}
Filter By Type
Filter By Category
Sort By
1231 results for Rural Congregations
Collection
Congregational Finance
Curator Kate White
Collection
Caring Congregations
Curator Doug Hanner
Collection
Inclusive Congregations
Curator Kate White
Collection
Strategic Planning for Congregations
Curator Tim Shapiro
article
Ministering During COVID-19: Creative Ideas for Small Rural Congregations
This article lists doable, creative ideas from small rural congregations for how to do ministry under COVID-19 restrictions.
book
Big Lessons from Little Places: Faithfulness and the Future in Small Congregations
This book argues that small congregations offer relevant lessons appropriate for any size of congregation, and focuses on how a tight-knit community can serve as the perfect foundation for close relationships.
book
Transforming Church in Rural America
Based on the experiences of the author as a rural pastor, this book dispels false assumptions about rural congregations and shows how stagnant churches can grow by setting goals based on vision, attitude, leadership, understanding, and enduring excellence.
article
The Anatomy of a Rural Church: 10 learnings from summer prayer walks around the church's neighborhood
This article describes the experience of one rural congregation to portray the value of prayer walks, a process in which walkers discovered new insights regarding their congregation.
book
Rural Revival: Growing Churches in Shrinking Communities
Based off the results of a case study, this resource offers stagnant rural and small congregations a process they can follow to ensure renewal.
book
The Land That Calls Me Home: Connecting God's People to God's Land through God's Church
Based on the author's experience within a rural congregation, this resource explores the benefits of a partnership between the church and its farmers, one that can lead to community growth.
web resource
Catholic Rural Life
This website offers free resources for rural and small town congregations to address outreach, stewardship of creation, agriculture and food.
event
Rural Ministry Conference
This conference focuses on educating and empowering prospective and current clergy, for ministry and in general, at rural congregations.
For The CRG Created For The CRG
Good News and Bad News about Congregational Decline

For many, the condition of United States congregations and denominations is worse than reported by sociologists. In sundry settings, the decline is now irreversible. See Jim Collins’ research about the irreversible decline of other once strong institutions, How the Mighty Fall.

Unreported pain

It is upsetting to be the one who has to tell a congregation that a full time clergy leader is no longer affordable. It is upsetting to be a denominational representative reporting that the judicatory camp is closing. It is one thing to read a statistic. It is another to be the statistic. The social science research does not capture that pain. “My congregation is going to close. This feels so sad.”

Addressing the grief

There is anticipatory grief related to the decline. The grief is experienced by members, clergy, judicatory representatives and others who serve congregations. There is also loss that has occurred because of the natural desire to delay the deep pain that goes with closing a congregation. That is, the closing of the congregation has been hindered partially to fend off the understandable pain of actual loss. Perhaps this is inevitable. There may be no other way than the long way. There is much actual loss that has occurred that has not been lamented by members, clergy, judicatory representatives and others who serve congregations. We are not good at holding loss when it involves congregations. How could we be?

When decline is inevitable, let’s attend respectfully to grief so that the pain is not needlessly prolonged.

Vibrant congregations

If there is any truth that the condition of congregations and denominations is worse than reported, it is also true that, in many settings, there is inspiring vitality.

For every sociological data point about congregational decline, there are exceptions to the rule. This is an observable reality. For example, walk through the front door of the new congregation hosting 200 worshipers the average age of 22. Another exception is the rural congregation in the middle of nowhere (well, almost nowhere) experiencing a 30% increase in attendance over three years.

These vibrant experiences are not commonly captured in social science surveys. Many thriving congregations are new. They aren’t included in the researchers’ databases. Also, their stories do not fit a normative pattern of problem and then solution. The stories are personal. The stories are idiosyncratic. They are signs of God’s free Spirit. They are about new creations. They are signs of leadership courage and maturity. Such exceptions often are dependent on a leader’s particular charisma and thus not replicable.

Sharing the stories

The story of such exceptions should be shared more widely. I visited a brand new urban congregation last year which welcomed 40 people in worship. This year, the average attendance at that congregation is 140. Besides worship, their primary activity is befriending the homeless. Everything they plan, everything they do, involves the question, “How can we include our homeless friends?”

There is plenty of bad news about the decline of congregational life in the United States. But there are even more stories we haven’t yet heard about congregations that are flourishing.

For additional information, check out these resources: Facing Decline, Finding Hope; the National Congregations Study; Finishing With Grace; Faith and Leadership.

organization
Rural Home Missionary Association
This organization offers resources and trainings with the goal of planting and supporting churches in small-town America.
Add to Collection
Bookmark resources to group them into personalized collections
Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.