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Parenting Teens - Christian Family Resources

Teen Survivor ... with a Spiritual Twist

  • Janet Chismar Senior Editor, News & Culture
  • Published Apr 22, 2003
Teen Survivor ... with a Spiritual Twist

No one films Chuck Holton's survival trips, but the fear and intensity rival - or even surpass - that found on the reality TV series. The difference, according to Holton, is that these kids come home with renewed minds and hearts. "All of the activities have spiritual parallels," says the retired Army Ranger turned adventure guide.


Holton knows a little about intensity - he was part of the same unit seen in the movie Black Hawk Down. Although he left the unit a year before they went to Somalia, he fought in Panama and in the first Gulf War.


"Soldiers are trained to deal with the incredible stress of people trying to kill them. We ought to do that too," says Holton. "There are a lot of things in our own lives that can stress us out. If we're not prepared for them, they'll break us."


Holton tells audiences, "Don't always look for the easy way out. Sometimes it's best to go the hard way. Difficulty is something to embrace because that is how you grow."


Such lessons provide the backbone for Holton's version of Survivor. Over a three-day weekend, three times each summer, Holton takes 20 teens out into the wilderness to push them beyond their limits. First up? Rappelling. "We climb up a 900-foot cliff and throw them off the top," Holton explains. "A lot of these kids have never been on a rope before; they really have to confront their fears. They have to learn to put faith in the rope."


Holton draws the necessary spiritual parallels during the evening devotional. "I tell them, 'You could have stood on top of that mountain and told me you had faith that the rope would get you to the bottom. But I never would have believed you until you actually put your faith to work, and put your weight on the rope.' We talk about how faith without works is dead."


Later, teams are dropped off in the middle of nowhere, with only an envelope containing a vague clue, a compass and a couple of quarts of water. They are not allowed to bring tents or sleeping bags. A series of clues will lead them to their final destination


The next day's challenge involves caving: "The cave covers a creek that disappears into the side of a mountain and comes out a mile later. To get out of the cave, you have to get in the water and swim," Holton explains.


"I don't want them to have a lot of fun - I want them to be miserable, scared and confused. But then once they come through it, they really feel like they've accomplished something. It's a miniature version of what combat did for me."


Chuck Holton talks about War and StressRead the article.


"Teen Survivor" first appeared in the April issue of CCM Magazine. To read the latest about your favorite contemporary Christian music artists, subscribe to CCM Magazine or visit