The death of rural and small-town churches is greatly exaggerated, said Thom Rainer, founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. He offers several reasons for optimism about areas that often are underserved.
- The migration trend from these less-populated areas has reversed.“There seems to be conventional wisdom that people are fleeing rural areas,” Rainer said. “But did you know the trend has reversed? Did you know the rate of decline in rural populations began reversing in 2011? This development is huge and should not be ignored by church leaders, denominations and networks.”
- There are a lot of people in rural and small-town areas.“The population number depends on how you define rural and small town,” he said. “If you include any areas under 2,500 in population, there are 60 million people living there. That is a huge mission field that cannot be ignored.”
- More church leaders are expressing a calling to rural churches and small-town churches..”Much like the move to replanting and revitalization, we are seeing a calling among these leaders to become a part of these churches and communities,” he said.
- More church leaders are serious about rooting themselves and their families in these communities and churches. “For many decades for many leaders, these churches were perceived more as steppingstones to the next opportunity,” Rainer said. “This attitude is shifting. The metaphor is changing from steppingstones to roots.”
- The simpler life of rural or small-town areas is becoming increasingly attractive to many people, including church leaders.“Simply stated, many people are weary of the frenetic pace and cluttered life often emblematic of more densely populated areas,” he said. “There is a desire to return to the basics of an uncluttered life. Church leaders are among those seeking this life balance.”