Centershot Ministries Teaches Biblical Truths Through Bows and Arrows

Centershot Ministries Teaches Biblical Truths Through Bows and Arrows

life bow

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Archery is an ancient art that can be found referenced throughout the Bible. Many of the most famous heroes of the Old Testament — like Jonathon, King Saul’s son and friend of David — were archers, as it was a common tool for hunting and war in the ancient world. Years later, the practice of archery is still being taught to new generations through the fun and engaging programs offered by Centershot Ministries.

Since the early 2010s, St. James UMC in Little Rock has hosted its Centershot Archery ministry for kids and adults of all ages who are interested in getting involved in the world of archery.

Kim Anderson, Executive Director of Ministries at St. James UMC, said the program got its start after a man named Jim Emery joined the church in 2012.

“The very day he and his family joined, he asked to meet with me regarding a possible new ministry,” Anderson said. “Jim introduced me and St. James to Centershot Archery. He had run a program at his previous church and asked if St. James would consider such a ministry.”

Anderson said within a few weeks, the church had approved Emery’s proposal, and new equipment was purchased to get the program going.

Centershot Ministries is the main organization that helps to provide the curriculum and training for churches that want to start an archery program at their church.

According to their website, they are a “non-denominational outreach program that shares the Gospel of Jesus using the life-skill of archery.”

Darren Corbin is the current head archery coach for Centershot at St. James. He said he took over the program recently after the last coach left.

“My son joined the program several years back since his archery coach was the person in charge of the program. Two years ago, the person in charge moved out of state and I felt called to continue this program at St. James,” Corbin said.

Last year was tough for the program due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Corbin, but he said they were still able to have about six students participate. Corbin said being able to have the program available was huge for the students and gave them something to look forward to every week.

But it’s not just students that can participate in Centershot. Corbin said the program allows a wide variety of ages — from 4th grade through age 97 — to participate, but people usually fall into certain leagues based on their age.

Centershot Life League is basically the all-ages group and is designed for youth, college, families, couples, men, women, and seniors. Centershot Compete is their competitive league for 4th – 12th grade and offers an opportunity to travel and compete in local, state, and national tournaments. There’s also Centershot Blue which offers law enforcement and first responders a tool for Community Engagement and Officer Wellness.

“School Resource Officers and P.O.S.T Teams can use these leagues and fun shoots to develop trust around positive engagement,” Corbin said.

One of the ways that Centershot Ministries teaches not only archery skills but valuable Biblical lessons is through the LIFE Bow.

The LIFE Bow is a special bow colored-code bow that tells the story of sin and salvation through Jesus Christ; black represents sin, red represents Jesus, white represents purity, blue represents water baptism, green represents growing in faith, the multi-colored string of the bow represents the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, and gold represents the streets of Heaven.

Anderson said the ministry of Centershot fits into the mission at St. James exceptionally well.

“St. James’ mission is To Know Jesus Christ and To Make Him Known,” Anderson said. “Through the Centershot Bible Studies, devotionals, and LIFE Bow, students and their families come to know Jesus Christ. This also gives them the tools to share their faith, thus making Jesus Christ known. This is truly a community outreach program as 100% of participants are not members of St. James.”

Centershot and St. James are currently gearing up for an archery clinic to be held on July 31 at St. James UMC. The event will consist of three separate clinics for different age groups and skill levels.

The first will be an Exploring Archery Clinic from 9:30 – 11:45 a.m. This is for kids entering 6th grade through adults of all ages and is centered toward anyone who would like to know more about archery or is interested in giving archery a try.

The Basic Archery Clinic will be from 1 – 3:30 p.m. and is designed for students in the 6th – 12th grades that have some experience with archery but are wanting to improve their skills.

Finally, the Anyone Can Shoot Clinic will start at 3:30 p.m. and will be hosted by Centershot Coach Darren Corbin. Corbin will be available to answer any questions you may have about starting a Centershot Ministry at your own church.

The cost for the clinic is $5 per person for the Basic or Exploring clinics. The Anyone Can Shoot clinic is free but is limited to 25 participants. Registration for all clinics is required and can be found here.

Corbin said he hopes that more churches in Arkansas will get interested in Centershot after attending the clinic. St. James UMC is currently the only church to offer a Centershot program in Arkansas, according to Corbin.

