Author Topic: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies  (Read 9412 times)

PrTim15

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Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« on: October 23, 2021, 12:56:05 PM »
Home on quarantine and reflecting on my own mortality in light of the District Conferences word that 30% of pastors will retire in next 10 years. That includes me:)

So I wonder what the deal is? Do we have a looming pastoral crisis? Will congregations bid for services and resourced churches have pastors? Will pastoral vacancies cause congregations to compete for pastors? Do we rather than having not enough pastors have too many congregations?

There seems to be no strategy coming from LCMS Inc. IMHO writing papers and doing studies is over. And congregations and districts seem to be on their own. We can all do nothing and hope for the best. We can start talking succession planning and see what happens. I’m curious about your thoughts and observations.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2021, 01:09:55 PM »
Bear in mind that even if we had stable seminary enrollment over time and it was all first career seminarians right out of college planning on forty year careers in the ministry and achieving that, it would be true to say that 25% of pastors intend to retire in the next decade. So 30% is high but not way high. Ten years is a long time, a fourth of a full pastoral career.

PrTim15

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2021, 01:17:29 PM »
Yes, I get the math…my sense is that it will be every congregation for itself.

Charles Austin

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2021, 01:24:37 PM »
Peter, is your response always “nothing to see here”?
I’ll bet that nationally close to 50 percent or more of our pastors, LCMS and ELCA will be retiring in the next few years. Now look at our seminary enrollments and the viability of about half our congregations. The pastor-supply problem is complex, as we have both too many and too few. And many of them are in the “wrong” places, unable to move because of the career of a spouse, housing, the age of their children or the location of aging parents.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, New York and New Jersey. LCA/LWF staff. Former journalist. Now retired in Minneapolis. My only Thanksgiving cooking chore: providing fresh ground, fair trade, bird friendly coffee.

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2021, 01:45:55 PM »
I think that short-term the solutions will be worked out locally as more parishes combine and pastors are increasingly called to serve more than one congregation.

Alternate route programs (esp. SMP) will probably rise in popularity, supplying pastors to churches unable to afford an M.Div candidate. 

Some churches will simply close, as the Lutheran church just a few miles of me did a couple of years ago.  Over 130 years old, this ELCA church decided it could no longer afford to remain open, and since the local Mennonites were already renting their church they ended up selling it them.

The short-term solutions will ultimately require long-term adjustments, both at the seminaries and in the entire denominational structure.   
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Tom Eckstein

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2021, 02:33:53 PM »
The North Dakota District, like other midwest/rural LCMS districts, has a complicated situation.  I serve the "big" congregation in our circuit as sole pastor (with also have a full time deaconess).  But recently I began serving a small rural congregation about 30 miles from where I live.  They used to be part of a dual parish, but the other congregation closed.  There are no other congregations in our circuit that they could join with because they were either too far away or already a in a multiple parish arrangement (e.g., north of my congregation we have a 3 point parish and a 4 point parish!).  I'm am leading a 2:00PM Sunday service at this small rural congregation where many of the members who live in that small town are elderly and can't easily make the drive to Jamestown where I live.  So, I'm glad I'm able to serve them because they would not have other good options otherwise.  They were willing to have a 2:00PM Sunday service because unless I offered a 6:00AM Sunday Service for them it would need to be afternoon or evening (I have two Sunday morning Services plus a morning bible class at my congregation).

What I described above is going to be more and more the norm for ND because we already have many multiple parish arrangements and some congregations have no other option but to be served by one of the pastors from a nearby larger congregation.

But what about the next 10 years for ND?  Like Tim, I, too, will be retiring in less than 10 years - and so will many other pastors in the ND District!  On the other hand, I can imagine several of our smaller congregations in ND closing within the next 10 years.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out and what solutions we come up with to deal with the situation.
I'm an LCMS Pastor in Jamestown, ND.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2021, 05:45:57 PM »
I think there will be some ebb and flow, but the shortage of pastors will parallel the impending shortage of congregations able to support a full time pastor. Preaching stations, services not on Sundays led by a circuit rider, busses in far rural churches taking a dozen or so people to a larger church for regular worship, retired guys preaching into their 80’s while not doing some of the other aspects of ministry, etc. will solve some problems. It looks like an impending massive clergy shortage but I don’t think it will materialize like that. The whole set of conditions will change, and there will be enough pastors to fill the new expectations regarding the need. 

