely less comfortable, less accommodating, less self-focused, while more conducive to introspection and hearing the still, small, voice of God.
  • Wilderness Experience (The Creation) – boys and men have an opportunity to be exposed to and value an environment that is God-sustained (resilient), preexistent (was here before they arrived) and transcendent (doesn’t depend on them – will still exist after they leave), gives of its beauty and yet is a still a bit of a wild and unpredictable gift of God to man.  The principle here is to engage boys in an environment with heightened awareness of their limitations and without the normal entertainment props, directing the focus to the sights and sounds of Creation.
  • Nature and Needs of Boys – boys (and girls) need a place where they can run around, make noise, and experience the physical world around them.  They need to be in a place where not everything is breakable, untouchable.  Where the reality is self-evident and reinforced by nature itself, or by benevolent authority (if you fall down, you hit the ground; if you break the safety rules, you sit out; if you are unkind, you are corrected/taught).  Hebrews 12:7-11
  • Christian Role Models – No man or woman is a perfect role model, save Jesus.  Valuable role models will point boys to Jesus. They will also demonstrate a life that is pointed in His direction, is subject to His correction and is faithful and enduring.   Faithful leaders and role models will give of their time, gifting, and insight, will contribute sweat-equity for the benefit of others, will care genuinely for the needs of others, will admit fault and ask forgiveness when wrong, will offer grace and forgiveness when wronged, and will be consistently allowing the Holy Spirit to make them more Christ-like.
  • Christian Servant Leadership values – future leaders need to learn the basics of servant leadership.  This is encompassed in the 2 uses of the acronym R.E.A.L.

First from Robert Lewis’ Men’s Fraternity

  • A R.E.A.L. Man:
    • Reject Passivity – Romans 12:2
    • Expect God’s Greater Reward – Revelation 11:12
    • Accept Responsibility – 1 Corinthians 16:13
    • Lead Courageously – Joshua 24:15

Then, from the HCBC Austin heritage:

  • As disciplers, we want to produce Christians who are REAL:
    • Reproduce Other Disciples – Matthew 28:19-20
    • Esteem God Above All – Mark 12:30
    • Announce the Good News – Luke 24:46-47
    • Live for Others – Mark 10:45

Putting it all together – Men and boys together – Developing Christian men in a Wilderness environment –

The principle here is to engage boys in a wilderness (wild, different, uncomfortable) environment experiencing the creativity of God, learning from that environment and Christian men how to manage heightened stressors (change, newness, structure, self-defined nature of the outdoors) guided by an enabling set of rules, applied with Grace, Mercy and Lovingkindness.

Boys will be in an environment conducive to developing endurance, patience, understanding, appreciation, thankfulness, kindness, love for God and His Creation, and basic love for their fellow man.

The goal is to develop the character of Christ (who spent time in with a select set of men “that they might be with Him” both in social and wilderness environs).  Youth should develop His character (as in Ephesians 4:11-13) by learning it in real-life encounters with:  

  • Christian men as mentors/disciplers,
  • teaching the heart and nature of God via group and individual Bible-teaching,
  • learning the heart and nature of God via group and individual exposure to God’s creation (Psalm 19).  

Key character attributes and development –

  • Holy Bible is CWR’s core curriculum (2 Timothy 2:15, John 8:32)
  • exhibiting the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23),
  • attaining to the nature of Christ (Eph 4:13, I John 3:1-3).  
  • understanding their unique and significant design (Ps 139, Eph 4:11, I Cor 12)
  • understanding how to push through trials and difficulties (I Peter 1)
  • service as a calling; Love as the standard (Mark 10:45, I Cor 13)
  • dealing with issues; quickly, openly, and honestly (Matthew 18:15-16)


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