I’ve been thinking a lot lately… a dangerous thing.

One of the topics I’ve been thinking about is the role and effectiveness of rural ministry. It’s interesting to see how clergy are often an important figure in rural communities. Worship by a trained person is important to those who attend the church, visits are more than welcome, often even by those who never “darken the doors of the church.”

Rural clergy spend most of their time visiting or preparing for worship, with the a flurry of funerals thrown in on occasion. There’s nothing wrong with this, it is a meaningful ministry to those people.

The problems I often see in rural churches are:

  1. burnout by the faithful few who keep the church running, usually seniors
  2. the inability to keep clergy as money is tight
  3. the church needs to fundraise often during the year, just to keep the doors open

There are of course other problems that may exist, or may exist in particular churches but not in others, but these are ones I hear of.

So I wonder… seeing as how I will be in rural ministry someday soon… how do we move beyond these problems into a sustainable ministry? Can it happen?

Here in the Atlantic Provinces out-migration is a hot topic as we see almost daily young people and young families leave for the big cities and rich soils of central and western Canada. There’s not a lot we can do about people leaving, they do what they need to do to provide for their families. But what about the church? What does it need to do to survive?

If people in the church are focused solely on keeping the doors open on Sunday mornings and spending their energy on finding ways to raise the money so they will stay open, it’s no wonder to me why they can’t bring people back to the church. If people only see themselves as an envelope number instead of a member of the body of Christ, then it’s no surprise to me that churches are struggling for membership.

God needs to be alive in the community. God needs to be active in the community. We need to change our focus away from dollars and cents and refocus on the mission of the Church. There is a need in each and every one of us for a connection with God. A connection that is easier to find and maintain if we look to Him for direction.

I would like to see a church have the courage to forget about finances for one year. To not worry about keeping the doors open, but instead listen intently and earnestly for God’s call for them to find ways to serve the community in which they live. To move beyond the walls and into the streets, because this is where God’s work really happens.

If anyone has done this, or is thinking about taking this journey, I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to know what sort of impact there is on the church and community.