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.

Understanding Our Diversity Leads to Changed Lives

Understanding Our Diversity Leads to Changed Lives

hands

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

By Rev. Rashim Merriwether Sr.

Special Assistant to the Bishop on Ethnic Concerns and Initiatives

“If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see” – James Baldwin

When James Baldwin penned these words, he did so confessing the true love he had for his country, his city, and all people. But he also knew that there were some unspoken realities regarding racism, social justice, cultural intelligence, and the divisive undercurrents which were not common to the naked eye. They were covered by systems, structures, unwritten laws, and isolating ideologies based on fear, stereotypes, biases, and a lack of connection between all God’s people. 

Wherever, and whenever, there is a lack of connection, the possibility of loss, division and inequality are inevitable.  Understanding one’s identity, position, gifts, hopes, fears, and desires are not only important but become the beginning to understanding the same life processes in others. If we are ever to achieve the most, or the best, that this life can offer, we must embrace our identity, our history, our reality, and the need to address those things which can hinder that chance for success. 

We are not here alone, nor have we made it this far on our own accord. It is only through the gifts, sacrifices, and struggles of all people that we have been able to experience the possibility of what life has to offer. And once we accept that history, that reality in its un-redacted purest form, we can begin to see the processes, struggles, fears, and hopes of others. 

We are not here alone, nor can we endure this journey by ourselves. It is only in seeing the value, diversity, and importance of all people can we ever hope to overcome the destructive nature of racism and all its variations. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to each other, and to God to embrace the gift of life which has been given to us and see those things which are not plainly seen by the naked eye. Understand them for the truth of what they are and how they have hindered our growth into the fullness of what God has called us to be. 

It is with this understanding I listen, discern, and serve…

Building the Kingdom of God Through Small Community Libraries

Building the Kingdom of God Through Small Community Libraries

bishop at library

Bishop Mueller reads to kids at the Altheimer Library.

By Rev. Sam Meadors

Community Coordinator, The Delta Project - 200K More Reasons

 “The opposite of poverty is not property. The opposite of both poverty and property is community.” Jürgen Moltmann, German Theologian 

The library isn’t even open yet, but kids are arriving. They come in groups; some are dropped off by their designated grown-up, others arriving on bicycles, still more walking up to the doors. In Altheimer, a small, rural community in Jefferson County, the library has become the place to be for children who are out of school for the summer. 

Like many changing communities, there is no longer a school in town. Come fall, students will ride the bus on a long route to get to Pine Bluff, roughly 15 miles away. While the school has food, summer programs, and events, the kids aren’t going because during the summer the bus doesn’t run. So, the library it is. 

You could not ask for a better library. Or a better librarian. If the library is the heart of the community in summer, Mrs. Melony is the heart of the library. She greets every child by name before making sure they have a mask and hand sanitizer. She has candy, chips, and granola bars behind her desk when the kids need an extra snack. She knows what games they like to play on the PlayStation and what grade everyone is going into in the fall. Mrs. Melony is the reason that any kids came at all when the church wanted to provide a literacy program. 

Mrs. Melony called all the parents and began sharing the news. She told everyone to get registered for the summer program only lasting a few weeks. Even though the program was full to overflowing, she made sure that kids could still stay at the library even if they were on the waiting list. There are 18 children coming to the library every day; some to read with tutors, some to read alone, and all to be fed. 

Two years ago, as 200K Reasons was adding more reasons including literacy and family stability, the local pastor, the Rev. Lance Hickerson, asked if he could get some books to give away. He got more than he asked for when instead of just books, he was met with the opportunity to support a reading program for children in the community. There was worry, though, because Altheimer UMC is a small church and might not be able to provide all the volunteers needed for such a program. 

