The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3 that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Solomon, the writer of this book, goes on to list over a dozen examples: “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,” and so on. The verses demonstrate a cycle of building up and breaking down. Beginnings and endings.
Soon, Compass Paintball will enter a new stage in this cycle of beginnings and endings. But first, let’s talk about where we started and how far we’ve come.
A Time to Build
The Compass was founded in November 2007 by Don Robertson, a man with a passion for paintball and a vision for a ministry that could help reach a group of amateur athletes of all ages who may otherwise remain outside the church. He wanted a place where his grandsons could play paintball without worrying about cheaters playing dirty, referees watching out for their buddies at the expense of the other players, or the rough spiritual environment often present at paintball fields.
Many of you have met Don and can attest to his love of the sport and the Gospel. His idea was to bring these two together in a way that most people would never have imagined. He wanted to build a paintball field on the property of his church, Faith Assembly of God in Summerville, SC.
So Don pitched his plan to Pastor Larry Burgbacher. While many pastors would have balked at the idea, Pastor Burgbacher was excited by it and the potential it had to reach the youth of the Lowcountry. He signed off on the idea and work began shortly thereafter.
The church announced a workday for anyone who was interested in participating in this fascinating new ministry, and many volunteers showed up to help begin the building process.
The first work day was much slower than you might have expected. That day we tied ribbons on trees to mark them for removal at Don’s direction, and Don made some decisions about how he would go about constructing everything, but nothing really started to take shape. Over the next few months, with the help of countless volunteers, the plan came together quickly. Soon, we had a complete paintball field waiting to open to the public.
Don and his wife, Sharon, had a few ideas on how to present our faith to our players. Aside from the very obvious fact that our facility was built on church property, they created a new paintball game that incorporated Bible memorization with a special reward for players who could remember a weekly verse: the ability to be “resurrected” back into the game when they were eliminated.
Along with this hands-on approach, Don’s plan called for a more straightforward presentation of the Gospel, with guest speakers bringing lunchtime devotional messages based around that week’s memory verse.
At first, our business was slow. There would be days when no one came out to play, and the volunteers would play by themselves. On other days, we had a few customers come out to see what the new field was like. Sometimes youth groups from local churches would come out for special events.
Over the next several years, we watched the field grow from a small ministry no one knew about to a popular paintball destination. Our visitors were pleased that we didn’t gouge prices for profit, instead choosing to sell our paintballs and gear at very low cost to raise a little money for the ministry and make it as cost-effective as possible for anyone to come out and play. Our goal wasn’t profit, it was ministry.
A Time to Grow
In 2010, we started work on the next phase of Don’s plan: speedball. The super-competitive paintball variant attracts a lot of players, most of them unchurched, and provided an opportunity to both reach those players and bring in a lot more money to continue expanding the ministry. Speedball would be much more difficult to manage than our usual woodsball games, but we felt it was time to grow.
Our volunteers proved to be up to the challenge. After months of hard work, we managed to build not just one, but two speedball fields side-by-side. These fields would enable us to run popular 3-man and 5-man tournaments.
Through a partnership with the Carolina Field Owners Association, we were able to host many of these tournaments starting in the summer of 2013. In our estimation, we saw potentially hundreds of players come through these events, where we would play paintball and preach a mid-day devotional message (with a free lunch for those who listened!).
In 2013 we also began offering JT SplatMaster parties. These parties used specialized equipment created to make the game playable for younger kids, and allowed us to open up birthday parties to a wider range of players.
During this time, we also expanded woodsball with the addition of a new field that connected to our existing one, essentially creating one massive play area that could be cordoned off into two sections, with each able to run as its own standalone field. The new field opened to the public on February 14, 2015.
We also began offering even more affordable ways for people to come take advantage of our field. We lowered our prices, created a Groupon deal to help cut more of our fees for groups, and started to see a significant increase in the number of players visiting us each weekend.
A Time to Decrease
After two years of speedball tournaments, several factors led Don to the difficult decision that it was time to part ways with the CFOA and seek out a more faith-based organization that could help us achieve our goals.
For years, Don had wanted join another, similar speedball group: the Christian Paintball Players Association. In 2015, we finally had a chance to partner with this national faith-based speedball tournament circuit. We jumped at the chance.
Throughout the years, the group of volunteers staffing the Compass has changed dramatically. You might say that everyone encountered a time to come and a time to go, to borrow from Ecclesiastes. At times we found ourselves low on help and desperate to find new volunteers, and we always did. Even when our situation seemed critical, God would bring us just the right people for the job when we needed them most.
Sometimes, though, even the right people for the job weren’t necessarily enough people for the job; and sometimes, the job we thought we should be doing wasn’t necessarily the one we should have actually been doing.
We quickly found ourselves overwhelmed with the task of setting up and breaking down our speedball field, with its many inflatable bunkers, every week due to a lack of manpower—especially given how few speedball players were coming out since we had stopped holding CFOA tournaments.
Soon, we found ourselves faced with another difficult decision and stopped offering walk-on speedball play on our Ministry Days.
We came to realize that while we were putting our effort into the speedball side of things, the woodsball ministry wasn’t getting the attention it needed. We resolved to put our focus back on our original mission: reaching our local community with an affordable way to have a good time and hear the Gospel.
With this renewed emphasis on woodsball, we began to see an even greater surge in the number of visitors from week to week. We were excited to see where the ministry would go next.
A Time to Rest
This brings us to the present. As we approach nine years of operation, the Compass finds itself more desperate than ever for volunteers. We are now at an all-time low for help, and the situation has become untenable.
Because we simply don’t have the necessary manpower to run our Ministry Days or private parties anymore, we regret to announce that we have made yet another difficult decision.
Unless there is a very sudden turnaround in the amount of help we have within the next month, Compass Paintball will cease operations following our August 13th Ministry Day.
This decision was not made lightly, and while the staffing issues contributed greatly to this conclusion, there were many other factors that came into play as well.
Ultimately, this is not the decision we wanted to make, but rather the one we needed to make. We spent months trying to recruit more help and searching for alternatives to a shutdown. We agonized over the decision and tried to put it off as long as we could to keep the ministry going, but unfortunately we just couldn’t find a solution.
We want to take this time to express our gratitude for everyone who has ever contributed to this ministry in any way, from the volunteers who came out during the construction of the field back in 2008 to the current batch of referees who have stuck with us for the past few years; from the individuals who gave their time to present devotionals to those who donated gear for the field’s use.
We especially want to thank each and every one of our customers, whether you came out by yourself once a few years ago, booked a birthday party with us, or became one of our many loyal, recurring customers.
Thank you to everyone who shared photos and reviews on Facebook and told your friends about us.
Thank you to Pastor Larry Burgbacher and Faith Assembly of God for having the vision to back what many would have seen as a crazy idea.
Thank you to Don Robertson for putting nearly a decade of work into creating one of the best paintball experiences South Carolina has to offer, and for the countless hours (and dollars) you donated to make all of this possible. It truly could not have happened without you.
Last, but not least, we must thank God for giving us the chance to launch and run this ministry with such resounding success. Over the past eight years, we have had several players accept salvation during our lunchtime messages, and we are excited and humbled to have been a part of that process.
This has been a life-changing experience for many people, and we are all grateful to have been involved from the beginning—to see the field grow from an idea into a successful reality.