Why We Need Small Town Pastors
Part One: A Paradigm Shift
By Skip Pullen, District Representative, Northeast
Our country needs small town pastors.
Over the past year, I have received about two dozen requests from small churches regarding the possibility of having Village Missions come and serve their rural communities here in the northeast. As I travel around to these rural communities and visit churches, I find a recurring question, “How do we get young families into the church?”
As the membership of these small churches age, they grow to be very aware of the decline of people in attendance. They are concerned that their rural church will need to close its doors. I hear them say, “If only we could get more people to come to church…”
Sadly, just having more people come through the doors will not resolve the problem. It takes looking deeper than the surface.
A church is not healthy just because it has numbers.
There is a lot of unhealthy thinking out there, and we must remember that:
– A small church is not a mega-church. It never will be.
– Most of the things that work in a megachurch will not work in a small rural church, so trying to buy into the methodology of the megachurch mindset is a recipe for disaster.
Rather, small town pastors and members of small town churches need to stretch and rethink how they are going to do ministry.
Thirty to forty years ago, communities were connected. Families did things together. Over and over, the churches that I visit share about their “heyday”. They lament that families no longer see the need for church.
Part of the trouble we have experienced a paradigm shift. The church members were connected because of extended families. Today, young people that grow up in small town America are moving to the urban areas for employment and other opportunities. Sometimes, churches focus on trying to get those families to return.
However, we overlook the fact that the greatest population growth taking place in small towns and rural areas is found in “thirty somethings” moving in from the urban areas. The second greatest population growth in rural towns comes from early retirees purchasing property and building homes for their retirement. When these groups “migrate” into town, we miss that God is bringing the unsaved world to the doorsteps of our churches.
Small town churches need to understand that these folks aren’t going to be looking for them. Often, church isn’t even on their radar. The small town church must go to them. These people have a need and most likely, don’t realize it.
A small town pastor recognizes this opportunity, and will make it his aim (and that of his church) to reach these people with the hope and love of Jesus Christ.
If you enjoyed this article, read the second part, found here.