Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Challenges of Rural and Small Town Ministry

My district president recently invited me to take part in the recent leadership meetings held throughout the area.  As one of the participants from the district to attend the first national convention of the Rural and Small Town Mission of the LCMS held in Storm Lake, IA at the beginning of November, I addressed concerns and resources concerning the unique challenges facing this demographic.  For 12 years now I have served a parish in a decidedly rural setting, and therefore I was able to bring a personal perspective to the discussions.  The groups that joined me for the three mini-workshops ranged from 4-10 or more, not a huge crowd, but an interesting mix.  We discussed the various challenges facing rural and small town settings and found common ground, despite our varying situations.  Although far from an expert on this subject, I am beginning to get a better 'feel' for what faces us.  Some of the ideas I am accumulating along the way....
  • The need to overcome territorialism and combine resources for programs we cannot do on our own.  E.g.: VBS. 
  • The need to prepare the next generation of pastors to be open and better equipped for bi-vocational ministry.  We will be increasingly unable to support full-time clergy in many of these smaller churches.
  • The willingness to recognize the changing demographic and how we can reach out to it.  E.g.: the rise of Hispanic populations in rural settings. 
  • The need to adjust to an increasingly aging population at large as well as in our smaller parishes.  We have know for some time that the 'baby boomers' would create quite the impact on our country and its structure.  Are we prepared to care for this aging demographic?
  • The willingness to make the hard decisions about the viability of smaller parishes that are in irreversible decline.  Dual and tri-point arrangements will become increasingly common.  Should some parishes become "preaching stations"?  And then the big question: when do we close a church and share the remaining resources with others in the area?
  • How will the changes in the agricultural community ultimately impact our rural congregations originally founded to serve this group?  Can they adapt?  And are we aware that even as this group declines there is growth in other areas?  Small towns and rural communities are not dying.  They are changing.  
Well, that's just a few thoughts in the morning as I prepare to go to the office. 

1 comment:

revalkorn said...

Considering the hire/fire climate in the LCMS right now, preparing for bi-vocational ministry is a wiser course anyway. If you've got more than one iron in the fire, you've got another option when one of them is stolen from you.