In 2012, Kathy Keller wrote a blog piece, “Why the City is a Wonderful Place to Raise Children.” Kathy is an excellent communicator and her post was very encouraging to church planters and their families who are called to urban areas. Conventional wisdom says large cities are not a good place to bring up kids, but she brought a positive perspective on the adventures of big city living.
I basically agree with Kathy and would prefer to live in a city myself. However, I’m afraid the evangelical culture has developed a perception that a small town ministry is not nearly as hip or culturally relevant as one in a big city. Yet there are definitely some “pros” to small town life and I want to point out some advantages of living and ministering in Small Town America.
My husband and I have lived in two small towns. One, a farming community of less than 5,000, and the other with a population of around 25,000. Both of these places brought us an awareness of a completely different lifestyle, which neither of us had experienced. We learned to appreciate the simplicity and rythm of small town life and thoroughly enjoyed our ministry there.
Here are some of the positives we discovered (and others have, as well) about small town living:
- As a pastor or church staff member, your ministry is not only to your church but to the entire community.
- Everyone knows who your children are, where they go to school and help you keep an eye on them. (Parents love this point, but kids not so much!)
- There is a certain amount of accountability built into small town life. Because everyone knows you, your everyday routine is a witness for Christ; not just when you are seen during meetings or Sunday worship.
- There is nothing like the spirit of a small town with one high school and Friday night football! (or whatever the “town sport” is.)
- A slower, less frantic pace of life provides extra family time, as well as personal time.
- There is a significantly lower cost of living, lower taxes, less gas used, etc. in a smaller community, giving you more financial freedom.
- The night sky!
One of the things Kathy mentions is the “quiet and empty suburbs” that “bore her children.” But a suburb does not necessarily equal a meaningless life. Everyone can’t live in the city, nor do they want to. These neighborhoods provide green space for kids to play ball, ride bikes, and explore life outdoors. It is where families can thrive through church, school, and community life. Our children grew up in a suburb filled with friendly neighbors, lots of activities – and many wild basketball games in our driveway!
Finally, if you live in Small Town America, remember you are ministering in the same way as Jesus did. The largest part of His ministry did not take place among the blue-bloods in Jerusalem, but among ordinary, hard-working people in small communities – where everyone knew Him and His family. And I think that Kathy would agree with me – wherever you live, it’s God’s calling that took you there, keeps you there, and will bless you there.
Where do you currently serve? Small town? Urban setting? Suburbs?
What do you love about where you live?
Published March 20, 2015