Anderson said she wants the clinic will build more interest in the program as well and hopes to see more people participate once it’s safe to do so.

“Corbin is really striving to provide a good balance between faith and archery. As more people learn about Centershot, it is our prayer that more individuals and churches will participate in the program. We are happy to share our resources and knowledge with anyone interested.”

For more information about Centershot Ministries, visit https://centershot.org/ or contact Darren Corbin at anyonecanshootarchery@gmail.com.

Ready, Set, Read Aims to Break the Summer Reading SlumpParagould FUMC keeps kids reading when not at school

Ready, Set, Read Aims to Break the Summer Reading Slump
Paragould FUMC keeps kids reading when not at school

kids laughing

Photos by Danielle Honeycutt and Karoline Risker

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

One of the best environments for the development of strong literacy skills for kids usually happens at school, but when class ends for the year and children go home for the summer, those reading skills tend to fall off and can sometimes stop developing altogether.

For nearly a decade, Paragould First UMC has aimed to break that summer reading slump with its Ready, Set, Read summer program, a weeklong event that encourages kids in the area to continue reading and learning during the summer months.

“Ready, Set, Read came out of a Wednesday night Bible study in which Angela (Newby) and I were both participating,” said Danielle Honeycutt, one of the program coordinators for Ready, Set, Read. “The study was over the book, ‘Outlive Your Life’ by Max Lucado. During the discussion, Angela and I started talking about the low literacy rate of our students and we wondered how we could break the cycle.”

The idea that spawned from that meeting was Ready, Set, Read. Newby, who is also a program coordinator for the event, and Honeycutt said the mission of the event is getting kids to read during the summer, with the hope of avoiding the regression that happens when they’re out of school for several months.

kids with firefighter

Photos by Danielle Honeycutt and Karoline Risker

Ready, Set, Read takes place at the Paragould FUMC during one week of the summer. This year, the event was June 28 – July 2, and according to the Rev. Chase Burns, associate pastor at Paragould FUMC, between 75 and 100 kids from around the city participate each year.

The church makes use of its abundant space to hold fun events for the kids, including their gym, worship center, six classrooms, a youth room, playground, and various other small gathering rooms for guest readers to use.

Kids who participate in Ready, Set, Read are bused to the church in the morning. Each day consists of a shared activity and story reading, grade level readings where kids are divided into age-appropriate groups, free lunch, special guest readers from the local community, game time, and finally, an end-of-day devotional.

Through the use of guest readers, Ready, Set, Read opens up the event for local leaders to participate in their community and also allows an opportunity for the kids to meet police officers, firefighters, and city officials who help run their city.

Some of this year’s guest readers included Paragould School District and Greene County Tech School District principals and superintendents; Paragould police officers, firefighters, and paramedics; and representatives from the Paragould Chamber of Commerce, Junior Auxiliary, and Nunn Construction. Paragould Mayor Josh Agee also participated in a video where he read the “Book With No Pictures” to his two young daughters.

Although Ready, Set, Read was already in place before 200,000 More Reasons launched their new literacy initiative, Burns said the mission of the event now fits in very nicely with the mission of 200,000 More Reasons. It has even led to a new pilot initiative, which will take place in 2021.

Burns said the new initiative is a series of mini Ready, Set, Reads that will happen off-campus at locations around the city. The mini-events will be half days, and they hope to have them quarterly throughout the year.

“During the quarterly events, we will be partnering with our mission committee (the committee that oversees the operations of the Witt House-our platform to feed those in need within our community). We plan to offer a meal, fellowship time, supplemental nutrition to take home, on-site snap assistance, a prayer booth, a group reading session, free literature games, and other opportunities to build relationships with one another as we share the love of Christ,” Burns said.

free book store

Photos by Danielle Honeycutt and Karoline Risker

Honeycutt and Newby said they hope that kids who participate in Ready, Set, Read leave the event with a love of learning and reading. 

“We sent them home with brand new books to start their own libraries at home. We want them to read while they aren’t at school and we want their siblings to read also. If we can get books into the hands of children and teach them about Jesus and serving and loving our neighbors, we have done our jobs,” Newby said.

Burns echoed that hope and said that Paragould FUMC’s mission doesn’t end with improving childhood literacy.

