One of the most difficult places to minister and build a church is in Rural America. There are varied and complex factors that contribute to this difficulty.
UNIQUE & DIFFICULT FACTORS
Take for example the lack of stable and competent volunteers. The economic difficulties of a small town. The frequent need for members to relocate for a new job. In a small town there is no telling what your congregation is going to look like from Sunday to Sunday. Families come, families move, hopefully for them, to a better job, housing or school.
The membership in most churches in Rural America is aging. These are the folks who despite their age do most of the heavy lifting. If there is community outreach – bake sale, fireworks fundraiser, or movie in the park – these older folks are there. But ‘most’ of them are not necessarily active in sharing their faith or inviting friends to church. The only friends they know are already Christians.
Than there is the chronic problem of church hopping, church skipping for long periods of time (not speaking about those who work on Sundays) and a hesitance to volunteer, get trained or even sign up to do some form of ministry.
On the other hand, some are just content with coming on Sunday getting fed with the Word and enjoy fellowship with the body. There is nothing wrong with that – but growing a church takes more than doing just that.
Other times people expect to find an already functioning children, youth, or young adult ministry – and as they should. In fact when people church hunt to determine what may be a good fit for their families – they want to see a functioning kids and youth ministry.
Unfortunately, in many cases – you will not find any of that. If you live in Rural America, churches come in many sizes from 25 to 50 congregants. Attracting new people to an aging congregation, less younger families with children, a limited paid staff, and non existing ministry to children and youth is tough.
TO CHURCH HUNTERS
So when you visit a church and feel the need to jump back in your family mini van and never return – take a minute to stop, pray and listen. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. You may be the one that pastor has been praying and waiting for. He has been waiting for someone with whom he can partner with, train and release into areas of ministry. Don’t just go for the convenience. Yes its going to take a bit of a sacrifice – but one that will grow the work of the Kingdom, bring glory to God, and produce something truly awesome in your life.
TO CHURCH MEMBERS
If you already find yourself in a small congregation, hear me out – you are a miraculous answer to prayer. You are not there by chance – it is God ordained and God orchestrated. So if you have children and you find yourself attending a church with no children, youth, or young adult ministry, what do you do?
- Start One! This is for the first timers as well. You came to church but there was nothing planed for your kids. Walk up to the Pastor and tell him – that next Sunday you will be back with your kids and you need space to start regular children’s ministry. Start One! Ask for training and resources.
If you attend a church and the numbers are dwindling – what do you do?
- Start a vigorous campaign of inviting your friends. Create a culture of inviting people to church. People will come if they are invited. Bring all your friends. Find creative ways to invite people.
If you feel the need to serve and use your gifts and talents to serve the Lord but don’t know how or where to start.
- Talk to someone in leadership today! Tell them what the Lord has placed on your heart.
If you know that pray can change things things. What do you do?
- Start a prayer movement in your congregation.
If your church outreach effort is lacking. What do you do?
- Start an outreach program
I get it, not many people are up for such a challenge. But if you want to see an exponential spiritual growth in your life and the fruit you see in other places – I encourage you with the words of Jim Elliott, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Don’t leave to go somewhere else where those things you value are already in place in your church- create one right where you are.
Nothing useful, fruitful and healthy is uprooted and replanted ever other week. Stay planted where you are.walter bright
God is counting on you there. Maybe you need to get off the fence. If it’s your desire to go somewhere else where you can find everything in place for your family, that’s not terrible. But let me ask you to stop and pray for a minute and consider how you can effect change right where you are today.
Thanks for seriously considering this challenge!
Allow me to leave you with one final thought. Just like every family – church family can experience misunderstandings, hurt feelings and difference of opinions. Let’s follow the example of Pastor Dwight Scott who told us when a brother felt hurt in his congregation – he invited him to come to the altar with him. And there, the two embraced the love of God and the re-conciliating power of the Holy Spirit. So, let us not let our differences separate us in these confusing times. Let’s meet each other at the foot of the cross where Jesus bled and died for us.
Thanks Walter, that’s where we are at. We just moved back home. very rural, dysfunctional church with little ministry inside or outside the church. God lead us there and now what? so praying about where and what to be about.
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you have a real opportunity to transform that place. Wait on the Lord in prayer, be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He lead and partner heart to heart with leadership. It’s going to get very challenging – but hang in there – God will use you mightily.
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