4 Tips for Passion in a Rural Church

By Matt Henslee and Kyle Bueermann

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on factsandtrends.net and is adapted with permission from Replanting Rural Churches. (Copyright 2019, Acoma Press.)

I (Matt) remember it like it was yesterday. “I don’t know that you’ll like it here, brother,” a member of the search committee said, “There’s not much to do. You might be bored.”

Underneath my polite smile were two eyes rolling and the reminder I have four daughters—there’s no such thing as bored. But let’s be honest, it was a town of 60 folks in the absolute middle of nowhere.

Though we did have a café, we had a convenience store plastered with racist epitaphs, a gas station without gas, and were nearly an hour away from the nearest Walmart.

There really wasn’t much to do.


While I wholeheartedly believe it was a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit breathing life into that church, one thing He also did was breathe life into me.

He gave me a passion for a town that would otherwise be forgotten. I couldn’t wait to get started, to get my boots on the ground, and to see what God was going to do.

What a privilege it is to pastor the bride of Christ! We’ve been entrusted with Jesus’ sheep. That means you might get dirty, and there’ll be days you’ll want to hang up the shepherd’s staff and do something else, but man.

What a privilege!


You preach the Word of God to the people of God in the house of God indwelt by the Spirit of God; I can’t think of a better reason to have a little passion!

The Jesus who, as Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”For the joy that lay before him, Jesus endured the greatest agony imaginable. Let me be clear: you can handle a couple of bad days. Not only that, you can do so with a little pep in your step. I mean, think about it…

You preach the Word of God to the people of God in the house of God indwelt by the Spirit of God. I can’t think of a better reason to have a little passion.

Whether you’re preaching to five, to 50, or to 500, do so with passion. Over time, it’ll begin to infect the members of your church.


Now, it’s easy to have some passion while preaching, but what about the other things we do? Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.”

You might have to clean some toilets or visit sister Claire after her bunion surgery. You might have to endure a contentious business meeting after you changed what room the quilt club met in, or even have to help a member corral a stray cow.

But do it from the heart, do it for the Lord, do it with passion, do it because you love them. It won’t be glamorous. (What did you expect from an article with the word “rural” in the title?)

But it’s worth it because there’s a reward at the end of this cornfield with a reminder from Paul: “You serve the Lord Christ.”

As you do, there are four things that’ll help you communicate your passion for your church—things that are helpful whether you’re rural or metro, big or tiny. Any pastor worth their salt can incorporate some of these things.


Curate a list of the birthdays of each of your members and write them a handwritten note or give them a call on their birthday.

Many will go to the mailbox each day and get ready to toss the latest spam they received. But a letter from you? They will cherish it!


On holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas, and certainly Valentine’s Day, make it a point to contact the widows and widowers in your church.

Many are lonely. Many of them missed the loved ones who have gone before them. Don’t forget these members of your flock around important holidays. Instead, make them feel special.

Give them a call, invite them over for dinner, or go pay them a visit.


I (Matt) joke that I have a resting angry face, but it’s true. I actually write in my notes here and there to remember to smile. I love to preach the Word, but sometimes, my face fails to show it.

Preach with passion. Don’t put on a show, but do your church a favor and at least look like you’re enjoying the absolute privilege you have to proclaim the Word.


We get it. Your mind it set on the Word you’re about the preach, but the time before and after the service is a great time for you to mingle with the people you serve.

Ask how they’re doing and, get this (it’s earth-shattering), actually listen to them.,

Published February 13, 2020

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Matt Henslee and Kyle Bueermann

MATT AND KYLE (@ReplantingRural) are serving in the trenches of southern New Mexico in places all but forgotten by most. Their passion is to see pastors choose the road less traveled (even if it requires four-wheel-drive) to see God breathe life into dying churches.