connotation. Its one of measuring and evaluting everything for the sake of making things better. In a lot of rural churches, this would be a large change. Many have “done what they are doing for many years, and getting even less for it than ever before”. The people of the “Church Growth Movement” have been working with large churches for many years, helping them refine and measure, and examining ministry “blindspots”. Many of their metrics are very effective to track in a city/suburban/urban context. Those markers may not fit the 150-year old tiny church in the middle of a cornfield. However, I’d like to propose a few metrics that can give you an idea of where your rural church is heading.
1) Sending Capacity. Lets forget about seating capacity for a moment. I would like you to honestly assess the Sending capacity of your church. I’m not just talking about cutting checks to missionaries (which is very important), but building up and preparing your own membership to answer the call of God to serve where He calls them, and to have the resources ready to support that calling as a church family. I once served on staff at a church of 30 or so people that saw the call from God to take part in a missions opportunity to send two of their own on a missions team to one of the former Soviet states. It was a tough decision that took a lot of money, but God provided. He also changed the trajectory of the church for many years through those two men.
2) Community Quotient and Impact. In thinking of a way to accurately describe this metric, the best way I can share it with you is to call it the “rats hind end factor”. Several years ago I was in one of those meetings where all good ideas go to die, and there was a lot of discussion and discussing to death many factors that had little value to the direction of the church ministries. They were being brought up “because we used to do it way back when”. One of the things that came up was the church’s 125th anniversary and making a big show of it. There were lots of ideas that would make many of the older congregants very happy, but be lost on anyone under 55. But the ideas were all inward focused. Finally I asked the question. “I know that the church is turning 125 next year, but how many in our community that don’t attend here would give a rats hind end if we didin’t make 126?”
I was trying to get them to realize it’s not about us. Its about those in our community. Are we making ourselves a vital part of our small town that cannot be ignored or missed?
3) Leadership Demographics / Willingness to Adapt. I originally had these as separate listings, but they are so closely related that one begs the question of the other. What does your leadership team look like? Is it a cross-section of the overall congregation? Are there adult age groups missing from the picture. I have been in leadership team meetings where I was the youngest one in the room by over 15 years (and I was over 30 at the time, and the only reason I was there was because I was staff). When you exclude age groups, you are telling them they do not have a voice and are not important. Don’t do that to your congregation. There are even some committee roles I would welcome leadership teenagers into. You have to prepare your church for the next 15-20 years. This is a way to do it.
There are also times that the age demographics in your church shift, and you need to adapt how you do ministry. Are you able to turn like relatively quickly like a small bass boat, or is it more like turning a large cruise ship?
4) Collaboration. Churches that do well in Rural areas collaborate. They work with other churches to further the Gospel of Christ in their communities. They agree on the majors and discuss the minors. You are on the same team, part of the body of Christ. If the church is to survive to be passed on to another generation, some leaders are going to have to put on their big boy ( or big girl ) pants and work past some old grudges. This is more than a joint service once a year, this is churches intentionally banding together to impact their communities for Christ. As Craig Groeschel puts it “anything that isn’t a sin to get them the Gospel “.
So where is your Rural Church in these metrics? Where can you improve? Is there a metric you’d like to add? Share it in the comments area below…