Instead of backing down, the church teamed up with locals. First with the office of the mayor and then with churches from neighboring communities. Arkansas Kids Reads, a literacy nonprofit, offered training and oversight from their expertise. Churches from White Hall, St. James, and Lakeside provide tutors for an hour each day, reading one-on-one with two students. Then, a literacy specialist instructs the class in learning for another hour. But wait, there’s more! 

girls reading

Children receive meals provided by the Arkansas Foodbank Summer Feeding Program and prepared at a Lakeside United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff. Interns from Quad W at First United Methodist of Pine Bluff deliver the meals. Anyone under the age of 18 can visit one of three locations in Watson Chapel, Altheimer and Wabbaseka. 

There is a small army of volunteers that have decided that children need support. They are using time that would otherwise go to their own families, their jobs, or their retirement to help children who, until a few weeks ago, they did not know. Now that they have a taste for it, they are already talking about next summer and even more importantly this fall. 

In building a community, we get to witness small glimpses of the kingdom of God. That is what is happening through reading and feeding this summer in Altheimer, Arkansas. Thanks be to God!

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.

Reframe and Rename Volunteering

Reframe and Rename Volunteering

volunteers

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

By Melinda Shunk

Children's Ministry Coordinator

No matter the size of your church, staff are not hired to do it all! The church is a community of Christ-followers that work together to share and teach God’s love. 

Many who work at a church call those Christ-following church members volunteers! We may even say to each other we have so many volunteer positions! We may make phone calls to get the list filled and find ourselves putting any person in that slot that says “yes” to the request. 

The filled volunteer slot looks great on paper, but sometimes when it comes to fulfilling a request, your volunteers fall short or cancel at the last minute. Ask any person on staff at a church; finding people to teach Sunday School or join a youth outing can be a great source of anxiety and stress. We never want someone to feel “volun-told,” nor do we enjoy being part of a church that causes anxiety and stress.

First, let’s reframe church volunteering to a more proper name. Renaming and reframing it to “Opportunities to Minister” will help people look at it as a ministry, not volunteering to work for free. 

Opportunities to Minister should always have a description of the task at hand. Suppose you find the job description to be more than two sentences. In that case, you need to break the Opportunity down into multiple minor tasks. (Yes, that means more people to fill a ministry task. This yields an easier task and an Opportunity for people serving together to create bonds.) 

Do not overload one person, or they won’t be back for other Opportunities to Minister, so be sure to include the date and time commitment. A one-month commitment or six or fewer times is best because you will likely get a hard no from someone if it is long-term or there is no end in sight. Also, when you make an effort to describe the tasks in just two sentences, it allows the other person and you to know if their spiritual gifts apply to that area of ministry. Here is a list of quick pointers for Opportunities to Minister.

  • Sometimes, you might not find the best match of spiritual gifts to the Opportunity to Minister. Rochelle Grey from Lakewood UMC uses the phrase “shining the light on member’s spiritual gifts” because it gives them a chance to shine. When she discovers that someone doesn’t fit in an Opportunity to Minister, she kindly says that she has a new opportunity to shine and directs them to a ministry area that is a better fit.
  • When you ask someone to take part in an Opportunity to Minister, you want to know that person well enough that you can discern if their gifts match the Opportunity. If you ask someone, knowing it is in their realm of spiritual gifts, it will not be out of their comfort zone. It will be a natural place for them to Minister, and it’s less likely that you’ll have an unsuccessful ministry outcome.
  • Please do not assume that because a person has children, youth, parents, or grandparents in the program that they should serve in that ministry.
  • Don’t rely on your close circle of “yes” people; they will burn out or age out, and you will struggle later on. The way to get that group larger is small, simple, and limited task opportunities.
  • If you don’t have those who can take on those opportunities to serve, don’t do them. Many hands make light work. If one person carries the load, it likely will cause hurt feelings, stress, and resentment toward ministry, which is not the goal.
  • If you are reading this and you are the staff or coordinator of ministry opportunities, keep in mind to pray daily for opportunities for the Holy Spirit to connect you relationally to your congregation. congregational connections make all these suggestions easy to carry out and make for a successful ministry.