Rechurching Rural America

Some Notes on the Church Landscape of Rural Missouri

At the recent meeting of the advisory committee a question was raised about the meaning of the names of several of the smaller denominations one finds in Missouri. For example, one finds Missionary Baptists among the African Americans in the Bootheel and in the white Ozarks. Are they related? How are the connected to the dominant Southern Baptist denomination?

Thoughts on the Settlement, Churching and Development of Rural Missouri

A basic tenet of the Christian faith is that God is active in history moving it toward His appointed ends. As a backdrop for our study of rural churches in Missouri over the past halfcentury, I have sought to understand the great currents of history that have impacted the approximately 500 rural and town churches that comprise the subject of the study…

Reflections on Rural Church Study

We are calling for the “Rechurching of Rural America”. Our rationale goes like this: rural America was churched; that is, a set of local congregations were put in place with the Western expansion in the 19th century. The dominant paradigm of community life was Jeffersonian Agrarianism. These churches were of two basic varieties: 1. Western European Heritage 2. Made in America

The researchers for the 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 and of pastoring rural churches. Below I have collected and organized the comments. I did not try keeping track of the frequencies of the comments.

Variables in Viability

The focus of this study will be on the viability or sustainability of rural churches. Below I have tried to categorize some of the variables that might impact sustainability. Many of the categories might have either a positive or a negative effect. Please read the list. Comment. Critique. Make suggested additions.

The Rechurching of Rural America

As Sunday morning’s dawn spreads across rural North America, millions of people awake, arise, and prepare to make their way to worship in one of the more than 200,000 churches that dot the country-side and cluster in the hamlets and the towns of this land. For the most part, these are small congregations with fewer than 100 persons in attendance. Most have existed for a century or more…

Dr. Gary Farley was the Director of Missions for the Pickens Baptist Association (1997-2017). From 1984 to 1997 he worked at the Home Mission Board in the Rural Church Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. In that role he published many articles pertaining to rural church and community life. Many of these articles have been collected here as a small library. We invite you to freely distribute these materials under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.