These Numbers Should Encourage Small-Town and Rural Pastors

Small-city pastor, you are making a kingdom difference. (Photo by John Cafazza on Unsplash)

I've had the privilege of ministering with dozens of pastors in other churches. Many of these were in-person.

Others were virtual, but I've been in large and small churches. I've been to big cities and small towns with only one stop light. (Or none at all.)

In the process, I've learned a few things about pastors and churches. Much of what I write this blog about comes from those experiences.

A few years ago, I had back-to-back weeks in small cities dealing with, by some standards, smaller churches. They were in rural areas, far from a big city. I realized quickly, probably because I was coming from a larger city and a larger church, that they were sometimes intimidated talking about their church. It almost seemed they felt the need to justify their numbers to me.

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Actually, I couldn't have felt more opposite of that. I was super impressed with what they were doing.

For example, I worked with a church to do a leadership retreat for other churches in their region. The hosting church was definitely small compared to the church I pastored—if we were only talking Sunday attendance.

But that church hosted a retreat with over 100 leaders from different churches in the room. I was amazed they could attract that size crowd—and actually bring people from different churches together.

In another church, the average attendance on the number board at the front of the sanctuary told me they had 78 people the previous Sunday. Of course, that could sound small when compared to the church I was pastoring that had over 3,000 the same week.

But when compared to city sizes, we were reaching less than 1% of our city's population. The smaller church was reaching almost 20% of theirs. Amazing!

I know rural churches that do the bulk of social ministries in their community. Sometimes on their own and often partnering with other small churches, they are the "United Way" or the "Salvation Army" of their town.

My experiences have led me to believe something about small-town and rural churches.

Sometimes pastors/churches don't know how well they are doing.

It's true.

Many times, the small-city or rural pastors compare themselves to the big-city churches. They compare numbers rather than progress, size rather than context and notoriety rather than influence.

And because of that, many times, they don't know how well they are really doing.

I see the connections, networking and influence the small-town pastor has and I wish I could have this kind of kingdom influence in my city. The respect they command in their community makes them, in many ways, miles ahead of me in progress. In addition, many times these pastors are bi-vocational, often working full-time somewhere else besides the church.

Small-city pastor, my suspicion is that God is using you. You are making a kingdom difference. Sometimes you don't even know how well you are doing. Remember: Comparison is an enemy of contentment.

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years' business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.

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