A winter storm that dumped six inches of snow on West Michigan last month didn’t discourage more than 100 people from turning out for a small game hunt sponsored by the Field and Stream group at Friendship Christian Reformed Church in Byron Center, Mich.
After hunting for squirrel and rabbit in the largely rural area, the hunters came back for lunch and drawings for prizes that included a rifle, muzzle loader, and bows. A neighboring Reformed Church in America congregation joined Friendship in sponsoring the hunt.
The Field and Stream group has been meeting for the last five years, offering programs and activities focused on hunting, fishing, and other outdoor sports and using those programs as a vehicle for outreach.
“I see it as planting seeds,” said Carl Burgess, Friendship’s adult ministries coordinator and an avid fly-fisherman. “I don’t know where God’s going to take it.”
About 75-85 people, two-thirds of whom do not attend the church, turn out for the group’s monthly meetings. Rev. Maury DeYoung, a CRC pastor who heads Sportspersons Ministries International, which helps churches start outdoors-based ministries, isn’t surprised.
“>Most outdoors people do not go to church, and most outdoors people within the church don’t fit well,” DeYoung said. “Certainly we have some strong, mature Christian church members who are outdoors people. But on the other hand, most outdoors people don’t think the church speaks their language [and] is boring and irrelevant to their lives.”
A small committee plans Field and Stream’s activities, which run from September through March, with the group taking November off so members can go deer hunting. The activities provide participants with opportunities to talk about their various outdoor interests and lead to people sharing stories about their faith.
“You don’t want to beat people over the head with [the gospel],” Burgess said. “But you want to let them know what [Jesus has] done in your life. [People] can’t argue with your story.”
Burgess is thrilled with the support Friendship has provided to the Field and Stream group and the ministry opportunities it has provided. “I’m glad our church is so behind it,” he said.