Healthy Rural Churches: Part 1 – Limitations…

This post is part one of a series on Rural Church Health.


One of the things I see over and over in small and rural churches is that most of them desperately want to be healthy, but do not realize that they are “sick”. In this series, I am going to borrow a few terms from the healthcare industry. The first is “markers”. In a cancer patient, the doctors run tests and check for markers that tell the doctors either how much and where the cancer has spread, or if the treatments are working and the cancer is in remission.

The first marker we are going to discuss in this series is Limitations. Your first thought may be that it is pessimistic that I am going to start with something negative. “Who you are not” is only one side of truly understanding limitations. The other side of the coin is that if you understand your limitations, you begin to have a more realistic understanding of who you really are.

For example, my gender (male) precludes me from competing in a women’s basketball league. I understand that. It is a physical boundary that no matter what I say or do, cannot be crossed.

In our churches, we try to downplay our limitations. See if you have heard this before. A small rural church that trys to operate in a carbon copy of a mega-church to try and replicate the same results. However, they did not fully examine the other church’s context (Large city/suburban) as a growth factor. They then sit around and wonder what wet wrong. They did not fully admit to the limitations of avalable population, their church’s context, and the culture of their church.

Embracing your limitations can look like this… I grew up on a farm in Southern Illinois. I currently live on 5 acres next to several hundred acres of fields and forests in Western Indiana. I understand that I could not thrive waking up every morning to the picture you see above. I am ok to visit cities for a few days for conferences or a vacation, but then I am ready to go home to some open spaces. This is how I am wired. I understand that I would not be working in my area of gifting to take on an Urban Ministry. I am fine with that knowledge. It would be silly of me to try and “work to be a better urban minister” if I am wired, experienced, and gifted to serve in a rural capacity.

Yet, many churches do this exact thing by trying to be something that is contrary to the DNA of their congregation.

Marker 1 – know your limitations, embrace them, use them to build God’s Kindgom. Ignore them at your own peril.

When have you tried to operate by ignoring limitations?
add your thoughts in the comments area below!

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