FBC Middleburg archery students on target at Center Shot Ministry
Sep 3, 2014
By CAROLYN NICHOLS
Florida Baptist Witness

First Baptist Middleburg’s youth facility, “The Theater,” becomes an archery range every other Monday evening. The catch curtain is impenetrable to arrows, according to Center Shot coordinator Tony Bybee. The ministry welcomes students ages 6-17. Courtesy photo
MIDDLEBURG (FBW)—More than 50 North Florida children are learning the sport of archery at First Baptist Church in Middleburg. According to Associate Pastor Tim Martin, church leaders had been “looking for something to draw the children of our community to First Baptist,” when a 2011 Sportsman’s Expo sparked interest in archery.

Laymen Tony Bybee and Sean Hickman had bow-hunted together for years at the time of the Sportman’s Expo. They had also worked with children, including their own sons, in Sunday School and Awana.
 
“We said to each other, ‘This is something the kids would enjoy and this is something we are already good at,’ ” Bybee said. “Then we discovered that our church was willing to invest in the equipment needed to teach archery.”
 
First Baptist initiated the Center Shot Ministry three years ago, with eight children learning the sport. The Center Shot outreach was piloted in Lawrenceburg, Ky., in 2005 at Alton Baptist Church and two other churches and grew out of the National Archery in Schools Project.
 
Participation in Middleburg has increased each spring and fall session. Instruction is offered twice monthly on Monday evenings and participants in the new fall session total 55. Archery students are ages 6-17, with a few adults also learning.
 
Ministry leaders “saw the growth coming during the summer” and purchased more equipment to meet the demand.
 
The burgeoning interest in archery may be related to the popularity of the “Hunger Games” novels by Suzanne Collins and the films inspired by the novels. Leaders took note that they “have a good percentage of girls participating and they do very well,” Bybee said.
 
First Baptist’s youth facility—known as “The Theater”—becomes the indoor home to the Center Shot outreach. 
 
Bybee, Hickman and two assistants arrive well before their students to set up targets, backdrops and shooting stations. The catch curtains cannot be penetrated by arrows, Bybee said.
 
The curtains are only part of the security measures taken to prevent accidental injuries.
 
First Baptist’s Center Shot Ministry, “very strict on safety,” requires children to complete safety challenges before they can participate, Bybee said.
 
Every session includes Scripture memory, a devotion, prayer and shooting. Martin said the children are learning life lessons along with shooting skills.
 
“The win for us is that we are seeing more and more single mothers bringing their children to our Center Shot program. Our male volunteers become mentors and life coaches to their children,” he said.
 
Martin said First Baptist will continue to expand the ministry while “praying for over a hundred kids by this time next year.”

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