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How Your Small Rural Church Can Do Something Big

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How Your Small Rural Church Can Do Something Big Empty How Your Small Rural Church Can Do Something Big

Post  Admin on Wed 01 Sep 2010, 8:00 am

How Your Small Rural Church Can Do Something Big
Whitney Hopler
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of
Shannon O'Dell's new book,
Transforming Church in Rural America,
(New Leaf Publishing Group, 2010).

Churches in rural areas tend to have few people attending and little money.
But your church's small size doesn't have to limit its potential to impact
the
world in big ways. If you simply settle for the status quo, your rural
church could die from isolation. But if you're willing to make changes,
you'll connect
your small church to God's bigger work throughout the world.

Here's how you can use your small rural church to do something big:

Ask God to give you a vision for your church's future, and believe it. Ask
God boldly to help your church fulfill His potential for it. Pray for a
vision
of where God wants to lead your church so you can clearly understand His
plans for your congregation. Pray also for the faith you need to believe
that
God will truly use your small church to join Him in work that makes a big
impact on the world. Then proclaim the vision and join others in your church
to pray together in agreement for God's will to be done.

Have the courage to change. Realize that a collective church attitude of
doing things the way they've always been done for the sake of tradition
blocks
your church's ability to truly preach the Gospel, because the Gospel's
message is one of life transformation - which requires constant change to
follow
wherever God leads. Don't waste time and energy defending your church's
traditions. Instead, pray for the courage you need to make the changes God
wants
you to make to reach new people, both in your rural community and beyond.
Remember, your church's mission isn't to make the people already there feel
comfortable;
it's to constantly take the Gospel message to new people in fresh ways that
will genuinely reach them. Expect change to cause conflict in your
congregation,
but also expect that if you trust God to help you navigate successfully
through the conflict, your congregation will grow in significant ways. So
banish
fear and move forward courageously into a new and exciting future together.

Strengthen your marriage and family life. In rural communities, people
usually know each other very well and are closely watching to see how
healthy church
leaders' home lives really are. Your leadership must begin in your home,
since a strong marriage and family life is the most powerful evangelistic
tool
you'll have in a rural community. So keep your priorities straight: your
relationship with God first, then your marriage, then your kids, then your
vocation,
and then your church. Be honest and real with people as they watch you
interact with your spouse and kids. When they see that, while you're not
perfect,
you're letting Jesus have His way in your home, they'll be drawn to Him
themselves.

Recruit leaders from within your congregation. Once the people who are part
of your church catch God's vision for it along with you, they'll be
motivated
to volunteer to help lead the church into a better future. Be willing to
delegate the work to them and give them plenty of opportunities to put their
God-given
talents to full use. Structure teams around a common mission, and clearly
outline everyone's roles. Encourage all of your leaders to leave their own
agendas
behind and work passionately together toward your church's shared vision.

Give your best effort to every task. Never be satisfied with doing a
mediocre job on any task. Remember that you're serving God, and He expects
excellence.
Don't use your church's lack of money as an excuse for mediocre or poor
quality ministry. Keep in mind that excellence doesn't cost money; it simply
costs
time and effort. Pray for the creativity you need to fulfill the church's
mission with excellence, from recruiting volunteers to improve the
aesthetics
of your building and donate toys to your church's nursery, to starting small
groups that meet in various places throughout the community and use free
curriculum
produced from weekend teaching notes.

Build a virtual ministry. Although you may be isolated geographically, you
can use technology such as satellites, web streaming, and DVDs to broadcast
your
church's messages to people throughout the world. You can also work with
sites like GlobalMediaOutreach.com to connect the people in your church with
seekers
around the world who want to e-mail Christians for conversations and prayer.
Even if the number of people who physically attend your church's worship
services
is small, you can reach many more virtually and work with them - one person
at a time - to help them grow.

Join other rural churches near you to work together. Share encouragement,
wisdom, and resources with other churches in your rural community, since you
can
accomplish much more for God's kingdom together than you can separately.
Pray against attitudes of competition and possessiveness, and ask God to
help
you see each other as He does - part of the same spiritual family - and to
work together well.


Adapted from
Transforming Church in Rural America,
copyright 2010 by Shannon O'Dell. Published by New Leaf Publishing Group, a
division of New Leaf Press, Green Forest, Ark.
www.newleafpublishinggroup.com.
Shannon O'Dell passionately seeks to inspire his growing multi-campus church
to give God only the very best. Committed to reaching out to struggling
churches
in rural areas around the country and the world, he has served as senior
pastor for Brand New Church in the small community of Bergman, Arkansas for
more
than six years. He is a former youth pastor of First Southern Baptist Church
in Del City, Oklahoma. He is married to wife Cindy, and the couple has four
children.

Original publication date: July 16, 2010
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