I wrote yesterday about the importance of the church connecting with cities. I confess that I’m more urban and suburban than rural, but I also recognize the importance of rural churches. In fact, I began my ministry career as pastor of a more rural church. Here are some of the reasons these churches matter:
- Millions of people still live in rural settings. Depending on the source of the data, anywhere from 46 million to 60 million Americans live in rural settings. Even if the majority were genuine believers, the mission field would still be large.
- They often have strong relationship networks. Rural folks tend to have more immediate, close-proximity relationships through which the gospel can spread than urbanites do. In my first church, I sat amazed as family members continually reached more family members in the area.
- Rural churches have resources for the kingdom. “Rural” does not automatically equal “impoverished.” Even if every rural church were to close—and I’m not suggesting that should be the case—the combined resources of dollars, land and facilities associated with rural churches offer much for God’s work.
- Gospel ministry needs abound in rural settings. In fact, they’re the same needs found in urban settings, though they may be more be pronounced in rural communities. Lost people still need the gospel. Broken families still need healing and security. Poor people still need food.
- Rural church commitment tends to be lifelong. In some cases, that commitment negatively equals controlling the church; however, that same kind of commitment brings a “stick-to-it-ness” that churches need. These members understand their community and their congregation.
- Some pastors are uniquely called to serve in smaller settings. They’re usually great shepherds, caring profoundly for their sheep and investing deeply in their lives. God calls them to lead rural churches to flourish.
- Rural churches are still “sending” churches. Even from small rural churches, God is still calling out the next generation of pastors and missionaries. Some rural churches within driving distance of a college or seminary even see their primary role as a training ground for young ministers.
- They can be a witness to the miraculous. For churches in declining rural populations, survival may be the primary goal—and significant growth would be nothing less than miraculous. God has a way, though, of making Himself known through growing churches in the most difficult and unexpected places.
- They are ready-made partners for urban churches. Yesterday, I encouraged all churches to figure out how to get involved in the city. Today, I offer the same challenge regarding rural congregations. If your church is a larger urban church, prayerfully look for a rural church you might assist.
What other reasons would you add to this list?
This article originally appeared here.