I remember a pastor who moved from the staff or a large city church to a smaller city where he was the second on staff. His biggest complaint was that when he went to the mall, he couldn’t hide. He always ran into people whom he knew.
Well most of us in rural places do not live in a place big enough to even have a mall. We know what it’s like to live in a place where we know many people – and even if we don’t think we know them, everybody knows who “the pastor” is. We can’t hide from people unless we leave town.
I remember trying to paint the fence of the parsonage at one church we were at. We had just moved from Edmonton where we didn’t even know the names of the people who lived in the complex right next to us. So we went to Home Hardware to look for some stain or paint to put on the fence. Well, the sales lady who came to help us knew which fence we were painting, she knew who painted it last, and I think she knew what paint they had used. That was my first re-introduction into the fishbowl of rural life. I had grown up in a community that only had one gas station and store, but had spent the last 5 years in Edmonton. It was a bit of a shock.
But if this is where you live and pastor, then you know exactly what I mean. People see us and know things about us that people would never know in the city.
We live our life in a very public way. But this can be a good thing. For me, an introvert, it makes it just a little easier to actually connect with people. I see them more often than I would in the city, and it happens without me even having to work too hard at it. And so pastoring in a rural place means that our whole live is part of our ministry, not just what we do in an official capacity or in a public role. Pretty much everything is public anyway.
We do need to have time where we can get away from everything and everyone, but I hope you can see the positives of living publicly before your community.