The Forgotten Church
Why Rural Ministry Matters for Every Church in America
WHO: Glenn Daman, pastor of River Christian Church in Stevenson, Washington.
HE SAYS: “Rural America is rapidly becoming a spiritual wasteland, where churches are being closed because they are overlooked and cast aside by the larger church community as a place deemed too insignificant and unworthy of our attention.”
THE BIG IDEA: The church at large needs to understand the importance of and need for rural ministry. It also needs to identify ways that rural and urban churches can partner to mutually encourage and strengthen the larger body.
Acknowledging that rural and urban churches typically hold stereotypes of one another, this book presents a comprehensive picture of what the rural church in America looks like today.
Glenn systematically presents a historical perspective of both rural life and the rural church, then offers a primer on understanding rural culture. Next, he examines issues not typically discussed in the framework of rural life: poverty and racial tensions.
Looking at the church’s relationship with the rural community, Glenn shows how important it is to understand the biblical theology of the church and overcoming an urban bias.
Lastly, he wraps up with a discussion of the rural community as a mission field and the importance of strategic partnerships.
“How we view the forgotten church reveals our understanding of the church itself. The church is not a franchise where effectiveness is determined by marketing techniques and strategic planning, and where success is measured by the size of the church and the number of satellite campuses. The church is a community of believers, no matter how many gather together for mutual encouragement, support, and ministry.”
A CONVERSATION WITH GLENN DAMAN
What are the primary factors that stop pastors from pursuing rural ministry?
Rural churches are faced with a crisis of leadership. In a study of Presbyterian churches, it was found that over 50 percent of small (under 100) rural churches lack a full-time pastor. While there are a number of reasons for the struggle of rural churches to recruit pastors, there are three that are major contributors:
1. Inability to compete with the larger churches salary structure. While the rural church can often provide a sustainable salary, they cannot match the urban and suburban congregations.
2. The lack of visibility and presence of rural ministry in the educational process and lack of exposure the rural church receives.
3.The lack of prestige and recognition of rural pastors. To be dedicated to rural ministry is to sentence oneself to obscurity.
What are the pitfalls of taking urban/suburban ministry methods into rural contexts?
Trust and an understanding of rural culture is critical for effective ministry. Rural people are suspicious of those who come from outside the community and attempt to bring a “once size fits all” methodology to the church. While suburban ministry is driven by goals, objectives and desired results, rural ministry is driven by relationships. Thus, it is critical that leader first builds trust within the congregation before implementing change.
How can urban and suburban churches best partner with and support rural churches?
Effective partnership begins not by seeing the rural church paternally where we enter into a partnership with the goal of “saving” the rural church, but rather as a genuine partnership where there is equal respect. It is important that the rural and urban church learn from one another and benefit together by forming partnering relationships.