All you have do is look at the billions of dollars sportsmen (Approximately 887 Billion) spend every year to to see that the outdoor community is a mission field. That said, hunters and fishermen are still a small percentage of the US population, which means there’s a good chance that you may be the only one in your church that enjoys the outdoors in the way you do.
So what do we do when the idea of sportsman’s banquets, affinity ministries, or even a sportsman’s Sunday school class or small group gathers more eyebrow raising than support? Here are ten things to do if you plan to reach the outdoor loving population of your community without being divisive:
Realize that it’s ok if your whole church never catches your vision.
Remember the old marketing slogan, “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand.”? Some churches just don’t have the demographic that would support a sportsman’s ministry. If you are in a church that isn’t surrounded by a culture of outdoorsmen the odds are they aren’t gong to understand why you are selecting a particular affinity group to reach out to. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but that could mean that your ministry should probably be pursued some other way. This is not a tragedy. It’s important to realize that the interest area of those we are reaching out to is not as important as sharing the gospel with anyone who will listen.
2. Take your pastor.
I’m not sure how many pastors I’ve spoken to that have told me they grew up in the outdoors, but they simply aren’t in a place that affords them time to do it anymore. This IS a tragedy. If you are one of the only people in your church that is interested in the outdoors, maybe you’re the one that needs to provide the opportunity to take your pastor if they are interested. Sportsman’s ministry doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter. Just because you can’t gather enough support to host a wild game dinner, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything if God is calling you. Starting with your pastor can also open doors of support you didn’t expect.
3. Be a Catalyst.
Nature is an incredible place to think outside the box with ministry. There are endless variations of activities that the people in your church could actually get into if they are simply introduced to it. Let’s be honest, some folks will never warm to the idea of spending a weekend at deer camp, or waking up before daylight to chase turkeys. Many of those folks might enjoy a day long canoe trip however. They just need someone to lead them by coordinating the activity.
4. Think about people that may actually be on board.
Just because people in your church aren’t die-hard “outdoorsy types” doesn’t necessarily mean they are against what you are doing. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Think about who you could speak to about helping with some simple activities that reach out to the church or community. Are you hosting a wild game dinner? A lot of people won’t eat wild game, but they are more than willing to register guests at the door, set up and tear down the event, or serve food. Sportsman’s ministry isn’t unique with regard to the basic needs of the rest of the church’s ministry. The themes may be different, but the mechanisms to host events are typically the same. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that someone isn’t a sportsman, God’s people should love to serve whether it’s a sportsman’s banquet or a knitting club.
5. Stop Procrastinating.
Has God been calling you to reach out to the sportsmen in your area in a specific way? Do it! Too often, we assume far too much. Facts are much more valuable than assumptions when it comes to how much support and resources you actually have to do God’s work. Working in small churches has taught me that with the right connections, you can do A LOT of ministry for little to no money at all. Find out what is actually at your fingertips and start moving on what God has called you to.
6. Coordinate with other churches.
God’s people are called to cooperate with one another. In some areas that are saturated with churches, it is a way to overcome some of the “territory disease” or competition between churches for ministry. One of the most fantastic examples of this, in my experience, came when we decided to host a small 3D archery tournament. Without fail, one of the first things out of volunteers mouths was, “How are we going to get the targets?” which was code for, “Where’s the money going to come from?”. By the time the tournament time came, more than ten different churches had pitched in to purchase targets. It was the only way we could have done it. I would advise you to work closely with churches in your denomination first however, unless you have a good relationship outside of it. Some denominations frown on inter-denominational cooperation.
7. Get passed the outdoors.
A healthy Christian should be able to discuss Jesus, the Bible, the church, and all the things that go with it without an affinity being attached. If we cannot do this first, we expose ourselves to the temptation of making what God has called us to about the activity, rather than pointing people to Jesus. It has been the demise of many well-intentioned efforts in the church. It manifests itself through events that never make in-roads to deeper conversations with guests after the event is over, leaving a massive effort fruitless for the kingdom of God. Not a good way to build support fo the future. It’s better to have a gospel conversation be the beginning of your relationship with a fellow sportsman than to only discuss the outdoors and never share Jesus with them.
8. Understand that this may be completely on your shoulders.
Sometimes God calls us to journeys that involve us and Him. We may not know why for quite some time. Depending on your specific situation, you may truly be the only one he has called to cut the path to reach sportsmen in your area. If this is true, I have learned that its better to ask for help, expect none, and receive it than it is to ask, expect help, and not receive it. Be fully prepared to have to pursue this type of ministry completely on your own for a while, or for the life of the ministry. Just because God has called you to reach sportsmen, doesn’t mean the same call has gone out to your whole church.
9. Go to the people you want to reach.
It sounds strange, but there is one constant prerequisite in disciple making. You have to go where people are. If there are no people, there is no disciple making. So you have to ask yourself, where do the sportsmen of my community gather? What do they do? How can I make contact with them? Maybe it’s through an online community, maybe you have a low-cost hunting club or archery range close by that you could spend time at. Maybe you could begin a small Bible study or discussion group at one of these locations. Taking the personal initiative to make contact with individuals with the hope of leading them through God’s word and ultimately to Jesus is what the Church is called to do in this world. It begins with the word “Go”. Do the work of making disciples. Perhaps your church’s “identity” in the community around you is distant and out of touch. What a great way to break down that wall!
10. Host a church wide event.
There are some sportsman’s ministries that never leave the ground because they do a poor job of exposing the mission and niche of the ministry to the church. Hosting a church wide ministry event that is focused on sharing the mission, message, and objectives of the ministry is a good way to get everything out in the open. This also gives you the opportunity to dig deep into being able to define what your sportsman’s ministry is and what you aim to do with it. A sportsman’s ministry may fit the culture of your church better than anyone realizes. For you to be able to invite church members to a nice meal, shooting day, or other event, and share your vision with them speaks volumes about how much you care about their input and that you are serious about what you are doing.
Now, get started. Sportsman’s ministry or not, we are called to be faithful to loving and edifying one another in the church and moving the gospel fo Jesus forward in this world. Where can you begin your disciple making journey today?
Are you considering beginning a sportsman’s ministry in your town? Are you a part of one already? Leave a comment and tell us how it’s going!