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Cowboy Up: For Rob Dubois ’07, ministering to the working cowboy is not just a job description, it’s a way of life

Cowboy Up:  For Rob Dubois ’07, ministering to the working cowboy is not just a job description, it’s a way of life

By Jennifer Meers Jones ’08

While other College of Christian Studies graduates are dressed in suits and ties and pastoring congregations sitting in church pews across the country, Rob Dubois ’07 is pulling on a pair of boots and spurs each morning to minister to cowboys as he works the cattle.
It’s all in a day’s work for the associate pastor of Top Hand Cowboy Church in Valley Mills.
The church, which was founded in 2006, is a part of the American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches, which is supported by the BGCT. Every Sunday morning a group of about 250 meets together in a barn to worship together.

“The goal of the cowboy church is to reach the lost for Christ. Our target is the working cowboy and anyone who can relate to the rural western culture,” Dubois said, explaining that services are extremely laid back, with most people dressed in jeans, boots, and hats. Hymns are ‘countrified’ with cowboy folk style mixed in, baptisms take place in a horse trough, and boots are passed around instead of offering plates. Where a traditional church may have a recreational gym for community outreach, Top Hand has a rodeo arena where they put on events during the year to attract the community.

Dubois grew up in Arlington, Texas, and had never been to a cowboy church before visiting Top Hand six years ago. As a child, the only exposure he had to cowboy culture was while visiting his grandparents’ ranch in the Panhandle.

“I would visit them any time I got the chance. There were usually horses to ride, and we always had the place leased to someone to run cattle. Although I didn’t grow up being a cowboy, I always wanted that lifestyle. I never dreamed it would become reality for me.”

After graduating from high school, Dubois said he felt led to attend UMHB.

“I had begun writing music and felt the Lord was going to use me through my music. I wanted to not only write a catchy hook but also have songs that were biblically accurate. That’s why I decided to major in Christian ministry.”

Dubois had many opportunities to develop his musical abilities as an undergrad, including leading worship for FOCUS, the Wednesday night worship service on campus. His passion for music is what ultimately led him to Top Hand.

“Six years ago, I was put in touch with the cowboy church through my father-in-law, Billy Edwards, who is a pastor in Hewitt. The pastor starting Top Hand told him they were praying for God to send someone who could lead the music for their new church. Billy told him, ‘I think I know just the guy.’”

Dubois soon began working at Top Hand as the part-time music minister. Two years ago he assumed the role as the church’s full-time associate pastor.

“My job description is pretty broad. I write music for Sundays and lead worship. I help direct our arena ministry, and I preach from time to time. However, my favorite thing about my job is getting to cowboy every day.”

Depending on the day of the week and time of year, that could mean punching cows at a local sale barn, gathering cattle to be shipped to a feedlot, or training horses.

“The bottom line is I have found it a whole lot easier to talk to a cowboy about the Lord while leaning on a fence at the sale barn or riding through the brush hunting escaped cattle, rather than in a church. Working alongside them gives me the chance to share the Lord with them.”

Dubois said his experiences at UMHB prepared him for this unique role in ministry.

“Though most Christian studies graduates probably aren’t saddling horses and working cattle every day, our goals are the same: to minister to others with the love of Christ. UMHB prepared me to effectively do just that.”