The Twenty:Twenty Initiative is excited to be planting new churches in rural areas including small towns! Larry and Trish Longenecker planted The Bridge of Hope Church last fall in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania and they are reaching out to children and families with groups and events and Bible studies. This winter April and Angel Ocasio are planting Uplift Community Church of God in Halifax, Pennsylvania and have already had a fall community event. Movie nights and preview services are starting soon and the launch is planned for February. It’s great to know that lives are already being touched in these rural, small town communities.
Recently I attended a national Church Planting Leadership Forum focused on planting churches in rural and small town America which shared the need for new churches in rural areas including villages and small towns. There are lots of people in rural areas who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. The majority of them don’t have a church that they call home.
There are lots of advantages to churches in these areas including:
1) Perseverance of the Rural Church – Rural people stick to it and keep helping others from year to year and decade to decade.
2) Shared optimism among the people in rural congregations – Hope for the future keeps things going even when a bad “season” is stretching on.
3) Considerable absence of competition – A church that is relational goes a long way in helping people in rural areas because there aren’t as many other organizations that do that in these areas.
4) High level of impact the planter can have in the community – A rural church planter/pastor can make a big difference in the community schools and in other ways of meeting needs.
More ideas that go a very long way with new, and established, churches in rural areas include:
1) Know your community and what makes it distinct.
2) Understand generational and cultural differences.
3) Be willing to make mistakes (and have them known community wide).
4) Spend time with the more receptive people.
Yes, the same things that work for planting new churches in rural areas are important for established churches as well. If you are in or from a place in the country you have already picked that up.
Two more recommendations for church planting in rural areas:
- Stress networking and relationship building – It’s all about getting to know people and serving them instead of asking them to just serve the church.
- Reach out to children – Lots of children are all around if you just look for them. Go to a local school and ask the Principal what help they need. It could be a new coffee pot for the teacher’s lounge to encourage those who work so hard with their students, or tutors for the students. Ask what you can do to help and then do something that they tell you is needed. Build that relationship by showing people in the community that you are there for them.
The season for rural church planting is here! Who’s next?