In our last post, Mission Field: The North American Rural Context Part I, we discussed the definition, demographic, and numbers side of what makes up the North American Rural context. Today, we will focus more upon practical application and what a strategic ministry approach to the rural context looks like.
Strategy and Application
As discussed in the previous post, the definition of “rural” is a bit of a moving target in terms of population numbers. That said, we do know that rural areas are typically numerically smaller than urban, but most importantly, they are not “attached to or dependent upon an urban area such as a ‘bedroom community’ or as a suburb.”
To this end, the strategies available for consideration are typically dynamic in nature and varied in terms of approach. Here are a few considerations as recommended by Rural Matters :
- Second-Career/Senior Adults Church Planting
Churches in this model would focus on intentionally recruiting “second career” and/or retiring church planters among their senior adults who have voiced an interest in relocating once they retire.
Case Study: Community Christian Church
- Heritage-Specific Church Plants
These are region-specific church planting initiatives that are specifically contextualized by heritage in a specific area. These may include backgrounds such as ethnic, vocational (work/job related), recreational (hobbies/etc.), and/or heritage (Family Background) markers.
Case Study: “Cowboy Church”
- Rural-Specific Multisite Churches
Existing multisite churches focus on rural-specific campuses outside of their urban influence/area in order to engage regional areas. Key differences between rural-specific and urban multisite models may include:
- Use of existing traditional church buildings
- Focus on potential church mergers
- Less video preaching
- Emphasis on lay leadership
- Smaller campuses
Case Study: Brand New Church
- Regional Church Planting Movements
Many urban church planting strategies focus on national, rather than regional/local, partnerships. These national partnerships often appear as competitive in the rural context rather than supportive. Regional/local movements, therefore, allow for direct local engagement by local church planters to drive change and growth.
- “Business as Mission” Church Planting
The focus here is on building a “business as mission” church planting model with rurally valuable and sustainable business models. Such a model can provide sufficient financial resources and add value to local rural communities. Identifying necessary rural community professions and/or needs and intentionally equipping the church for bi-vocational church planting ministry provides for physical needs while also providing a new church home for people in the context.
The bottom line in church planting is the reality that the context can drive so much of the approach. Being in tune with your context, the realities of the demographics, geography, physical needs, and more drive us to creative ends in applying the Gospel. By no means is this list, therefore, exhaustive but certainly provides some strategic models to consider when thinking about how to approach rural communities.
As we move to conclude our discussion on the North American Mission Field, we will spend our last post discussing some additional approaches and resources for church planting as it relates to the North American context.
 Stone, Tena. Rural Matters Strategy Brief. PDF. One Hope, September 9, 2016.
[CP1]Upload and link PDF that is attached to the same email to the footnote.
Mike is an Assistant Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism, the Associate Director for North American Church Planting for the Center for Great Commission Studies, and a National Missionary of the North American Mission Board (D.Miss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, M.Div., Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary)