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Thursday, October 13, 2011

postheadericon What is "rural"?

Ever wonder what makes a church a "rural" church? Is there something that "rural churches" have in common? Kent R. Hunter in The Lord's Harvest and The Rural Church offers this definition, "A rural church is a congregation of Christian people who live an agriculturally oriented life-style." A more complex analysis developed by R. Alex Sim and discussed in Rural Ministry: The Shape of the Renewal to Come (Shannon Jung et. al.) identifies four contexts of "rural ministry":

1. Ribbonvilles: small towns in the country that are changing from a free-standing town to part of city that has gobbled them up. Farmers are selling and moving. Sometimes there is a relocation of older urban churches to new suburban territory. There can be a challenge to old denominational identities and dominance. And a major concern is how to respond to increasing diversity as the transition from rural to urban takes place.

2. Agravilles: here the economic base is primarily agriculture but may also include mining, forestry, and related industries or small industries. These are often farm service towns where Wal-Mart has arrived. They are often further out on highway corridor from cities, beyond Ribbonvilles. Educational, health, government services have tended to consolidate into these towns. Still likely to have a dominant denomination, a church that is the largest and most influential.

3. Mighthavebeenvilles: these encompass the many thousands of six-mile hamlets, villages, and small towns that have fallen under the domination of an Agraville. Once thriving towns these are shrunken versions of their former selves as resources migrated to Agraville. Their former down towns are mostly abandoned, board up. Mighthavebeenville churches are often first pastorates for person out of seminary and the members often older and discouraged. They face a primary problem of how to pay the pastor and how to keep the church going given the cost of doing so.

4. Fairviews: Rural communities whose economic base is grounded in recreational activities and/or institutional towns serving a college, prison, military base. Here there are more city refugees, or urban folks who came here to work. Some Fairviews are reborn Mighthavebeenvilles or Agravilles. The churches need to address long time residents and newcomers, visitors. New congregations may be forming meeting a “niche” need such as retirement community that is growing. Such areas also attract people to low-paying service industry jobs and these jobs may interfere with regular church services scheduling. There may also be issues of economic justice for these workers.

1 comments:

free standing closet said...

how to pay the pastor and how to keep the church going given the cost is are really big problems for Mighthavebeenvilles.