Adventure Tourism, Economic Development, and Church Planting
Intrepid represents one strategy or way that we're focused on engaging in North American missions and church planting through TEAM. Obviously geographically this resents an enormous swath of land and demographically an extensive and diverse population. The initial question was simply, "where do we start?" Thus Intrepid was born.
Intrepid was not nor is the end-all for our role in North America. As a 125+ year old international missions organization we've been wrestling through where and how for beginning our work specifically in the US and Canada. While Intrepid reflects a definitive rural slant that's not the extent of TEAM's work in North America. With that said ... let's dive into today's topics of adventure tourism, economic development, and church planting.
Earlier in the week Outside Magazine published an online article entitled "How Mountain Biking is Saving Small-Town, USA." Not only did that grab my attention but so did the first line ... "From Nevada to Minnesota, hollowed-out mining towns are seeing economic revitalization on trails and tracks that attract mountain bikers from far and wide." This screams Intrepid, was my first reaction. So I dove in.
In essence the article detailed how various rural communities have been transitioning their economy from resource extraction (logging, mining) to that of adventure tourism, specifically mountain biking. The numbers are staggering. Here's one example from the article: Crosby, Minnesota. Population 2,386. They built 25 miles of pristine singletrack mountain bike trails. As a result now over 25,000 people a year ride on those trails. Because of those trails these visitors have now pumped $2 million a year into this local economy ... buying gas, picking up snacks at the convenience store, eating dinner, and starting new businesses. The prediction is that number will jump to $21 million a year once they extend the trail network up to 75 miles.
Even more so, the article goes on to say:
Fifteen new businesses have opened in Crosby since 2011, and the only thing that’s changed, Hautala says, is the singletrack that now winds through the woods outside town. There’s a new brewery, a yoga studio, two wood-fired pizza joints, and the True North Base Camp, which caters to cyclists with six bike-in, lakefront cabins. More importantly, many of the business were started by young people who moved to the area or chose to stay because they see potential in the trails.
While this is part of a larger economic conversation that we don't have to get into for this article, what it reveals is that community after community that had been once written off are making a massive comeback. Obviously this is not the fate of every small town across the US and Canada. However, community visionaries are taking a proactive approach to rewrite the future of their towns post mine or mill closures.
Where is the church? Where are new church plants? This is precisely the junction where we're focused on for Intrepid ... where church planting, adventure tourism, and economic development intersect. Like 3 streams converging, this is the focal point for where and how we want to engage in missions and church planting in North America. So for a town like Crosby ... what does it look like to plant a church there? Start a business? Start a non-profit? Yes, we want to plant churches and see lives transformed by the gospel. We also want to see communities turned around, new jobs created, wealth generated for communities, and the like.
Are you in?