Men line up for the gun range following the Community Bible Church monthly men’s study group at the American Heritage Gun Range in McDonough. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
One recent night in McDonough, Jody Shaw, assistant pastor of Community Bible Church, bowed his head and led about 70 men in prayer.
When the prayer was over, they divided into smaller groups to discuss the night’s lesson on compassion.
+ Jim Cronin takes notes on top of his firearm box while attending the Community Bible Church monthly men’s study group at
Jim Cronin, 63, took out a sheet of paper to scribble notes. On the floor near his feet was his well-worn Bible, given to him 14 years ago by the Stockbridge church. On his lap was a sturdy blue box containing his Smith & Wesson .38 revolver.
This is certainly not your father’s Bible study.
The meeting wasn’t held in the basement or sanctuary of a church. Instead, the men met at the American Heritage Gun Range on Ga. 42.
+ Beau Adams (second from left), pastor of Community Bible Church in Stockbridge, discusses the Bible lesson with a group of men
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“It’s certainly raised some eyebrows, but it also gets people’s attention,” said Cronin, a grandfather of four. “I think the idea is to have a place where men can study the Bible and then do something recreational. It’s just a good place for men to go. Nothing against women, but a lot of these guys are Southern guys who just like to go outdoors and go hunting.”
After about an hour or so of study and discussion, about half of the men retreat to the range to shoot, said Shaw.
Pastor Beau Adams came up with the idea about two years ago to hold Bible study outside the walls of the church. Sometimes, the meetings have been held at restaurants or sports bars.
The most unusual, most would say, is the gun range.
Adams had noticed that it was hard to get the men in the Stockbridge church to attend the monthly meetings. He also knew many of the men owned guns.
So it just made sense, he reasoned, “to go where the men are.”
+ Jim Cronin takes to the gun range after attending the Community Bible Church monthly men’s study group meeting. CURTIS COMPTON /
During the sessions, the men, some of whom are as old as 70, discuss Scripture and ask personal prayer requests.
“When men are with their wives, they may not say what’s on their minds,” said Shaw. “Here, you don’t have to check your words. Men will come here and say, ‘Listen, I need your help. I’m struggling with something.’ It can be money. A job. Their health or feelings.
“Men have very few avenues to communicate with other men,” Shaw said. “This gives them one. No judgment.”
It’s been so successful that some of the women in the church want to start meeting there as well.
Michael McClendon, 31, has been a member of Community Bible since 2011.
He loves the closeness and openness of the group.
“There are tons of women’s groups, tons of couples’ groups, elderly groups and retired groups,” he said. “It’s hard to get men’s groups together and have people stick with it. A lot of times, this one is standing room only.”
+ Men break into groups to discuss their Bible lesson during the Community Bible Church monthly study group at the American Heritage
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Sometimes, McClendon, who owns a Bersa 9 mm, will stay behind and shoot.
“People are coming for the Gospel and the fellowship,” he said. “The shooting is a plus.”
He doesn’t worry about people who may question the meeting location.
“I don’t see anything un-Christian about shooting.”