So I got “the question” the other day, and it wasn’t even from my church. I’ve been pastor of Bow River Alliance Church for almost 6 years now. And I got the question – at my Lions club meeting.
“So you planning on sticking around for awhile?”
Have you gotten that question? If you are pastoring a small rural church you will probably get the question at some point from someone, most likely someone in your church. The guy who asked me is a farmer. I would bet – though I’m not a betting man – that he has never had someone ask that question of him. He has lived in this area all his life, other than possibly some time away for school. He has raised his daughter on his parents farm. He is part of this community. People would be shocked if he moved away.
But there is an expectation that the local pastor will not stay very long. And unfortunately, that has been the pattern. Short term stays in a rural church have been the norm. But that is changing. I just had breakfast with a pastor in a neighboring town of 300 people or less. He has been in his church in that community for 13 years now! I’m hearing of others with 12 and 15 and 17 years in the same small church out in the country somewhere. I applaud those pastors!
Too often in the past, pastors took a rural position until they could get a bigger church in a bigger center somewhere else. The rural church was just a stepping stone. My denomination didn’t help with their requirement that missionaries needed to serve at home for a minimum of 2 years. So they would put a pastor into a rural church for 2 years and then send them overseas. Some churches have been deeply scarred by that. And now they don’t believe it if the pastor says he is planning on staying.
I know of another pastor who is in a community of 200 or maybe less. The congregation has already expressed that they don’t believe he and his family will stay long. He has been looking for ways to prove they are in no hurry to go anywhere else. He is doing everything he can to show he wants to be in this community long term. He even bought an old house to slowly repair and use as a rental house.
I am convinced that the ministry of the pastor AND the church are enhanced when the pastor makes a long-term commitment to the church and the community. So I responded to this man, “I’m in no hurry to go anywhere. I like it here.”
Wouldn’t the ministry of Jesus become even better and more effective than it has ever been in your community if you have time to invest in relationships?