Dave Benke

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2021, 06:44:52 PM »
The North Dakota District, like other midwest/rural LCMS districts, has a complicated situation.  I serve the "big" congregation in our circuit as sole pastor (with also have a full time deaconess).  But recently I began serving a small rural congregation about 30 miles from where I live.  They used to be part of a dual parish, but the other congregation closed.  There are no other congregations in our circuit that they could join with because they were either too far away or already a in a multiple parish arrangement (e.g., north of my congregation we have a 3 point parish and a 4 point parish!).  I'm am leading a 2:00PM Sunday service at this small rural congregation where many of the members who live in that small town are elderly and can't easily make the drive to Jamestown where I live.  So, I'm glad I'm able to serve them because they would not have other good options otherwise.  They were willing to have a 2:00PM Sunday service because unless I offered a 6:00AM Sunday Service for them it would need to be afternoon or evening (I have two Sunday morning Services plus a morning bible class at my congregation).

What I described above is going to be more and more the norm for ND because we already have many multiple parish arrangements and some congregations have no other option but to be served by one of the pastors from a nearby larger congregation.

But what about the next 10 years for ND?  Like Tim, I, too, will be retiring in less than 10 years - and so will many other pastors in the ND District!  On the other hand, I can imagine several of our smaller congregations in ND closing within the next 10 years.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out and what solutions we come up with to deal with the situation.

Awhile back the Wyoming District was at over 2/3 dual or more "parishes," which means multiple preaching stations taken care of by one pastor.  And the same is happening throughout the rural lands of Protestantism.  Included in this is the closing down of a percentage of congregations as well.

A similar scenario is playing out in urban settings, with multiple sites overseen by one pastor or one staff.    The urban difference is the amount of people in the various neighborhoods, which is basically plenty, as opposed to the thinning out of the rural communities (at least that's my impression) through the decades.  Maybe you've been to some of those rural and small town confabs, Tom - what's the thought when it comes to outreach mission in the multiple site preaching stations?  My impression is that a lot of the work could be described as pastoral chaplaincy - taking care of a dwindling and aging small group or two or three of them.  Is there thought given to demographics/potential work in different ways? 

I say this just having been in touch with a pastor who came from an urban background and has really started some new kinds of ministry in a rural setting that I hadn't thought would be possible.  I'm trying to listen in more to understand the context.  But what's your understanding of how this moves forward?

Dave Benke
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Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2021, 07:18:01 PM »
The strategy of counting on a parallel decline in congregations and clergy might be supplemented in the following way:

1. Set a goal for gathering the best ideas for recruiting church workers and sustaining congregations in the coming challenge.
2. Ask congregations and/or circuits voluntarily to pray and then brainstorm ideas to reach those goals. Welcome all ideas at this point. No filter, just thanks for participating. Let people know upfront that ideas will be reviewed.
3. Host free conferences at the Concordias to glean and discuss the ideas congregations brought forward. The discussion might occur in small group and/or large group format to begin refinement.
4. Appoint a special commission to review the ideas and reduce them to the best/most practical.
5. Publish the ideas so that any synod entity might benefit from them.
I serve as administrator for www.churchhistoryreview.org.

Tom Eckstein

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2021, 07:30:47 PM »
The North Dakota District, like other midwest/rural LCMS districts, has a complicated situation.  I serve the "big" congregation in our circuit as sole pastor (with also have a full time deaconess).  But recently I began serving a small rural congregation about 30 miles from where I live.  They used to be part of a dual parish, but the other congregation closed.  There are no other congregations in our circuit that they could join with because they were either too far away or already a in a multiple parish arrangement (e.g., north of my congregation we have a 3 point parish and a 4 point parish!).  I'm am leading a 2:00PM Sunday service at this small rural congregation where many of the members who live in that small town are elderly and can't easily make the drive to Jamestown where I live.  So, I'm glad I'm able to serve them because they would not have other good options otherwise.  They were willing to have a 2:00PM Sunday service because unless I offered a 6:00AM Sunday Service for them it would need to be afternoon or evening (I have two Sunday morning Services plus a morning bible class at my congregation).

