Rural and Small Church (iii)

Policy Goals for Rural People, Churches, and Communities : 1. Agriculture and other natural resource-based economic activities should be sustainable and renewable. 2. Rural persons/families should be able to enjoy the just fruits of their labor.

Issues Related to Rural Church Life : The researchers for the recent rural church study in Missouri interviewed church leaders and pastors in about 400 congregations across that state. They asked about the problems and advantages of rural churches as such and about the advantages and disadvantages of pastoring rural churches. Below I have collected and summarized the comments. I did not, however, try keep track of the frequencies of the comments.

Revisioning Rural Ministry: What Are Our Purposes? : 1. Upgrade the role of the town and country pastor–a variety of exciting challenges await. 2. Enable urban-raised ministers to be effective in rural parishes. 3. Explain how the historic role/tasks of minister, e.g. pastor, prophet, priest, and evangelist, may be expressed in a rural context. 4. Review how the rural churches came to be.

Small Churches Feel Good : There is a growing awareness that smaller churches, those with fewer than 40 in average attendance, are a different “breed” than even those twice their size. They are tough, resilient and “hard to kill.” They are survivors. Their standard of success is different from the standards of the denomination or of society. Yet, a recent study by the new Evangelical Lutheran Church of America states that many smaller congregations suffer from the sense of inferiority.

The Sociology of Church and Community: from the Tobacco Church Conference II : As a properly raised Southern Baptist boy, raised in Western Missouri where the refrain “We don’t smoke; we don’t chew; and we don’t go with girls who do” was a foundation stone of our personal ethic, I was more than a little shocked when Ben told me about the title of the conference, The Tobacco Church. But then what was a “rightly-raised” Southern Baptist boy to expect from those Disciples anyhow. I remember that some of them also danced and played cards back home. However, I found in the published manuscripts from the first version of this conference some of the most insightful pieces, anywhere, on the life of rural communities and their churches.

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