SBTC partnering in ‘School of Cowboy Church Planting’ planned Jan. 14 south of DFW

ARLINGTON?In the next three years Joe Woods hopes to see the SBTC partner with Texas churches to plant 100 of what Woods describes as “cowboy churches”?unconventional congregations where the music and venue attract cowboys and others who otherwise might not step foot on a church campus.

Toward that goal, Woods is hosting the “School of Cowboy Church Planting,” co-sponsored by the SBTC, on Jan. 14 in Venus, Texas, south of Dallas. The event will accommodate 40 people at the Shiloh Cowboy Church, 118 West 2nd Street in Venus, from 8:30 a.m.?5 p.m. The event is free of charge and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Registration is required.

A Taylor, Texas native who grew up in the “Western lifestyle” roping calves and breaking horses, Woods has helped plant 12 cowboy churches, including one last summer in Arlington called Cross Canyon Cowboy Church with Woods, his wife, Leann, daughter Jamielee, son Joe Joe, and a friend named Daniel Bienevides.

Working with SBTC church planting associate Leroy Fountain, Cross Canyon has grown to 36 members, has baptized three people and has planted Shiloh Cowboy Church in Venus. Shiloh, led by Pastor Don Ricks, meets in a storefront and drew 136 people to its first service, Woods said.

“These churches are reaching a whole different demographic of people whom the traditional or contemporary church won’t reach,” Woods said. “We often begin our services with a country song they might be familiar with and tweak the words with a spiritual message. Before long they’re singing “Amazing Grace” because God’s doing something in their lives.”

After a hitch in the Navy, Woods sensed a preaching call and went to Dallas Baptist University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biblical studies. In 2002 he encountered the cowboy church movement and caught a vision for reaching the cowboys and urban blue-collar culture drawn to such congregations.

In fact, Woods said not all of those who attend his Arlington congregation are cowboys. Some are cowboys who moved to the city for work; others are simply drawn by the earthy atmosphere or the music, which varies from choruses with acoustic guitars to twangy steel guitars adding a Western accent to well-known hymns, Woods said.

Woods said he met SBTC Minister-Church Relations associate Troy Brooks last spring and connected with him because “I have always been a Southern Baptist,” Woods said. Since then, Woods has become the SBTC’s Cowboy Church Network Coordinator?an expert of sorts for cowboy church work.
Cross Canyon has been meeting in Arlington and will soon move to a rented building south of Mansfield on Highway 287, Woods said.

Cowboy church planting is not complicated, Woods contends. “They just need to get up there and preach the Word of God. Be faithful to the Word and love the people and they will respond.”

The School of Cowboy Church Planting will address each stage of planning and implementation of church planting, from advice about worship style to such mundane details as getting electricity turned on in a leased building.

“We will actually conduct a cowboy church service. We’ll use our church band, have a pastor deliver a sermon, have some testimonies, give them a picture of the typical service.”

A regular outreach of many cowboy churches is arena ministry, which utilizes a rodeo arena with church members demonstrating team roping and other rodeo endeavors followed by music tailored to the audience and a gospel presentation.

“They’ll be people coming up to see the bull riding and they’ll get saved and baptized right there in the rodeo arena,” Woods said.

For more information on the School of Cowboy Church Planting, call Woods at 817-791-5055 or e-mail him at

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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