NEW WAVERLY—Texans who speak the language of hunting and fishing, bluegrass music and “gun barrel straight preaching from God’s Word” have found a place to grow in the gospel at Waverly Station Cowboy Fellowship in New Waverly.
The church, which launched last fall, has averaged 85 people on Sundays since the New Year. They’re reaching, among others, a demographic that struggles in traditional churches: men.
“We’re seeing as many men coming to Waverly Station as we are women,” Tim Byrd, the pastor, told the TEXAN. “I believe it’s because of the atmosphere and the setting that we’re in.”
The cowboy fellowship meets at Gospel Lakes Ranch, which ministers to children and youth through camps and features particularly beautiful landscapes of lakes, ponds and trees. In good weather, the church gathers in a pavilion, while a dining hall serves as a refuge in bad weather.
“We have some real comfortable chairs. We don’t sit in metal folding chairs,” Byrd said. “There are no flowers. There’s really no intimidation by the building itself, and even when we move inside, it’s not threatening to men. It doesn’t make them uncomfortable.”
Byrd gives an invitation at the end of every service, but they don’t take up an offering, he said.
“We have a handshaking, neck-hugging time. We have greeters out on the property when folks come in. It’s a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
“The majority of the people that we have reached have been de-churched or unchurched people who’ve been out of church for a long time,” said Byrd, who rode rodeos in his younger days and admits he once ran from God.
The pastor described the church’s worship music as having a country bluegrass sound, “which is mandolin, guitar, bass.” It’s a blend of hymns and contemporary songs “with a country flair.”
All of that helps reach men who prefer the outdoors, and if he can reach men, Byrd knows that’s a big step toward reaching families. He recalls a study he heard about years ago that said if you reach a child first, you have a small percentage of reaching its parents.
“But if you reach dad first, the percentage is a lot higher to reach the rest of the family,” Byrd said. “That’s always kind of stuck in my mind.”
Waverly Station is seeing men come to Christ, and they’re building strong relationships with other men in the fellowship by hunting and fishing together and having clean up days on the ranch.
“We have a little restaurant there in the town, and we usually get together at least one Saturday morning a month and just sit and have breakfast and talk, and they feel like they can just be themselves but also hear some of the things that are going on—some of the hardships, some of the difficult things they’re going through,” Byrd said.
Through Bible studies and preaching, “We’re teaching them the Word,” he said. “The Lord just keeps sending folks to us.”