What should small town pastors show gratitude for this Thanksgiving? Many falsely assume that urban churches are in some way superior to small town churches. Some small town churches/pastors struggle with self-esteem because they never measure up to the standards our culture sets for “success in ministry.”
The fact is, rural congregations and small town pastors may have much to offer as correctives to their urban counterparts. This weekend I asked on social media what the top things small town pastors have to be thankful for, and the responses make in the list below. (Thanks Mark and Nolan!) So now…
The Top Ten Reasons Small Town Pastors Can Give Thanks
- Relationships Matter. The opportunity to connect in a very personal way to the people is one defining mark of small towns. Relationships are the most important element in ministry. Small towns increase this opportunity.
- Inclusion in Community Events. Small town pastors get opportunities to pastor the entire community by being invited to key community events. This could mean being invited to emcee the fundraiser of a local civic club, or being asked to say the opening prayer at an event celebrating the town’s heritage.
- The Numbers-Game Means Little. If your church is in a big city the temptation to judge your effectiveness by mega-church standards may prove painfully real. In a small town, the pressure to give into such temptation is less, because reality simply won’t allow it. If there are only 10,000 people in your county, odds are your church will never worship thousands, or even hundreds. Pressure exists on small town pastors to “reach young families,” but nobody expects them to pastor a mega church.
- Churches Tend to Function More Like Family Than Corporations. Face-to-face conversations and trust are more important than policy manuals and rules. The family culture in rural churches simply is not possible in all large urban churches, but that doesn’t means it’s not desirable. The sense of community in a small town adds to the feeling that everyone at church is part of one extended family.
- Being Surrounded by Nature Has its Perks. Small towns have lakes, rivers, mountains, valleys, fields, forests, sky, and ocean all around. The sights, smells, and sounds of city life give way to star filled night skies, rustling trees, and singing birds. If you connect with God through nature, a small town church may be the place to serve!
- Rural Values Are Admired By Everyone. Hard work, honesty, community, service, authenticity, loving God, family, and patriotism are all imagined as small town values. Of course, people in cities can hold the same values, but there’s just something about that rural mystique, attracting us all to a more simple life- with fewer gray areas. When surveyed most people say they would prefer to live in a rural place over the city. Even if our small towns don’t have all the jobs of the future, people will live in them anyways because of their love for best the ideals of rural living, and that says something.
- It Often Costs Less To Live In Small Towns. It seems the cost of living is on the rise no matter where you look. Duke Divinity did a study a few years ago, which you can read about here, that found small town ministers make less than urban ministers, and much less than suburban ministers. At first, this sounds depressing, but when one considers the difference in the cost of downtown or suburban living, paired with longer commutes, more expensive produce and meat, and skyrocketing property taxes, small town pastors may need to count their blessings.
- Parts of the Bible Make More Sense In A Small Town. Most of the ancient world was agrarian. All those parables about wheat and grain, grapes and vineyards, fishing and boating, make more sense when you live near where all those things still occur. Passages where tribalism and family feuds come into play come to life when the Hatfields and McCoys still live in the county. You get the picture.
- Unique Architecture. Open country and small town churches were often built completely by volunteers, and usually show the character of the town/county they situate in. Some of the most beautiful churches in the country exist in small towns. For evidence, just check out Rock beneath the Sand: Country Churches in Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2003).
- Your Commute to Work Looks Like This…
instead of this…