by Rich Birch: Thanks for joining in for another episode of the unSeminary podcast. Today I’m happy to introduce a new friend and guest, Dr. Glenn Daman, pastor at River Christian Church near Portland, Oregon.
River Christian is a small church in a rural community near Portland. Glenn is with us today to talk about the struggles that church leaders of small churches may face and encouragement for serving in rural ministry.
Struggles of leadership. // The lack of leadership is a huge problem in churches in rural America. A study by Patricia Chang showed that about 50% of Presbyterian churches below 100 did not have full time pastors. There is a significant problem with finding and recruiting pastors and raising up leaders to serve churches in rural areas.
Redefine success. // There is also a continual struggle and frustration in rural churches to demonstrate that they are growing larger. Even among churches we’ve learned to measures success by numbers, as our culture does. In rural America, the church may have been 50-100 people for 30 years and it will remain within those numbers for another 30 years because it reflects the population in the area. This seeming “plateaued growth” leads to frustration and feelings of hopelessness that the rural church isn’t successful because it doesn’t grow in leaps like a church in a more urban area. Dr. Glenn Daman challenges this idea – we need to redefine success as faithfulness to Christ and faithfulness serving in the ministry we’ve been given. Spiritual growth can’t always be measured, but it’s not the number of people that make ministry effective, it’s the change that people have in your ministry.
Be a part of the community outside the church. // In a large church the lead pastor typically relates to people from the pulpit. In a rural church, it’s all about how well you relate to them during the week. If a pastor has been out there in the community, then they know you and relate to you as a friend, not just an eloquent speaker. It’s especially important to build these relationships in rural communities—go fishing with your congregants, sit down with them for coffee. Be a part of their world so they can relate to you and trust is built.
Invest in people for the long haul. // For a young pastor entering into a rural ministry for the first time, Glenn underscores the importance of getting to know the people in your community and the culture there first. If you didn’t grow up in the community, they may be less likely to trust you and believe you’ll stick around. You need to demonstrate that you are putting down roots and be there several years if you really want to invest in the community. Be committed to your calling and demonstrate that you don’t see rural ministry as simply a stepping stone to a larger church or urban ministry. Show them that you are there until God moves you and you’re not just using them.
The call for pastors in the forgotten church. // Glenn’s book The Forgotten Church: Why Rural Ministry Matters for Every Church in America was written to raise awareness of what’s going on in rural America and the crisis there. Rural America is facing huge challenges in ministry and Glenn hopes that his book helps church leaders across the country recognize the need to partnership with rural ministry and the call for pastors willing to go into these forgotten churches. Glenn describes rural ministry as the moral backbone of the larger evangelical church. As Glenn explains, if we lose rural America – as the last place that post-modern thinking has taken hold – we lose the country.
You can contact Glenn to chat with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find his book The Forgotten Church: Why Rural Ministry Matters for Every Church in America at Amazon where Christian books are sold.
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Ministries Following // Village Missions
Influential Book // The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America by Robert Wuthnow
What you do for fun // Woodworking, Camping, Photography
Contact // email email@example.com