3C Cowboy Fellowship Live Nativity Trail

In Salado, Cowboys and Christmas are Celebrated Together

The Cowboy Church Life Nativity Trail • Friday & Saturday, December 16 & 17, 6pm to 9pm
16258 Gooseneck Road, Salado • Free event and parking • call 254-947-7211

Roping and barrel racing take place in the arena, but not before a short prayer service. Food is served from a chuck wagon. A milk can in the back of the church replaces a collection plate. A country western band is warming up to play. 

According to Pastor Brian Miller of the 3C Cowboy Fellowship Church in Salado, his church does things a bit differently. 

Affiliated with the American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches (AFCC),  everyone is welcome to this non-denominational church. Pastor Brian has spent much of his ministry at AFCC churches and has been hanging his cowboy hat in Salado for the past six years.  

On any given Sunday, cowboys, bikers, business people, John Wayne fans, and everyone in-between make up the usual 500-plus crowd. With no dress code and a feeling of acceptance in this relaxed, nonjudgmental environment, the western ambiance of the church has been celebrated by its 800 members since 2006.

This year, the church is reprising the 3C Cowboy Fellowship Church Live Nativity Trail. This family friendly event was developed in 2019 as a way to promote Jesus and Christmas in an entertaining, down home way. 


Trail coordinator John Spivey, having found the come-as-you-are, welcoming culture of the church to be just what he needed after a combat tour in Iraq, has been a church member for 11 years. According to John, the trail is a labor of love. Since June, more than 100 volunteers have been designing and building props and sets, writing scripts, and choosing just the right voices to record the audio messages for the trail. There are also animal handlers assigned to care for and arrange livestock placement within the nativity scenes. 

Aaron “Eddy” Howton is a church elder and a self-professed cowboy, while his wife Nelda has always supported the church’s many ongoing activities. As a former school principal she is ideally suited to coordinate the many tasks involved as head of the actors and costumes, including her biggest challenge: making sure costumes are original and accurate to the period. “Watch for the elevated angel under a spotlight, as her six-foot wings sparkle,” Nelda says. 


Visitors begin the trail by climbing on to wagons, which hold up to 60 people, then they witness the story of Jesus’ birth as seen through the eyes of a cowboy. A cowboy on horseback chaperones each wagon past seven scenes or stations, complete with live actors and animals. The cowboy’s thoughts are pre-recorded and will be broadcast, via a speaker system, on each wagon. At the last station, the church elders, along with Pastor Brian, will share their thoughts as they sit around a campfire.

To round out the evening, trail riders can hear reflections from a cowboy poet and listen to a country western band. Hot chocolate and coffee will be available from a chuck wagon and children can have a photo taken on a horse decorated especially for the season. 


The 3C Cowboy Fellowship Church prides itself on opening their welcoming doors to the community through other free family events. 

  • On Easter Sunday, you may find Pastor Brian preaching on horseback in the arena at the sunrise service, followed by a country western band performance, a “Lost Egg Roundup” for children and breakfast served from chuckwagons. 
  • In June, the church sponsors a rodeo featuring professional cowboys and clowns. 
  • Halloween’s Trunk or Treat event provides a safe opportunity for children to visit decorated cars and trucks lined up to offer treats. 
  • Christmas Eve’s early candlelight service accommodates those who want to get into the spirit before midnight. 
  • Church members have also recently competed at the 17th Annual AFCC Gathering rodeo in Alabama. Chalk it up to just another church event at this spirited ministry, cowboy in name, but striving to reach everyone from all walks of life.