“We are looking forward to expanding our efforts in not only fighting childhood hunger, focusing on literacy, and promoting healthy, stable families as a means of hope and assistance for families to move out of poverty; we are looking forward to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, through loving God, serving others, and making a difference,” Burns said.

The View Is Always Better at the Top

The View Is Always Better at the Top

pinnacle mountain

Pinnacle Mountain. Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Have you ever looked up from the bottom of a mountain and thought to yourself “there’s no way I’m getting up there”?

Maybe you were ambitious and thought you could traverse a hike through the woods and up the side of that mountain, but now, you’re three miles in, tired, dehydrated, maybe a little hungry because you forgot breakfast that morning, and you’re staring up at what seems like an impossible feat.

If you’ve ever hiked the East Summit Trail at Pinnacle Mountain in Little Rock, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a nice little meandering walk through the woods for about a half-mile, but then you arrive at an impossibly large mound of boulders staring at you and just daring you to try to conquer it.

But also, if you know that trail, you know that getting to the top is absolutely worth the challenge.

Because once you get over that last stretch of boulders at the peak, you are rewarded with a stunning view of the surrounding landscape. From the top of the mountain, 1,013 feet above sea level, you get a wonderful view of Pinnacle Mountain State Park, as well as Lake Maumelle, the Maumelle and Little Maumelle Rivers, the Arkansas River, and even the downtown Little Rock skyline.

Every time I get to the top of the summit, I just have to sit and take it all in for a while.

Hiking up a steep mountain is a bit like life. You sometimes find yourself at the bottom of your journey, tired, unsure, and scared to face what seems like an impossible task before you.

And the journey is anything but easy. You end up exhausted, winded, perhaps a little bruised and scratched up from a few small tumbles you took along the way. But once you get to the top, the reward is no doubt worth that difficult climb.

Right now, I think the United Methodist Church, and the world, are still climbing to the top of that summit. We thought we were going to reach it in 2020, but it seems like God had other plans for us. 

We are still working through our fierce disagreements on LGBTQ+ inclusion in the church. We have deep theological differences that need to be healed. We are just now getting to a point where the coronavirus pandemic seems to be under control in the United States, although in other parts of the world, it is still raging uncontrollably. And racism in the world and the church is anything but resolved, although we have made great strides in recognizing the hurt and pain that have been directed toward our Black and Brown brothers and sisters throughout American history.

Bishop Mueller recently said in his Episcopal Address to the 2021 Annual Conference that he believes we are experiencing the gift of an unexpected pause right now. I believe the same; we’re halfway up the summit, taking a granola and water break before we conquer the remainder of the trail.

I don’t know what the future holds for the church; I hope that whatever the outcome, it is God’s will and that every side finds peace and comfort in the decision that is made. Similarly, I don’t know when the pandemic will end, or when we’ll finally make reparations for systemic and systematic racism.

I do know that God doesn’t leave us wondering where we should look when we face a mountain. God says, simply, to look to God. 

One of the most famous verses about mountains, of course, is the one about having faith like a mustard seed, but I find Psalm 121:1-2 to be a little more relevant to my mountain metaphor.

“I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.” – Psalm 121:1-2, The Message

Take heart, knowing that the path that’s left before us is not as long as it seems, and once we get to the summit, we should pause and take time to reflect on all that we have learned before we head down the other side. 

Because the view is always better at the top.

The Arkansas Conference Staff Shares What They’ve Learned From Caste: The Origins of our DiscontentsStaff book study furthers the discussion on racism and caste systems in the United States

The Arkansas Conference Staff Shares What They’ve Learned From Caste: The Origins of our Discontents
Staff book study furthers the discussion on racism and caste systems in the United States

book stack

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

In 2020, the staff of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church underwent a study on implicit bias. Led by the Rev. Rashim Merriwether Sr. Special Assistant to the Bishop for Ethnic Concerns and Initiatives, and the Rev. Jim Polk, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministry, our months-long study led us into vital conversations with each other about implicit bias, prejudice, racism, and more issues on social justice.

Desiring to further explore issues of racism and caste in the United States after our study ended, the Arkansas Conference staff began a new book discussion series exploring author Isabel Wilkerson’s New York Times best-selling novel Caste: The Origins of our Discontents.