What I described above is going to be more and more the norm for ND because we already have many multiple parish arrangements and some congregations have no other option but to be served by one of the pastors from a nearby larger congregation.

But what about the next 10 years for ND?  Like Tim, I, too, will be retiring in less than 10 years - and so will many other pastors in the ND District!  On the other hand, I can imagine several of our smaller congregations in ND closing within the next 10 years.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out and what solutions we come up with to deal with the situation.

Awhile back the Wyoming District was at over 2/3 dual or more "parishes," which means multiple preaching stations taken care of by one pastor.  And the same is happening throughout the rural lands of Protestantism.  Included in this is the closing down of a percentage of congregations as well.

A similar scenario is playing out in urban settings, with multiple sites overseen by one pastor or one staff.    The urban difference is the amount of people in the various neighborhoods, which is basically plenty, as opposed to the thinning out of the rural communities (at least that's my impression) through the decades.  Maybe you've been to some of those rural and small town confabs, Tom - what's the thought when it comes to outreach mission in the multiple site preaching stations?  My impression is that a lot of the work could be described as pastoral chaplaincy - taking care of a dwindling and aging small group or two or three of them.  Is there thought given to demographics/potential work in different ways? 

I say this just having been in touch with a pastor who came from an urban background and has really started some new kinds of ministry in a rural setting that I hadn't thought would be possible.  I'm trying to listen in more to understand the context.  But what's your understanding of how this moves forward?

Dave Benke

As you noted, one huge difference between very small congregations in rural versus urban settings is that urban settings have a huge population of people to whom we can witness and who could be potential members.  In contrast, many rural ND towns are dying.  The pastor I mentioned who serves a 4 point parish in our circuit lives in a town of less that 200 people - and that's the BIG town among the 4 communities he serves.  A couple of the towns where he serves congregations have less than 100 people - and those who mainly elderly people.  The young families often end up moving to the bigger communities to obtain education opportunities for their children. 

Now, this doesn't mean we do not have legitimate ministry in these very small towns.  We have to find some way to serve our elderly members who live there - and usually that means a pastor from a nearby congregation or a retired pastor.  It also may mean the District considering calling a full time circuit rider who could travel to these communities and visit our elderly people there.

As for our congregations in these small communities, one challenge to evangelism is that they already know everyone - and they know them all too well.  This familiarity, depending on the history of their relationship, might actually get in the way of witnessing sometimes.  But that doesn't mean they shouldn't try.  In some cases reconciliation ministry is needed in these small communities.   In addition, members of our small rural congregations could find ways to minister to those in their small towns who have various needs - if they are not ministering to them already.  In some cases, the people in small towns in ND are actually doing a good job looking out for one another.
I'm an LCMS Pastor in Jamestown, ND.

wmattsfield

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2021, 08:02:45 PM »
But recently I began serving a small rural congregation about 30 miles from where I live.  They used to be part of a dual parish, but the other congregation closed.  There are no other congregations in our circuit that they could join with because they were either too far away or already a in a multiple parish arrangement (e.g., north of my congregation we have a 3 point parish and a 4 point parish!).  I'm am leading a 2:00PM Sunday service at this small rural congregation where many of the members who live in that small town are elderly and can't easily make the drive to Jamestown where I live.  So, I'm glad I'm able to serve them because they would not have other good options otherwise.  They were willing to have a 2:00PM Sunday service because unless I offered a 6:00AM Sunday Service for them it would need to be afternoon or evening (I have two Sunday morning Services plus a morning bible class at my congregation).

What I described above is going to be more and more the norm for ND because we already have many multiple parish arrangements and some congregations have no other option but to be served by one of the pastors from a nearby larger congregation.

But what about the next 10 years for ND?  Like Tim, I, too, will be retiring in less than 10 years - and so will many other pastors in the ND District!  On the other hand, I can imagine several of our smaller congregations in ND closing within the next 10 years.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out and what solutions we come up with to deal with the situation.

