“Thinking outside the box is a way of life at West Yadkin Baptist Church in Hamptonville and its approach to all-terrain vehicle (ATV) fans is yet another example.
The church’s outdoor nativity play — complete with camels and donkeys — is an annual tradition in and around the small Northwest North Carolina community. Every year, the church takes in hundreds of gift boxes as a collection point for Operation Christmas Child. Pastor Dennis Bell is a chaplain and first responder for the volunteer fire department.
Golfers raise funds for missions. The congregation was one of the first in the area to host an annual “Trunk or Treat” event on Halloween. There’s an after-school program, and members also headed to the Gulf Coast on three different occasions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Now it’s outside the box and into the mud holes since the church formed Rock Solid Riders to serve those who love their ATVs.
“As far as I know, we’re unique,” Bell said. “There may be someone else doing this somewhere, but I’m unaware of anybody else doing an ATV ministry. We’re trying to reach people who three years ago would ride (ATVs), but wouldn’t ride into our parking lot on Sunday morning.
“If we spend time on the trail with them, the chances of them showing up at church on Sunday morning — whether it’s ours or somewhere else — are a lot greater.”
This isn’t a deal where riders get together informally to roam on property a couple of miles from the church. It’s much more than that. Four or five times a year, 30 and sometimes as many as 45 riders head out into the wilderness of North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The group hosts New Year’s and Easter rides, and takes part each year in local Christmas parades.
Each ride includes an opening prayer and devotional, and a decided emphasis on safety.
Participants from other far-flung parts of the Southeast have been put in touch with the group through its web site, www.rocksolidriders.net. Local Christmas parades and a booth at an off-road race also provide points of contact.
“Everybody enjoys the ride,” says David Cox, a West Yadkin member who helps oversee the group. “If they’re not a Christian or associated with a church, that’s a first step to getting them in touch with somebody that is.
“We’ve got active people (in Rock Solid Riders) that are still not involved in church, and they still ride with us.
“Hopefully, one day they’ll be involved (with a local congregation). Guys that are not associated with a church, we don’t try to beat it in their heads. We try to give them some type of association with Jesus Christ.”
At least one family joined West Yadkin because they found Rock Solid Riders to be such an attractive feature.
“There’s a lot of clubs out there, but I don’t look at (Rock Solid Riders) as that,” Cox said. “It’s not the type of bond that we have. It’s pretty much a fellowship-type deal … just getting together.
“We don’t have to pay a membership or a fee, except to ride every once in a while. There are a lot of associations with us that I didn’t think we’d have, people that are not churched. People that are churched are trying to get some people that they know to ride with us. It’s a constant contact.”
Rock Solid Riders is a ministry based on relationships, which creates avenues for outreach. In the end, that’s the goal of the church.
“David has said that this is where God wanted him to be,” Bell said. “He has a heart for what’s going on.”
“I’ve never given myself or anybody else any credit,” Cox said. “God gets all the credit for what’s happened so far. It’s been overwhelming to see what’s come about.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Houston is a writer living in Yadkinville.)