Connecting here, there & everywhere
A steady presence in the Texas Panhandle since 1914, First Baptist Church in Friona has seen success at reaching families in a modern context, and through the years it has been marked by a generous spirit toward missions.
“Some churches have more of a banker’s mentality when it comes to money—hang on, save,” said Brett Hoyle, pastor of FBC Friona. “It’s been amazing to see how generous the church is toward mission work.”
The church, which averages 150 in attendance, gives 13% of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program, and its special offerings for state, national, and international missions are strong, too, Hoyle said.
“People see how they’re able to be a part of what God is doing, and it’s exciting to give,” Hoyle said. “When we send mission teams, the mentality is that those folks are taking off work and sacrificing to go, so we want to help take care of the cost.
“I’ve heard many of the folks who have been here for decades say the church has always had such a generous heart toward missions.”
FBC Friona partners with missionaries in Lesotho, Africa, and sent a team there last December. The church also has a partner in India, where its teams occasionally travel. They’re considering assisting a church in New Mexico with revitalization.
Locally, one of the highlights is a shoe distribution led by the church’s children’s ministry. Children who demonstrate a degree of maturity in Christ are eligible to serve on a children’s leadership team, which includes leading in outreach and reading Scripture during worship services. They also minister in special ways to homebound members.
The children’s leadership team hosted the first shoe distribution event at the beginning of the past school year. Any children in the community in need of shoes were invited with their families to receive them and also to hear a gospel presentation in English or Spanish. The church and school worked together to provide more shoes to children in January.
“That’s been a really neat ministry to make connections,” Hoyle said.
Recently, an immigrant mother whose husband left the family contacted the church.
“She didn’t know where to turn,” the pastor said. “She ended up texting me because my wife and I had delivered shoes a couple of months ago. I was able to get her connected with some other ladies at our church who speak Spanish, and they were able to minister to her and meet some immediate needs until she could get closer to some family that she has in the states.”
Within the past year, FBC Friona started a Spanish Bible study on Wednesday nights to minister to Spanish speakers whose children attend Wednesday night activities. The class began with three couples in the church who are bilingual and has reached a few newcomers.
Hoyle said the majority of residents in Friona now are Hispanic, drawn by agriculture jobs such as feed lots, dairies, and a beef processing facility. The population has remained steady at 4,000 through the last two censuses, and the town even has a housing shortage now, the pastor said.
“It’s definitely holding its own,” he said. “Friona is not drying up like a lot of small towns. People can find a job pretty quickly if they’re willing to work.”
Hoyle grew up near Abilene and went to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Immediately after graduation in 2009, he became pastor of FBC Friona.
The church had hit a rough patch in the 1980s and ’90s, he said. “Twenty years ago, there weren’t any little kids or babies, really, in the church.” Now, the church is doing well and God is at work with lots of families.
“Biblical preaching is very important,” Hoyle said of what draws people there. “The church is so good to welcome new people in. It’s the culture of the church to reach out and invite their neighbors and new people that move to town. I think a big key is folks loving on others and doing life together.
“The biblical focus of making disciples is important,” Hoyle added. “Our ministry is not the nicest or the flashiest, but the Lord is working and moving.”
The pastor recounted the story of a woman who had been attending on Wednesday nights and sometimes on Sundays for six or seven years. She had a Catholic background, and at FBC Friona she had been growing in the Lord, he said.
“Recently she and her husband needed some help, and she humbled herself and said, ‘I’m going to go to the church for help and not anywhere else.’ She was able to see the love of Jesus through the church.”