This, I think, is part of what Dr. Rast was hinting at, as summarized by Pastor Loesch.

Larry Rast shared some observations of pastoral ministry  . . . Looking to the future...what do we do as a church, what will it be like?  According to his presentation, the future church: will not be a linear continuation; will not be wholly different; will fit in with the times (and fitting in is not the same as conforming); will notice that the pattern of things will be different but the 'how' cannot be discerned right now; will need to develop spiritual, personal, and relational habits. 


I think the future will involved more shared ministry situations - not necessarily dual parishes, but maybe more small rural parishes, who can no longer afford a full time pastor, paired with like-minded larger parishes, who cannot quite afford that second or third pastor.

While my congregation is keeping in the black for now, financially, it is doing so after a significant salary cut (along with permission for me to work as a part time hospice chaplain). We are beginning to discuss the necessity of some sort of shared ministry situation. And I have briefly spoken to the pastor of one of the larger congregations in Springfield, just to get them thinking about such things. If this is where the Lord leads us, I am willing to embrace the new reality.

I think, these type situations are why Peter writes
 
I think there will be some ebb and flow, but the shortage of pastors will parallel the impending shortage of congregations able to support a full time pastor. Preaching stations, services not on Sundays led by a circuit rider, busses in far rural churches taking a dozen or so people to a larger church for regular worship, retired guys preaching into their 80’s while not doing some of the other aspects of ministry, etc. will solve some problems. It looks like an impending massive clergy shortage but I don’t think it will materialize like that. The whole set of conditions will change, and there will be enough pastors to fill the new expectations regarding the need. 

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2021, 08:13:08 PM »
I think the future will involved more shared ministry situations - not necessarily dual parishes, but maybe more small rural parishes, who can no longer afford a full time pastor, paired with like-minded larger parishes, who cannot quite afford that second or third pastor.

That's what Trinity, Bemidji has done. They called an associate who also serves Redeemer, Bagley that can only afford a half-time pastor.

No second congregation to form a dual parish, so this hybrid seems to work well.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2021, 08:22:26 PM by Donald_Kirchner »
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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2021, 10:13:14 PM »
Another hybrid situation I have observed in large urban areas:

A pastor has half of his salary paid by a small parish and
the other half paid by a Lutheran Nursing Home to be a
part-time chaplain.

Dave Benke

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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2021, 12:09:20 PM »
The North Dakota District, like other midwest/rural LCMS districts, has a complicated situation.  I serve the "big" congregation in our circuit as sole pastor (with also have a full time deaconess).  But recently I began serving a small rural congregation about 30 miles from where I live.  They used to be part of a dual parish, but the other congregation closed.  There are no other congregations in our circuit that they could join with because they were either too far away or already a in a multiple parish arrangement (e.g., north of my congregation we have a 3 point parish and a 4 point parish!).  I'm am leading a 2:00PM Sunday service at this small rural congregation where many of the members who live in that small town are elderly and can't easily make the drive to Jamestown where I live.  So, I'm glad I'm able to serve them because they would not have other good options otherwise.  They were willing to have a 2:00PM Sunday service because unless I offered a 6:00AM Sunday Service for them it would need to be afternoon or evening (I have two Sunday morning Services plus a morning bible class at my congregation).

What I described above is going to be more and more the norm for ND because we already have many multiple parish arrangements and some congregations have no other option but to be served by one of the pastors from a nearby larger congregation.

But what about the next 10 years for ND?  Like Tim, I, too, will be retiring in less than 10 years - and so will many other pastors in the ND District!  On the other hand, I can imagine several of our smaller congregations in ND closing within the next 10 years.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out and what solutions we come up with to deal with the situation.

Awhile back the Wyoming District was at over 2/3 dual or more "parishes," which means multiple preaching stations taken care of by one pastor.  And the same is happening throughout the rural lands of Protestantism.  Included in this is the closing down of a percentage of congregations as well.

