Rural Ministry

Redeeming Rural

"When figure heads of evangelicalism call young leaders to give their lives in strategic areas like cities, and when large denominations have church planting initiatives that focus their resources and efforts on cities, it’s no wonder why there has been a vacuum of leadership, resources, and ministry-aid for rural areas." - Christianity Today

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The Comparison Trap

By Daryl Neipp

In his book Satisfied, Jeff Manion describes a fictional interaction to which we can all relate. It’s a warm evening. A dad calls to his son, who is playing in the backyard, “Would you like some ice cream?” The son bounds into the house, where he finds a large scoop of ice cream in his bowl, and life is good (especially if it is mint chocolate chip).

However, what if there are two boys? The dad calls them both in from playing. What if they find their ice cream but the scoop distribution is not exactly equitable? It wouldn’t be long until the dad heard, “That’s NOT fair!” from one of the boys.

We can conclude that the issue would have nothing to do with what one boy received; rather, it would have everything to do with what the other received. This is how comparisons work: we look at what someone else has, then become discontent with what we have. While this little story is something we can all smile about, the problem of comparison is not something we simply outgrow. Well into adulthood we carry this tendency to always search for the greener grass, which can be particularly harmful within ministry contexts.

886 reads

Why Smaller Churches Are Making a Comeback

"Two-thirds of churches have an attendance under 125. The smaller church is the norm, not the exception. And though the news has not been that promising for smaller churches in recent years, I do see some very promising signs for the years ahead. Why do I make such an apparently contrarian statement? Here are five reasons." - Thom Rainer

545 reads

Revitalization in Rural Churches, Part 2

Republished from Voice, Jan/Feb 2018. Read Part 1.

Deal with Unresolved Conflict

We can learn valuable lessons about dealing with unresolved conflict from the example of Nehemiah in 5:1-13. To truly lead restoration work we have to be willing to deal with unresolved conflict. There is probably no greater need in rural restoration work than to become proficient in the skill of conflict resolution. In the rural setting, after a time of evaluation, it will often become obvious that unresolved conflict is a major cause for decline.

You can’t ignore conflict, because it will not simply “go away.” For a while the tension in a situation or relationship may subside, but unless the root issue is understood and worked through, it’s only a matter of time before the conflict will rear its ugly head again and this time with much more intensity. Unresolved conflict severely impacts the testimony of a church in the rural setting, so be willing to rely on the One who breaks down walls. Fulfill your calling as a peacemaker.

1587 reads

Revitalization in Rural Churches, Part 1

Republished from Voice, Jan/Feb 2018.

One of my favorite pastimes is driving across rural America and looking at old country churches. It pains me when I see those time-worn yet beautiful church buildings being neglected while nature and the elements take over and lead to their eventual ruin. My passion for old church buildings led me to purchase one particular church building in rural Western Nebraska five years ago. The little church had closed a year earlier. My grandfather John Miles had been the last pastor of the church until he passed away at age 92 and the church eventually closed. The building has nostalgic value to me.

Since purchasing the old church building, my wife and I and some talented friends of ours have been restoring it so that it could become our home. This summer we finally completed this five year process of patiently restoring a church building that was in decline and we moved in.

I have a similar passion for restoration when a local body of believers find themselves in a state of decline. It is difficult to see a local church that is in various stages of decaying or dying. I’ve had the tremendous privilege of pastoring in rural settings and being a part of what I like to call “restoration ministry.” I’ve had a front-row seat as I watched God infuse life into His people in these localities.

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