Pastoring a small rural church : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

I am completing my first year as a pastor of a small rural church in Indiana. I guess I am becoming anxious about my first Annual Conference report. I can honestly say that I have maintained things as they were when I arrived, but I want to do more next year. My dilemma is that I live 145 miles away from the church and the community, I also have a full time job so it is difficult to really connect with the people at my church, as well as, with the community. The congregation is small in size approx. 10 people ( 2 children ages 11 & 10). The adults are primarily older 64-81 including one couple age 43. I think that the congregation has resigned itself to the fact that they will always be the "starter" church for all new pastors. So I have spent this year taking time to get to know my parishioners, and listening to the stories that each member brings. Of course we face the endless challenge of meeting our conference and connectional budget. I would really love to hear some innovative ideas concerning generating money, growing the church, forming partnerships with other ministries for example.

Rev. Deborah Scott (

-- Anonymous, June 16, 2003


God bless you Rev. Scott! I pastor a small rural church in Montana. 55 members. And soon will have a circuit with a new church we are planting that is 500 miles away over two mountain passes. The challenges that you face are unlike urban ministry and many do not understand what we go through and often look down upon small rural churches. The good news is that to God every ministry is important! I know our denomination uses phrases like "starter church" or "being promoted to a larger church" but the early church began in homes as did many of our ame churches today. I have been a pastor for almost 20 years, I am 51 and I know for me, it would have been hard to do rural ministry as my first church. So I admire you, we do not have the resources of the bigger churches, financially. So that means we have to be creative. It can be very isolating, for it is often difficult to get to conferences, there are usually not any other ame churches near by for collegial support. We have to travel long distances to get to church and visit our members. Many in urban churches complain if they have to drive an hour. It takes a special breed of clergy to do rural ministry and believe it or not there are many of us out here. I am proud of you for doing such incredible ministry. I would be honored to mentor you. And I have a girlfriend in Missouri who is ame and doing rural ministry with 14 members. You are not alone. I beg my Mishop to let me stay in Montana. I never want to be moved. For to go over a mountain pass and tell someone about Jesus is the greatest joy.

I also started a support group for small and rural churches in our denomination called S.A.R.C.U I have a website, so do check it out.

We have members around the world. Including a church that is not ame in India. Email me privately and let's have fun doing ministry for the lord. I am so happy you posted. P.S. I don't ever want to do urban ministry;-)

-- Anonymous, June 16, 2003

Rev Scott, I just find you to be so amazing. It is incredible to me that you will drive 145 miles to conduct a worship service for 10 people. When I went to college at Virginia Tech in the southwestern hills of Blacksburg, Va., I remember an AME minister named Rev. Drew (I believe) who was the pastor of Macedonia AME church in my hometown of Suffolk, Va. This man would drive 271 miles from the Suffolk church to St. Paul's AME in Blacksburg,Va to conduct a worship service. He would leave on a Friday night for this journey. I was just so amazed by this man's dedication back in 1978-1982. Since joining the AME church, I have learned that this type of " itinerancy" is a part of the methodist tradition. I tell you, you AME ministers are just so amazing in your level of dedication.


-- Anonymous, June 16, 2003

Dear Pastor Scott -

In 1999, Bishop John Hurst Adams sent me to my first appointment, Mt. Sinai AME Church in Bradley, SC. At that time, I was in seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center (Turner), which the commute was 2 1/2 hours long one way, about 160 miles, one way in Atlanta, GA. Mt. Sinai was an interested place for several reasons. I got appointed to the church in a Friday before the 5th Sunday, and the church did not (and does not) have service on the 5th Sunday becasue they are apart of the Bailey Bethel Singing Convention (they sing shaped notes) and they rotate between the four churches in the convention on the 5th Sunday. I did not preach the first Sunday in November because the church was previously on a circuit (as a matter of a fact, when I got to conference on that Thursday, the first order of business Bishop Adams did was to hear the report of Missions, Curcuits and Stations, which the conference voted to split my church with its former sister church) and it did not meet on the first Sundays, it was a 2nd & 4th Sunday church. So I set up to meet the members of my congregation the Saturday before the 2nd Sunday in November to introduce myself to them and for them to introduce themselves to me. Well, was I surprised when they were about 10 old people showing up for the meeting. The youngest person was in her mid 30s, the next was near 50, the others where senior citizens. At that time, there were 33 members on the roll with 95% of them senior citizens. I was the youngest member at 29, no YPD'ers at all. So, I thot that maybe the folk would come out the next day for service. The next day, I got the same amount of people I got the day before. No changes. Boy, was I upset, particularly at God. So, I talked to God about, reminded God that I thought I deserved better, having been Mr. AME, 7th District YPD President, Delegate to the General Conference twice, I was supposed to get better. The Lord spoke to me and said "even smaller churches needed quality pastors, love and affection. Go there, love the people and watch me do my thing." With that, I set out to loving the people and pastoring the church; because previously as the smaller point on the curcuit, the church was just a preaching place and not a place to pastor. Because I was so far away from the church, I did what you did, when I was there, I got to know the people, and love the people and be myself around the people. I began to program the church as if it were a 100 member church. (As a matter of a fact, my PE, who grew up in that church used to say I acted like I had 330 members as opposed to 33.) At first, the people rebelled, saying they were too small and could not do that stuff. I countered with, we can do what we can do with who we have. They eventaully got on board and the Lord began to move.

The record will show the following during my 3 years at the church. People who were not previously coming began to come back, 3 people joined the church (a mother and son, ages 27 and 6 and another lady who is about 50. It had been a long time since a baptism took place at the church, until I baptized the mother and son. We began to meet every Sunday. (The people were slow about that too, but I convinced them that this was the right thing for the church.) And the crowning success was the addition of our fellowship hall. The church they are in at present was built in 1983. It seats about 250 people (which was down from their old church, which sat about 500 plus.) They had a pastor's office, and an all purpose room, which served as our kitchen, dining hall, board room -- it really was all purpose. It was small. We worked hard and in November of last year, Bishop Belin dedicated that building to God. It seats 100 people comfortably for dinner.

In December, I got reassigned to another church; however, the people still think highly of me and what I tried to do with and for them. (Thinking I was going to be at the church for awhile, I moved 3 miles from that church after I finished seminary.) It was not me, but God in and through me. It can be done and you are the set women to do so. God Bless!

-- Anonymous, June 17, 2003

Thank you for the words of encouragement. It was good to hear from you. It is always good to be reminded that I am not out here on my own. I welcome the company on this journey.

Grace & Peace

-- Anonymous, June 17, 2003

I wanted to refer you to a great reference book: Rural Ministry by Shannon Jung, published by Abington Press. I just started reading the book and it seems to identify with problems such as: seeming inability to "change", economic downturns, farming, creating connections between city "decision makers" who are out of town with the realities of rural life. The book is about $17, but I purchased it at our seminary book sale for $4. Let me know if you would like for me to check on it for you and send it your way.

-- Anonymous, July 06, 2003

Have you been in touch with the Department of Church Growth and Development? They can be contacted at ""

-- Anonymous, July 12, 2003

Pastor Hill, Thank you so much for your testimony. It has blessed me and I am sure many of the others that come to this site. I am sure that just like Rev Scott there are Pastors out there facing similar situations. Your experince will help them. Also, thank God for the "Godly Wisdom" of Bishop Adams in sending you. God Bless you and your new charge. Bro Bob

-- Anonymous, July 12, 2003

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