A church that averages 25 in attendance is creating waves in the rodeo community in south central Kansas.
Plains Church is small, yet its impact in Argonia, KS, is huge. The church sponsors the Labor Day "Bronc Kraft" rodeo, this year marking the third time the event was held in the town. David Norman has pastored at the church since 2008 and with every rodeo that passes, he is more proud of the ways his small congregation responds to the cowboys, their family members, and spectators.
The focus of Plains Church folk is simple: to build relationships with cowboys and spectators without engaging in pushy evangelism during the rodeo.
“We are respectful of the turf of the rodeo community,” said Rev. Norman. The pastor and his friendly people exercise kindness and support and intentionally build relationships with visitors throughout rodeo weekend. The rodeo community is taking notice.
“Because we respect them in their arena, they don't hesitate to join us in ours,” he said. On Sunday, September 2, some members of the Kraft family and 25 rodeo visitors attended Plains Church. Five cowboys and cowgirls placed their faith in Christ during the service.
“The visitors outnumbered our people,” said Rev. Norman.
“In The Purpose-Driven Church, Rick Warren wrote that there are three ways a church can interface with culture: through isolation, imitation, or infiltration,” said Rev. Ed Rotz, district superintendent of the Kansas District. “Plains Church has found a way to uniquely and effectively become involved in the cowboy sub-culture through their sponsorship and participation in these rodeos. Pastor David Norman and the church respect the world of the cowboy and not only meet them were they are, but serve them in Jesus' name. In return, Plains Church has earned the cowboys' respect, and, and as a result, many are stepping toward Jesus, instead of keeping their distance from him.”
The event is Argonia’s “official” rodeo. This past year the rodeo was named after Bronc Kraft, a cowboy slated to supervise the 2011 event in Argonia. On his way to the rodeo, he was tragically hit by a train and died just days later.
“This is the largest rodeo the Kraft family operates, and they asked if we could name the rodeo after Bronc,” said Rev. Norman, who immediately agreed to honor the request. More than 240 cowboys and cowgirls competed in the September 1-2, 2012, event while family members and general spectators totaled about 1,000.
A few years back on another Sunday, when Rev. Norman announced to his congregation that a contract had been signed for the first rodeo, a cowboy was visiting the church–unbeknownst to everyone else. He placed his faith in Christ that day and approached the pastor offering his help in running the rodeo. He was baptized one year later in a nearby river, wearing boots and all, and he is now an active member of the church.
“The whole point is to build relationships as an opportunity to present the gospel,” Rev. Norman said. "This past rodeo, we were grateful that we could do a memorial service for Bronc."
This ministry is also assisted by The Kansas District of The Wesleyan Church. This is the second rodeo in which the district has paid for cowboys and cowgirls’ meals throughout the event. The 240 contestants were fed during the most recent rodeo over Labor Day. District laypersons and leaders are keeping in touch regularly with many of the contestants. And the rodeo company is connected to other Wesleyan churches throughout the state. A rodeo arena affiliated with a Wesleyan church in Junction City, KS, has also been named after Bronc Kraft.
The Focus on the Family radio ministry interviewed Pastor Norman about Plains church and the rodeo ministry. Across their network, they broadcast a portion of the interview in their news segments on September 20.