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Gardendale’s FBC hosts state’s first Centershot programcomment (0)

February 15, 2007

By Grace Thornton



The faint swishing of bowstrings coming from Gardendale on Sunday afternoons could be easy to miss — but make sure you don’t.

At least so says Ron Huie, who holds that though the sound is subtle, the message is anything but.

Centershot, a new Christ-centered archery curriculum, has hit the state. And according to Huie and other leaders at Gardendale’s First Baptist Church, the host of the first pilot program in Alabama, it’s a bull’s-eye all the way.

"We are beginning to see this thing come to life," said Huie, who has been in close contact with Centershot Ministries since the "praying stages" of development in late summer 2006. "It (Centershot’s curriculum) interweaves the message of Christ with the shooting."

The program is modeled to run 45 minutes of shooting, 15 minutes of archery-themed Bible study and then 45 more minutes of shooting. Huie said it has the feel of an Upward program in the setting of a sport less mainstream than basketball or football. The novelty has drawn much interest — the church’s first eight-week class, which started Jan. 28, was limited to 27 middle schoolers.

It filled up immediately.

"We’ve had such a demand that we’ve already ordered three more bows and a mini bow (for children)," Huie said. "Our eventual plan is to open this up to all age groups."

Centershot is growing quickly into a ministry for the whole family, according to Kris Grimes, Centershot director and a former youth director in Kentucky. "We only have a curriculum right now for students, but this program [has the potential to] span from kindergarten to senior adults," he said.

But as a starting point, students are the most natural target, Grimes explained. "There’s an unreached population of students that aren’t as excited about playing basketball, softball, those types of sports. But you don’t have to be natural-born, professional athletes to shoot."

The prospect of excelling at shooting draws students in and becomes the tool churches can use to relate to them, he said.

"It will definitely be an outreach ministry for us. We hope to see some boys and girls come to Christ through Centershot," said Allen Oakley, minister of adult education at Gardendale’s First, who noted that some of the students attending haven’t previously been active in church. "[The first class] went even better than our expectations — it’s a testimony that God can use something ordinary like archery and do something extraordinary."

According to Huie, it’s not only a natural ministry to students but also one that doesn’t involve many risks.

"From a statistical standpoint, the only sport that’s safer is pingpong," he said with a laugh. "The way we run the program is so safe and very disciplined."

For churches interested in hosting a Centershot program, training is available from Centershot leaders, as well as five Alabama churches — Gardendale’s First in North Jefferson Baptist Association; Liberty Baptist, Chelsea, in Shelby Baptist Association; First Baptist, Hayden, in Friendship Baptist Association; Sharon Heights Baptist, Birmingham, in North Jefferson Association; and Brent Presbyterian. All were certified by the National Archery in Schools Program’s standards in November 2006 and are able to host Centershot programs, as well as train others to do the same.

"We’re in the implementation phase now and ready to spread," Grimes said, noting there is a strong chance the program will be in 10–12 states by early next year.

And two Centershot methods are developing as the program grows, he said. The first, called Club Centershot, is the one Gardendale’s First uses, teaching the students to hone their skills as an individual. The second, called Team Centershot, has the students competing against each other in groups.

"The second has a more tournament-type atmosphere, and it has not been fully implemented yet," Grimes said. From this second version, he hopes to develop community, regional, state and national tournaments where students can go to compete further.

In the meantime, Gardendale’s First — under the leadership of Pastor Kevin Hamm — is taking every chance available to widen the scope of its outreach.

"The Lord is just opening up a lot of different opportunities through archery," Oakley said.

The church will hold its third annual 3-D archery shoot in September, and it will have the opportunity to host the archery portion of the Alabama Sports Festival in June.

"Archery has been around for a long, long time — it’s all through the Bible," Oakley said. "It made sense to take it and make it a ministry."

For more information, call Centershot at 608-269-1779 or Gardendale’s First at 205-488-8716.

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