I don’t know about you, but for years I remember hearing about a new ministry resource or conference, and I immediately thought, “That’s not for me.” When I was serving as a youth pastor, I’d hear about all these great resources, then look at the price tag and immediately realize it wasn’t going to work in my budget. When I became a lead pastor, I’ve had the same thoughts. I’ve been to conferences and sat in on breakout sessions with ministry gurus who shared how they were leading their church staffs that, sometimes, were larger than my entire congregation. Countless times, I’ve felt like I just didn’t fit in with a large segment of pastors and ministry leaders.
You see, I’ve spent my entire ministry career in rural communities under 40,000 people and in churches that average well under 200 in gathered worship. I’m so excited to share with you some resources we are developing in the coming months that will focus specifically on pastors and churches in rural areas — guys just like me!
Why is rural so important? The Census Bureau estimates that almost 20% of the US population lives in rural communities.¹ That’s around 60 million people who live outside of major urban areas.
The Hub will be a one-stop shop for rural churches to find video sermons, small group materials, leadership training, and other valuable resources. We know of many churches who currently are pastorless and relying on a rotating string of supply preachers. We also know many Directors of Missions/Associational Missions Strategists who are running themselves ragged every weekend as they preach at churches across their associations in need of pastors.
We know many churches who cannot afford a full-time pastor, and some who cannot afford even a bivocational pastor. The Hub is designed to meet needs in rural churches across North America. Entire sermon series videos, outlines, bulletin templates and graphics will be available to download completely free. We also hope to eventually provide free, downloadable worship videos a church can use in the event they don’t have a worship leader or musicians.
You can sign up to received updates about the development of The Hub and be among the first to have the opportunity to sign up for access when it opens here.
The Hub is a strategy. We know it is not the strategy for every church or every association. So we will work to develop materials that can be used for rural pastors and rural DOMs/AMSs to develop pastors and leaders to serve some of the most remote churches in the SBC.
Churches, associations, and state conventions all over the country have a passion for serving rural churches and communities. One of the things we hope to do is to provide an avenue to connect missions and ministry opportunities in rural communities with those who are looking to help rural churches reach their communities with the gospel.
Change the Narrative
This has been one of the big goals of the Replant Team from the beginning. We seek to change the narrative about dying and declining churches across North America. Now, we want to change the narrative about rural churches and communities across North America as well. We want to encourage pastors and seminary students to consider rural areas. We want to encourage dedicated believers who can work from anywhere in this brave new world to consider rural communities to live in and serve.
I believe God has big plans for small places, and I’m excited to see what He does in and through churches in the middle of nowhere! If you want to read more about my heart for rural churches, check out the book I co-wrote with Matt Henslee, Replanting Rural Churches: God’s Plan and Call for the Middle of Nowhere.
Keep looking at our blog and the Replant Collective newsletter for updates on the development of The Hub and other rural strategies!
¹Robert Wuthnow, Small-town America: Finding Community, Shaping the Future (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), 18.
Published March 30, 2021