Wilkerson’s Caste not only explores the systemic and systematic racism ingrained in the history of the United States but goes further by comparing the caste system of India with our own version of a caste system that has existed right here in America for hundreds of years.

Below are a few responses from Arkansas Conference staff members who share what they have learned from our ongoing discussion on caste, racism, and systemic oppression in the United States.

“The book Caste deepened my understanding of the complex infrastructure that was created in the United States to suppress anyone that is not white.  Although we didn’t create this system, we inherited it and it is our responsibility to recognize it, help others recognize it, and actively work to dismantle it.”

– Megan Rugg, Assistant Director of the Center for Administrative Services

“The book Caste filled in so many historical holes that I had in my knowledge of our country and the role of our state in the suppression of people of color. I especially loved taking part in this book discussion as a staff and hearing the powerful explanations and experiences shared by my black co-workers. Hearing their voices touched me so deeply and taught me that I have more work to do educating myself and others.”

– Melinda Shunk, Children’s Ministry Coordinator

“Caste helped me to understand the unique development of racism in the United States. Through written (and unwritten, but understood) laws and regulations, racism is a part of every aspect of American culture from medicine and education to the economy and the church. When we talk about dismantling racism, it is not only about dismantling racism in our hearts, but also dismantling racism in the systems that were built and perpetuate racial disparity.”

– Rev. Samantha Meadors, Project Coordinator for The Delta Project

“Caste has opened my eyes to countless ways that our country has been set up to actively work against black people while also creating systems to ensure that white people were not taught to recognize these racist policies.  And, I’m learning that open, honest conversations are important, although uncomfortable at times.”

– Michelle Moore, Youth and Young Adult Coordinator; Developer of Clergy Recruitment

“Caste shows us that having real conversations on racism and the ways that it has manifested in this country is not only a difficult conversation, but pulls at many of our inherited beliefs as a society. As we navigate each chapter, ideologies, traditions, and biases are challenged and re-examined. This leaves individuals on both sides of the conversation over race feeling vulnerable while defining a new personal narrative about self and what responsibility or role we have as part of humanity and the Christian Faith to address the sin of racism. Caste peels back the layers of a complicated past and a hidden present. Caste does not focus on the blame game, but paints the picture for all to see an honest look at the cause, duality, and the collateral damage racism has and can cause in the story of humanity if we don’t have the conversation. Caste reveals the sin of racism and promotes a space for everyone to learn, grieve, repent, affirm, transform, and grow.”

– Rev. Rashim Merriwether Sr., Special Assistant to the Bishop for Ethnic Concerns and Initiatives

Learning about the caste system in the U.S. was eye-opening. I was somewhat familiar with India’s history of the caste, but reading this book made me more aware of how prevalent it is today. We see those on the highest rungs of the caste system — people with power, money, those in government — frequently pit the middle class against the subordinate poor caste to deflect attention away from what the wealthiest or most powerful may be doing. A recent example of how the caste system works is demonizing those on unemployment as lazy and taking away benefits. Never taking into account facts of life such as low wages; availability of full-time jobs with benefits rather than lower-paying part-time positions without benefits; the lack of available and affordable childcare and eldercare; affordable housing; and reliable transportation. These are real issues that we face in our country.

I was also sickened to read Hitler’s observation of the American South. He was impressed and marveled at our knack for maintaining an air of innocence about the torture and death of our slaves. One way to do that was to change the conversation. It was easier to think of slaves as currency, machines, and property rather than human beings.

– Mona Williams, Benefits Officer

For more resources on the Arkansas Conference’s Dismantling Racism Initiative, visit arumc.org/dismantling-racism-initiative/

Jacksonville First Turns Sunday Morning Worship Into A Churchwide Vacation Bible SchoolIntergenerational worship is the goal of this year's VBS

Jacksonville First Turns Sunday Morning Worship Into A Churchwide Vacation Bible School
Intergenerational worship is the goal of this year's VBS

Jacksonville First UMC’s sanctuary decorated for the To Mars and Beyond Vacation Bible School, which is taking place during morning worship for five Sundays this summer.

