Churches reaching men through outdoors ministries

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)--More than 149 million people enjoy outdoor recreation annually, whether hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, camping or horseback riding.

Ministers like William Johnson in Montana realize the importance and popularity of such outdoor recreation, as well as the ministry potential. Johnson's congregation, Gallatin Valley Baptist Fellowship in Manhattan, Mont., hosts sportsmen’s rallies for hunters and fishermen in his area.

“The weekends are the only times when men who hold full time jobs get to enjoy these activities," Johnson said. "They place recreation as a higher priority than coming to church on Sunday mornings. If we offer a rally during the work week, they make time to come."

The rally allows Johnson and other church members to meet many men who have never been involved in a church. It also offers an opportunity for men in the church to use their passions for God.

“It has helped us gain the image that we meet people where they are instead of just inviting them to come join us," Johnson said. "It shows genuine caring and has opened doors for us to evangelize men that still refuse to come to church but will come to a rally."

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is partnering with God’s Great Outdoors, Inc. to offer the Trail to Adventure Training Conference on the seminary campus Wake Forest, N.C., Jan. 5-6. Pastors, lay leaders and other interested individuals can learn ways to implement outdoor ministries such as the one that John's church holds.

“Outdoor ministry isn’t just popular in Montana or North Carolina. Just look at Central Park in New York City. People want an opportunity to get outside and escape from the rush of life," said Bill Brown, associate professor of evangelism and church planting at Southeastern Seminary. "The church needs to know how to bridge the gap for those involved in outdoor activities. We’re just not engaged in the great outdoors enough.”

The conference will offer advice on how to reach communities through outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, biking, canoeing and hiking. Gerry Caillouet of God’s Great Outdoors, Inc. will serve as master of ceremonies.

“A conference like this allows ministers and laymen alike to catch a vision of a new ministry: to see how they can take a passion for a hobby and use it to reach men with the Gospel message,” Johnson said.

Keynote speakers are Jay Yelas, bass fishing’s 2003 Triple Crown winner; Ron Lindner, National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Famer; and Russell Thornberry, editor in chief of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Attendees to the conference can also choose from 21 detailed workshops to pinpoint particular areas of ministry. Johnson will lead a workshop on how to begin an outdoor ministry on a small budget.

Cost for the conference is $50 per person and includes a training manual geared toward helping people implement what they learn at the conference.

The two-day conference begins at 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 5 and ends the following evening. For more information visit www.sebts.edu/outdoor.


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