BURKBURNETT—Sporting aprons embellished with the motto “Ask me why I serve,” the 30-plus members of the men’s ministry cooking team of First Baptist Church of Burkburnett have been dishing up main courses, side dishes and the Bread of Life to community and church groups in the Burkburnett area since 2010.
The idea for the team originated after men of First Baptist Burkburnett were asked to help another group cook for a community banquet, said Rusty Midgett, who coordinates the church’s cooking team.
While cooking before the banquet, some volunteers not associated with First Baptist brought out alcohol.
“We did not approve. It hit me that we needed to put together a group of Christian men who loved the Lord and would love to do something like this,” Midgett said.
Midgett and three other church members—Mike Harpole, Jim Zillweger and Les Healton—met with Pastor Bill Liggett, who affirmed the plan once its focus was defined.
“Brother Bill asked us to tell him in one word why we wanted to form the cooking team. He explained that the word had better not be ‘fun,’” Midgett quipped. “We came up with the word evangelism.”
Evangelism is at the heart of the men’s ministry cooking team. So is service.
In addition to preparing food for First Baptist events and fundraisers for other churches, they have cooked and served meals for groups including the Christian Motorcycle Association, churches within the Archer Clay Baptist Association, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Burkburnett, the American Diabetes Association, city-wide Discipleship Now weekends, Christian radio station KMOC, the Singing Men of North Texas and Grace Ministries, a Burkburnett benevolence organization.
A fundraiser benefiting the family of Shawnda Eddins, a church member suffering from cancer, raised more than $4,000. Eddins died shortly after the fundraiser.
One big hit in the town, located just north of Wichita Falls, is the annual Burkburnett Bulldog tailgate party the First Baptist cooking ministry puts on.
The tailgate idea started with youth minister Mark Mackey, who has since moved to Oklahoma.
“Mark wanted us to give out hot dogs and stuff and reach out to students,” Midgett said. “It just exploded from there.”
One Friday night during football season, the cooking team sets up near the high school stadium.
“After we have given away 400 hot dogs, the men and families in our cooking team bring all kinds of steak and sausages. We roast corn. We call it ‘clean out your freezer’ night,” Midgett said. The food is free for any and all takers.
“The event has become a staple now. Everyone wants to know when the tailgate party will be,” Midgett said.
The cooking team is well equipped to handle meals for groups of 400. A building at First Baptist houses cooking equipment and utensils, portable picnic tables and tents—none of which was bought with church funds.
“We are not a line item in the church budget,” Midget said. “Our equipment is considered church property, but we have bought it with love offerings and donations outside the regular church budget.”
Community groups have also contributed to the cooking ministry. The Burkburnett Rotary Club donated a 20-foot cooking trailer equipped with awnings and 10 fish cookers. The First Bank of Burkburnett supplied a smoker trailer with grills and propane burners.
Organizations requesting the services of the cooking team approach the group for help. After considering menus and budgets, team members purchase and prepare the food.
“We give the group our receipts and they reimburse us 100 percent,” Midgett said. He also noted that many groups also give a love offering.
With volunteer crews, donated equipment and little overhead expense, costs remain reasonable, a bonus for churches and non-profit groups hoping to raise funds.
“We can do a complete Italian dinner for $1.80 per person, a barbecue meal for less than $2 a person,” Midgett said. Steak dinners featuring 8-ounce sirloins may cost as little as $4 a plate, Midgett added. The group’s repertoire is extensive—ranging from pancakes to fajitas, hot dogs to catfish, smoked chicken to homemade apple dumplings.
The team’s apron slogan, “Ask me why I serve,” was the brainchild of member Danny Taylor.
“We want to serve and honor the Lord Jesus Christ. You’d be surprised how many doors that apron opens,” Midgett said. “People ask us why we serve and we get to share the gospel.”
“Many have joined our group because of what we stand for,” Midgett continued. “We have become a part of the fabric of the community. Whenever people are in need, the first call they often make is to the First Baptist cooking team.”