DRAFFENVILLE, Ky. (KT) - A church in western Kentucky is spreading the gospel through equestrian ministry.
Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church in Draffenville, Ky. is looking to connect people to Jesus…the cowboy way. According to pastor Chris Clarke, the term “cowboy church” tends to describe atmosphere rather than content.
“As I understand it, cowboy churches began out west many years ago as small, intimate gatherings to allow cowboys on the range or ranch to have an opportunity to worship in their cowboy work clothes,” Clarke said. “Once the time of worship was over, they went right back to work. Over the years, that very intimate, casual, relaxed setting was expanded to included permanent facilities incorporating a worship area plus the all-important riding arena used to host rodeo-style events.”
The atmosphere at Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church is relaxed, with many members wearing their cowboy boots and cowboy hats to worship. Weekly offerings are even taken up by “passing the hat” rather than “passing the plate.”
“We’re drawn by the country/bluegrass musical style of the old hymns, the conservative simplicity of God’s Word, as well as the honesty and integrity of the cowboy culture,” said Clarke.
Their non-traditional approach to church ministry has yielded fruit in the lives of individuals who would not normally attend church.
“Many a rough old cowboy has surrendered his heart to Jesus at a location such as this who would have never walked through the doors of a traditional church,” Clarke said.
Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church does not own a building but meets at the 500-seat Kentucky Opry in Draffenville, Ky., near Benton. The church averages between 70-100 attendees on a typical Sunday.
However, ministry has looked different for the cowboy church due to social distancing policies.
“When it became clear that we were no longer going to be able to worship together in our regular church home due to the governor's guidelines regarding public gatherings, we began to plan on how we might adapt our current Facebook Live broadcast in a way that would work with our worship team being spread out over 70 miles,” Clarke said.
The church had been utilizing Facebook Live streaming prior to Covid-19 but has recently been creating more complicated pre-recorded broadcasts.
“These days our worship videos consist of several separate videos coming from worship leader Clay Campbell and each member of our worship team who record their individual songs from their home,” said Clarke.
These videos are sent to church member Chris Rogers, who edits them into a cohesive service along with a recorded sermon message and several more songs from Clarke. In all, 10-12 videos comprise the “master video” that is posted to Facebook and YouTube on Sunday mornings.
The church is also accommodating church members who do not have access to social media platforms.
“For those in our church who are not able to view our worship services on Facebook or YouTube, Chris makes me a Master DVD of our service each week which I then duplicate each week and mail to our folks who have a DVD player,” Clarke said.
Kentucky Lake Cowboy church is located in a resort area, which Clarke says impacts how people can be praying for their ministry.
“I ask that you pray that we will continue to seek God’s wisdom and direction in reaching these folks who are currently not being reached by traditional churches in our area. Pray that we will continue to be relevant to their needs,” said Clarke.
The past 10 years of Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church’s ministry has been marked by growth and the Lord’s blessings—and the Covid-19 pandemic will not stop them from actively working to connect people to Jesus the cowboy way.
“We continue to give Him praise and glory for our successes,” Clarke said. “After all, it’s God’s church!”