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Vacation Bible School is one of the hallmarks of summer vacation for kids, but oftentimes it takes place outside of the traditional church service, leading many parents and church members unaware of the wonderful ministry taking place inside their church. That’s why Jacksonville First UMC decided this year to make Vacation Bible School and Sunday morning worship one and the same, integrating a typically week-long VBS into a 5-week Sunday morning worship experience.

“For the next five Sundays, we’re going to have Vacation Bible School as an entire congregation, rather than just a segment of our congregation, which is usually just the kids,” said the Rev. Nathan Kilbourne, senior pastor at Jacksonville First UMC.

Kilbourne said that the idea for an integrated, intergenerational VBS came about earlier this year during planning meetings with Stephanie Dunn, the Christian Education Coordinator for Jacksonville First.

He and Dunn had thought about doing an at-home VBS last year when the pandemic was still spreading quickly through their community, but ultimately, the decision was made to forego VBS in 2020. So when planning for the 2021 VBS came about, and they saw that infection numbers were down and it was safer to gather, they were itching to do something in person again.

“I was in the middle of my sermon planning at the same time and thinking about all that we’ve gone through over the course of the past year and asking, ‘what could Vacation Bible School look like this year?’” Kilbourne said.

“The desire to be together as a church family was kind of driving a lot of this, that what if instead of doing a normal VBS, we said the entire church gets to participate this year, whether you’re an infant or you’re 100 years old, and we’ll all get to do this together.”

rev nate

The Rev. Nathan Kilbourne dresses up as a space explorer during Vacation Bible School at Jacksonville First UMC

The planning team settled on a multi-week VBS, with each “day” of VBS taking place on a different Sunday morning throughout the end of June and into July. Instead of four or five days in the middle of the week, Jacksonville First’s VBS would take place during Sunday morning worship.

The theme of this year’s VBS at Jacksonville is To Mars and Beyond, said Dunn. It’s the same theme that was produced in 2019 by Cokesbury but is being reintroduced this year to a new audience.

Dunn said that each day of VBS will operate just as it normally would during a week-long VBS.

“We are doing the opening assembly and closing assembly of Vacation Bible School, along with Rev. Nate’s preaching around the Bible story that’s told each day. And we’re also doing the music portion during worship,” Dunn said.

The entire sanctuary has been decorated with the To Mars and Beyond theme, complete with a red and white rocket ship next to the lectern, streamers and celestial decorations hanging from the ceiling and on the walls, and quirky robots on the stage.

Kilbourne said that his Sunday morning sermon will be related to the story that corresponds to that day of VBS.

“It’ll be geared more toward kids. So, you know, like Vacation Bible school typically has a storytime where they learn the Bible story for the night. I’m taking that and modifying it a little bit to make it for everybody but still with a bent toward kids,” he said.

For music time, the songs that kids typically learn during Bible School will also be taught to everyone in the sanctuary during morning worship, complete with corresponding arm motions and silly sound effects if necessary.

stage rocket

A rocket ship and more space-themed items decorate the stage at Jacksonville First UMC.

Game time, craft time, and snack time are the only portions of each day that won’t take place in the church sanctuary, according to Dunn. But if anyone from the church wants to join in for those activities as well, they are welcome to do so in the church’s gym immediately following worship.

Both Kilbourne and Dunn said that the most important thing they hope both the congregation and kids get from this experience is a deeper appreciation for the importance of intergenerational ministry.

“Churchwide, it’s important for the children to be in participation with adults and vice versa. I think it’s also important that the kids see the rest of our church taking on a program that they loved so well and enjoying it just as much as they do,” Dunn said.

Kilbourne said that being separated from each other for the past year has really affected everyone at their church, and this Vacation Bible School also gives the congregation a chance to be together in fellowship again.

“By doing crafts together, doing recreation together, doing science together we’re hoping to bridge those generational gaps to help us see the family that we have in God,” Kilbourne said.

“One of the things we’ve also said is we’ve had enough difficulty over the past year, we just want to have fun and as a congregation, we just want to enjoy one another’s presence and to let loose a little bit because we’ve had a lot of serious stuff happen. We want to inject some joy into our entire lives together as well.”

Jacksonville First UMC’s first VBS was on Sunday, June 20. It will continue for the next four Sundays, June 27, July 4, July 11, and July 18. For more information, contact Stephanie Dunn at dunn.stephaniem@gmail.com.