In the winter of 2010, we invited the other churches in our community to be a part of a series of four townhall style meetings. Our speakers were people involved with the community in different ways. We had someone from the sheriff’s department, a school guidance counselor, a marriage and family counselor as well as a director of a boys home. We asked them to answer this question: If The Church could do one thing that would make your job easier, what would it be?
One of the things that came out of those discussions is that kids need to feel like they have accomplished something and, if it isn’t constructive, it’s going to be destructive. Our community has very little for kids to do once school is out. I am passionate about archery and Centershot is a national program that teaches archery to students according to the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) and it runs for 8 weeks. Archery is different than many sports because you don’t have to be fast or strong or tall to compete. We have 10 year-olds competing with seniors in high school and holding their own.
After contacting the Centershot organization, we advertised throughout our community with flyers in local businesses and just talking about it to families with kids. We also sent out an EDDM (Every Door Direct Mailing) to the different zip codes in and around Zanesville. There is a substantial start-up cost, but people were so on board with giving our kids something to do, that we raised the money just by talking to people about it. We spent the rest of that spring talking it up and encouraging kids who were registered to get their friends to join and, in that first year, we had a dozen shooters. Since that first year, all we have to do is send out registration forms to the kids who shot the previous year and they come back and bring their friends.
The sub-title of Centershot is “Making Christ the Target of Your Life” and we have had some kids accept Christ as their Savior. We have also built some lasting friendships with some of the kids and they have continued well after they have moved on from Centershot.
A few years ago we had our largest group and I was so excited to have over 30 kids shooting, but that was way too many. There was no time to build relationships with any of the kids and that’s really what this is about. This year one of the young men that came to Centershot 8 or 9 years ago, found himself in some trouble and reached out to me. Some of the other instructors share about the kids just stopping by their homes to talk. And while we haven’t had the first family come to church for more than 1 or 2 Sundays, we are building relationships and the kids hear about Jesus every Monday night.
To answer the question about how another group could get started, it’s really about finding someone that’s passionate about it. If I was passionate about woodworking, you could connect with kids that way too. I have enough tools and do enjoy building birdhouses and feeders. If someone is passionate about that stuff and can teach kids “safely” that would be just as good. Work in a devotional and it’s the same thing. Or cooking/baking . . . whatever you’re passionate about you can use to connect with kids and build relationships with them. So, getting started is really about finding someone that’s passionate about it and then contacting Centershot. Here is the website: www.centershot.org