Captain James Beardsley of the Lansing, Mich., Corps has hit a “bullseye” with the success of his Impact Archery program.
Each Tuesday night, youngsters shoot arrows at targets while learning about God. The popular activity, now marking its first full year, has 28 students in grades one through 11. And it’s free.
“I don’t like finances being a reason that might keep families from being able to participate,” Captain James said.
Instead of money, families are asked to consider volunteering four hours of their time. Most of the families have responded to the call— many took part in the annual bell-ringing during the holiday season. In one three-day period, Impact parents and children raised $1,300 at kettles.
Impact Archery’s motto is “On target for God.” Every evening begins with 10 minutes of devotions, led by student leaders.
“We are always putting God first,” said the captain.
Archery takes place in the fellowship hall. Sometimes lights are turned off, and black lights are
turned on for “cosmic archery.” Ultra-violet reflective tape makes target lines visible.
“Our kids actually shoot better in black light,” Captain James said, adding that the kids take safety very seriously.
Many parents stay and observe. Some parents are even being trained as certified instructors.
Each student gets a whistle so he or she can take a turn at running the archery range.
“I’ve got the most encouraging kids in this program,” Captain James said. “Our students cheer each other on. That brings out the self-confidence.”
It was a different story when the program began.
“Many of the students were nervous, shy, reserved—almost to the point of tears,” Captain James recalled. “But now they are active, smiling and making new friends. Social skills have gone through the roof. I love it.”
At the end of the night, the youth are asked to share one positive thing about that evening.
“It’s uplifting. Kids have said positive things about being with friends or about hitting a bullseye with their arrow,” Captain James said. Parents are also invited to share a positive note.
The Impact students recently took part in a Lock-In for World Services that raised $2,400 with pledges from family and friends. The group had a “Daniel fast”—a partial fast where only healthy items like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains were eaten. After the fast was broken, Captain James prepared a Kenyan corn-and-bean stew (called githeri) for everyone.
Archery student Lily Wright looks forward to Tuesday evenings at the corps.
“I love this group!” she said. “It’s such a fun experience, and you get to enjoy it with so many amazing people. It’s a great place to be.”
Parent Rindy Handy said the program is bringing lots of positive changes.
“The archery program has been an amazing addition to my family,” Rindy said. “I have seen increased
confidence, focus, the ability to work as a team, and leadership skills in both of my kids.”
Three parents and five students form the Impact Committee that meets monthly to plan group events. In addition to parents, the program has attracted and helped develop volunteer leaders from the corps.
“Our corps leaders have been a great asset to the leadership team,” said the captain. “They have been growing and essentially have taken ownership of the program. It’s moved from officer dependent to officer supported.”
In August, Impact Archery will expand into a five-day vacation Bible school of sorts. Captain James hopes that the vacation archery school will “explode” with new students—prompting the corps to add a second night of Impact Archery each week.
“We are already busting at the seams with our 28 students now,” he said. “We are very optimistic that [a second night of Impact Archery] will happen. We just aren’t impacting kids. We’re impacting whole families.”