Here’s my first book: The Rural Pastor

rural pastor picI just recently completed my first book. It’s called The Rural Pastor: Ten Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Began Rural Ministry. You can click on the title above to check it out and order it. I have experienced many years of rural ministry in small communities. I enjoy writing. So I have combined the two to come up with a book.

My hope is that as you read it you will be encouraged in your rural ministry. If you are not a rural pastor right now, this might be just the thing to help you get a sense of how to understand your rural pastor friend and their ministry. I have included some suggestions at the end of each chapter on how to put into practice the things of that chapter.

I hope you enjoy it and feel encouraged in your ministry.

*click here to order.

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The Importance of a Local Watering Hole – or Eatery

Small communities often struggle to provide enough meaningful services for their community. Some don’t have enough places to shop for clothes. Others don’t have a local hardware store. Some lack enough sports facilities to meet the needs of their children and youth.

SONY DSCA while back we were without a local restaurant in our town. We have a small corner store/grocery store, a gas station, a liquor store, a bar, and a place to buy some snacks, but we didn’t have a place to sit down for a meal of meet someone for coffee. We do not even have the usual hockey arena. This limits where people can gather socially in town. We do have a great community hall that has activities every couple of months, but we needed a restaurant.

It opened up again just a few months ago. People were talking about it in the community and looking forward to it with great anticipation. The first week I was in there at least three different times. I met one man for coffee. I had breakfast with a community friend. I had lunch with a member of the church who leads my care group. There was a place to meet with people in a casual friendly way. Not everyone enjoys coming to the church office for a visit, but a community restaurant isn’t threatening at all.

Rural ministry needs places where one can meet with people to build relationships. Many of my meetings take place over a meal or a cup of coffee because there is something disarming and relaxing about enjoying a meal together. So I am very grateful for the local restaurant we have.

Transforming Church in Rural America: Breaking all the Rurals – Shannon O’Dell

I look for books that speak to the rural ministry context from the rural ministry context. These are few and far between, but I found a great book that I want to encourage you to read! This should be a “must – read” for every rural pastor.transforming-church-in-rural-america

Shannon O’Dell is writing from the experience of small church and small town. He knows of church with 40 people and about how rumors fly through a small community. He is writing from the American experience, but it is really not that much different than our Canadian rural context.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

“I realized I needed to be focusing on growing individual congregants, not a big congregation.” p. 39

“”MAKE US BELIEVE! Because when the Church does not believe, when the ‘us’ (the Church) is removed, guess what? I’ts just MAKE BELIEVE. See, many of us believe in Christ. We recite the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed and confess that we believe in Him. But many of us have not jumped the hurdle of believing Christ. We believe in Him theologically (mentally), but we don’t believe in Him practically.” p. 63

“That day I learned that people say they want to reach the lost, until we start changing things they are familiar and comfortable with in order to do what it takes to really reach the lost.” p. 73

“Are you really called to rural America? If you are, you better pony up because it is going to be the greatest opportunity and also the biggest challenge you have ever experienced, particularly when people leave, because even though they leave your church, they are never, ever gone from your life.” p. 74

Okay, that’s enough. You need to get the book. In reading it, there were times I really identified with what was being said, there were times I was challenged, and most of all I was encouraged that there are still people with innovative and creative ideas called to rural church ministry.

 

 

Rural vs. Urban – We Really Are Different

I received a mailing about a special Pastors Appreciation Breakfast in nearby Calgary. It sounded interesting – and I thought there might be a few freebies – so I went. I had the most interesting feeling as I walked in. Have you ever felt like you were under-dressed forFS100 an occasion? That’s exactly what I felt. I had just enjoyed some meetings a couple of days earlier with a bunch of rural pastors and hadn’t even thought about it. Now, I was wearing similar clothes – jeans and a shirt – and I felt like I didn’t really belong. I saw one other guy wearing jeans and he was a fellow rural pastor! Everyone else was wearing dress pants and a nice shirt, some had a tie, and some even had a full suit on! I felt completely out of place – though I enjoyed the free books I got.

I immediately thought of the Rural Church Pastors Network Gatherings I had just had the privilege of helping lead. One of the topics we discussed was the differences between Rural and Urban churches. Paul Warnock, pastor at Hanna Alliance Church, had a comparison list to share with us. (click here for the list) It’s the first one on the list.

Many of the differences and comparisons between urban and rural churches are obvious for those who have served in both contexts. And these differences are as simple as how we dress, how we do church, and how we lead a board and make decisions.

We really are different. It is a different culture. If you grew up in the country you may not even notice, but if you come from the city, you do need to learn the culture. And that only happens as you take time and listen and watch.

So, yes, we are different, and that’s okay!

What are some differences you have noted between rural and urban?

 

Defining Rural

So I had the privilege of being part of 4 different Rural Church Pastors Network gatherings in the last couple of weeks. The question came up, “What do you mean by rural?” So here’s my attempt at defining “rural”.

Rural could mean a community of 213 or it could could include a community of close to 10,000.

Rural could mean a church of 43 or a church or two of over 200 or more.

Rural could mean you may pass a combine on Main Street.

Rural could mean you have one local store/gas station/coffee shop/post office or a strip mall or two.

Rural could mean you have a school that only goes up to Grade 6 or you could have a couple of elementary schools and a High school.

Rural could mean the men in your church go to work in coveralls or a business suit and tie.

Rural could mean prairie farms or logging companies or fruit trees.

Rural could mean cottage living or 3 generation farms.

Rural could mean oilfield workers or small business owners.

Rural could mean just outside of an urban center or hours away from the nearest city.

 

So what ties rural places together? What is it that is similar even in the differences?

Often rural means a slower pace of life. Because the place is generally a little smaller, there is less to do, less places to be. A traffic jam is unheard of. Often about half the people have lived there all their lives, as did their parents, and even grandparents. The other half is passing through, only staying as long as they need to before they get transferred to a larger center. The chance is better that you will recognize just about everyone and they will know who you are.

I’m wondering if “rural” may be more about a “mindset” than about a location or specific size of community? I’m not sure. But often there is just a bit more of a sense of concern for the whole community. People like to get involved. And people enjoy the fact that they can raise their children there with a little less fear for their well being.

 

I don’t know if that helps.

Any ideas? Let me know.