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Ministry group connects faith with love of the outdoors

03/01/2016 01:53PM ● Published by Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

When the Eighth Annual Sportsman’s event begins on March 12 at the Christian Life Center on Saginaw Road, it won’t just feature a presentation on the whitetail deer.
It won’t simply be an evening where guests can dig into covered dish meals, or look at outdoor product demonstrations, or attend a silent auction. It will be an evening of connection – a union of fellowship facilitated by the Outdoorsman Ministry Group.
Now in its eighth year, the group began with 18 members and a mission to connect men and women not only through their passion for the outdoors, but through similarities in their personal journeys with faith and spiritual growth.
In many ways, the Outdoorsman Ministry Group has also been a journey about discovery.
At the group’s first annual dinner, the guest speaker addressed the role of the man in the family, and that if the father leads a life of faith, there is a 90 percent chance that his family will do the same. At the second annual event held a year later, a survey was distributed to attendees, and the results were startling: Nearly 20 percent of the respondents revealed that they had never stepped inside a church.
“We began with the simple premise that a lot of the original members of the group were connected to each other by the outdoors, whether it was through hunting, fishing, or just a love of nature,” said founding member and organizer Steve Shuster. “But we knew that there was a bigger purpose here. We wanted to find a way to spread the word about the significance of Jesus Christ in our lives, to allow each of us to share how important our faith has been to us.
“If we, as a group, were ever going to be relevant, we needed to reach these individuals through their activities.”
From having less than 20 members in its first year to now averaging 300 at its annual dinner, the Outdoorsman Ministry Group has grown, not only in size, but in its demographics. In addition to meeting every other Sunday at the Christian Life Center, the group sponsors a youth archery seminar every October, which is funded by proceeds generated from its annual dinner. Events are now opened up to all members of the family, which Shuster said has changed the dynamic of the group and its mission. It’s no longer just an association of outdoor enthusiasts; in seven years, it has become a center of connection.
“We have become a place to build relationships, by virtue of the very simple concept of putting your hand out and introducing yourself,” he said. “That’s the common core of this group. Something wonderful happens when you get around people with a common interest. There comes a time when you say to yourself, ‘I want what these people have,’ and what is that? It’s having Jesus Christ become a part of your life. It becomes a way of modeling your life the way Jesus did.”
The eighth annual Outdoor Sportsman’s event will be held on March 12 at the Christian Life Center (125 Saginaw Rd.) starting at 4 p.m. The guest speaker will be Jim Porter of The Men's Barn Meeting and Trophies of Grace ministries in Florida. The cost is $7 per person over 12 years of age, payable in advance or at the event. Guests are asked to bring a covered dish to share with six people. Visit www.clcfamily.net to register, or email stepheneshuster@gmail.com.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@chestercounty.com.


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