It’s a new day for churches serving Christ faithfully still, in the rural contexts of Ontario and Quebec. It’s a new day for ministry involving some changes if rural churches want to minister effectively in and to the communities they serve.
In some places more ‘rural’ living patterns are being challenged by the influx of those retiring from, or communities to, larger urban centres. As the larger ‘boomer’ generation retires or changes course in lifestyles, jobs and professions some of our rural churches will face new, interesting and challenging challenges and opportunities.
Some communities have shrunk and the population has greatly declined. Perhaps lacking adequate government and other resources, owners of smaller farms have been forced to sell to those who farm many acres. Now, farmhouses may be inhabited by more transient renters whose interest do not lie in the care and development of land once so precious and tenderly cared for by original inhabitants.
Because of shrinking communities and migration to larger urban centres, many churches with rich heritages and memories of bustling activity, burgeoning Sunday Schools and standing-room only services now face the challenge of survival.
Rural churches thrive when…
- Congregations don’t try to copy suburban models. They meet local needs and interests.
- Ministry is primarily relational, not programmatic. And those relationships reach across generations.
- Ministry reaches beyond the church building and into the everyday lives of young people.
- Young people are valued for who they are and where they are in life. Children and youth are encouraged to use their gifts in practical ways.
- Youth ministry and leadership development are virtually synonymous. Young people are encouraged and needed to take leadership roles as soon as they are ready.
- Small congregations provide rich opportunities for mature faith formation. Faith and action are connected over time in a community that lives with high levels of interdependence and accountability.