Church on the range

On Sunday mornings in Sterrett, you can often find a group of cowboys praying and worshipping God on outdoor wooden bleachers near a dirt-filled rodeo arena. They may not have high-tech sound equipment, professional musicians or even an ordained minister, but they preach all the same, and you better believe they take off their cowboy hats when they pray.

Ky Vinsant began what they call “cowboy church” on his ranch in Shelby County, Hidden Creek Ranch.

They started holding the service more than a year ago before each of the rodeos the ranch hosts, said Vinsant.

“There are so many people dislocated from their normal areas and home churches when they travel to participate in these rodeos,” he said.

Vinsant and his wife Leslie felt called to lead a church service for the participants, attendees and their families.

“We just talk to people about the Lord, sing praises to God, partake in communion and invite people to become Christians,” he said.

Twice they have baptized new believers in the nearby lake.

Vinsant usually leads the singing of hymns, the prayer and the sermon, he said. Occasionally he will invite a guest speaker to preach instead.

The cowboy church has been such a success that they are now planning to hold services once a month, even if there is not a planned rodeo.

Vinsant said people are drawn to the service because it’s outdoors, it’s informal and it’s a service the whole family can enjoy.

“We’re just a salt-of-the-earth type crowd,” he said. “You don’t have to be a cowboy, but you gotta know cowboys are a little rough around the edges.”

They hope the cowboy church will also have an impact on little cowboys and cowgirls.

“We’re trying to teach old-fashioned values that we’re losing in this day and time,” he said. “We feel it’s our obligation to do that.”

In everything offered at the ranch, including riding lessons, rodeo lessons and special events, they try to impart these values, he said. These include saying

“yes sir,” taking hats off inside, opening the door for others and practicing “ladies first.”

“The future lies in our youth,” Vinsant said. “We have to teach them right, good values, manners and faith in the Lord.”

For more information about cowboy church or the Hidden Creek Ranch, visit Hiddencreekranch.info.