Chris Childers examines arrows that have been shot into a deer target during a Christian Bowhunters of Georgia event.
It all began with a handful of friends getting together once a month shooting their bows in the backyard while their wives visited together inside.
Conyers resident Bryan White, along with his cousin and a couple of friends, enjoyed those visits outside shooting at targets and talking about their faith in God. Their time together grew into a desire to combine the two activities by forming the Christian Bowhunters of Georgia.
"All of us were very involved in our faith and we said, 'Wouldn't this be a neat ministry to use archery in someway to minister to people,'" White said.
White said they "stumbled across the Christian Bowhunters of America." Founded in 1984, Christian Bowhunters of America is a non-denominational ministry to the bowhunting community. CBA organizes shows and shoots, speaking engagements and other activities to promote the gospel and to minister to those who enjoy using bows and arrows.
"We're a chapter of that group in Georgia," White said. "Once we got with them, we tried to emulate what they did."
As with most start-up groups, money was a first consideration for the newly-formed CBG which needed funds to buy a shooting range, as well as 20 foam three-dimensional targets costing around $200 to $300 each.
Thanks to Joe Ellington, another local bowhunting enthusiast who fronted the money for the club to get started, CBG was up and running. Today Ellington and White serve as co-presidents of the club.
The first shoot was small and White said there were around 15 participants who came to that first event. By 1998, White said CBG was "going strong." The ministry began to grow and the club left its range and moved about 400 yards down the road to Starrsville Plantation in Covington where the shoots now take place among the woods and lake on the 1,000-acre property.
"It's a beautiful piece of property," White said. "We have been real blessed."
Those blessings grew as the number of bowhunters increased. CBG has had as many as 164 participants at one of its monthly events, but typically 70 to 100 turn out for organized monthly shoots from January through August each year.
When CBG began, White said the club paired with several local churches, but today it is a part of the ministry of Solid Rock Baptist Church on Brown Bridge Road in Covington.
"They've been an avid supporter," White said. "That's where Joe goes to church and that's where we have our banquets and things of that nature."
CBG will hold its annual Shooter-of-the-Year Banquet/Big Buck this weekend at Solid Rock Baptist with local layman Eric Brazil as the guest speaker. The Saturday banquet is at 6:30 p.m.; top shooters in each class will be recognized and the club will present awards.
CBG is open to men, women and children with a range of skill levels.
"A lot of people think we teach classes, but we don't." White said, adding that CBG is for the novice as well as experienced shooters. "...Most people come and you get paired up with guys and you learn so much. You'll shoot with guys who can really shoot. From when I first started out, I've grown leaps and bounds."
White jokes that it's "like redneck golf." Small groups go from target to target during the day-long shoots. The three-dimensional animal targets are stationed throughout the range and at each target location the CBG has placed signs with Scriptures on them. Bowhunters read the signs to find the answers to a bonus question at the end of the shoot.
"My whole goal is to get them in the word," White said. " We give out Bibles and an awesome Christian DVD and reach those who are hurting."
The club offers memberships, but shooters do not have to be a member of the club to take part in the monthly shoots.
"This is a ministry, not an archery club," White explained. "...Our full intent is to minister in an unconventional way to the community through archery. We give away DVDs, Bibles, tracts and things of that nature. A lot of times we've been asked to go to wild game dinners at churches and we'll work those."
White said the club has given away countless Bibles through the years.
"You don't know where it ends," he said. "We're called to put (the word) out there. We put it out there and the seed grows."
White said CBG is "fortunate now that we're self-sustaining."
"We don't want to burden the churches if we don't need it, but we still want to keep that connection," he said, adding that CBG keeps enough money to maintain the club, but gives away the rest. In addition to sponsoring the monthly shoots, CBG also helps those in need in the archery community.
CBG's 2012 schedule continues with shoots Feb. 11, March 17, May 12, June 9, July 21 and Aug. 18, which will be a hunter-style shoot with hunting equipment and screw-in tips.
In April, the club will take part in the 5th Annual BASS Tournament at Lake Oconee. Participants can join the shoot each month from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., at which time the last shooters are admitted. The event usually concludes around 5 p.m.
Membership is open to everyone at $30 per individual or $35 per family (spouse and children under 21). Lifetime memberships are available for $125 and $150 for individuals and families, respectively.
For more information about CBG membership and other details, visit the club's website at www.cbg.faithweb.com. Those interested can also call White at 770-929-1548.
"We have a good time," said White, who is an aircraft mechanic for Delta Air Lines when he's not bow hunting. "It's nice to go out and that the church is outside of the four walls of the building."
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.