A similar scenario is playing out in urban settings, with multiple sites overseen by one pastor or one staff.    The urban difference is the amount of people in the various neighborhoods, which is basically plenty, as opposed to the thinning out of the rural communities (at least that's my impression) through the decades.  Maybe you've been to some of those rural and small town confabs, Tom - what's the thought when it comes to outreach mission in the multiple site preaching stations?  My impression is that a lot of the work could be described as pastoral chaplaincy - taking care of a dwindling and aging small group or two or three of them.  Is there thought given to demographics/potential work in different ways? 

I say this just having been in touch with a pastor who came from an urban background and has really started some new kinds of ministry in a rural setting that I hadn't thought would be possible.  I'm trying to listen in more to understand the context.  But what's your understanding of how this moves forward?

Dave Benke

As you noted, one huge difference between very small congregations in rural versus urban settings is that urban settings have a huge population of people to whom we can witness and who could be potential members.  In contrast, many rural ND towns are dying.  The pastor I mentioned who serves a 4 point parish in our circuit lives in a town of less that 200 people - and that's the BIG town among the 4 communities he serves.  A couple of the towns where he serves congregations have less than 100 people - and those who mainly elderly people.  The young families often end up moving to the bigger communities to obtain education opportunities for their children. 

Now, this doesn't mean we do not have legitimate ministry in these very small towns.  We have to find some way to serve our elderly members who live there - and usually that means a pastor from a nearby congregation or a retired pastor.  It also may mean the District considering calling a full time circuit rider who could travel to these communities and visit our elderly people there.

As for our congregations in these small communities, one challenge to evangelism is that they already know everyone - and they know them all too well.  This familiarity, depending on the history of their relationship, might actually get in the way of witnessing sometimes.  But that doesn't mean they shouldn't try.  In some cases reconciliation ministry is needed in these small communities.   In addition, members of our small rural congregations could find ways to minister to those in their small towns who have various needs - if they are not ministering to them already.  In some cases, the people in small towns in ND are actually doing a good job looking out for one another.

This is a great response, Tom.  Small town/rural America, even with various and sundry problems and issues, still is where people by nature help people out - even if they don't like them much.  A challenge then is combining congregations across larger acreages, when the people from, say, Wautoma, don't really have that much to do with the people from Plainfield.  And that's not just accidental.   Anyway, it takes some wisdom and knowledge of local lore to craft a plan with legs when people are taking their legs and moving out.

On the urban side, it's transition, as all-white neighborhoods were taken over by non-white people a generation ago, and now the grandchildren are coming back to, say, Bushwick, Brooklyn and driving out the people who came in 40 years ago and paying jacked-up rents. 

I've had a long hesitancy about statistics trying to demonstrate that only 40% of rural people have a church home.  Maybe that's the case, but my childhood with rural relatives and their friends contained no one who wasn't in somebody's church.

Dave Benke
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Re: Filling Future Pastoral Vacancies
« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2021, 01:10:33 PM »
The North Dakota District, like other midwest/rural LCMS districts, has a complicated situation.  I serve the "big" congregation in our circuit as sole pastor (with also have a full time deaconess).  But recently I began serving a small rural congregation about 30 miles from where I live.  They used to be part of a dual parish, but the other congregation closed.  There are no other congregations in our circuit that they could join with because they were either too far away or already a in a multiple parish arrangement (e.g., north of my congregation we have a 3 point parish and a 4 point parish!).  I'm am leading a 2:00PM Sunday service at this small rural congregation where many of the members who live in that small town are elderly and can't easily make the drive to Jamestown where I live.  So, I'm glad I'm able to serve them because they would not have other good options otherwise.  They were willing to have a 2:00PM Sunday service because unless I offered a 6:00AM Sunday Service for them it would need to be afternoon or evening (I have two Sunday morning Services plus a morning bible class at my congregation).

What I described above is going to be more and more the norm for ND because we already have many multiple parish arrangements and some congregations have no other option but to be served by one of the pastors from a nearby larger congregation.

But what about the next 10 years for ND?  Like Tim, I, too, will be retiring in less than 10 years - and so will many other pastors in the ND District!  On the other hand, I can imagine several of our smaller congregations in ND closing within the next 10 years.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out and what solutions we come up with to deal with the situation.

Awhile back the Wyoming District was at over 2/3 dual or more "parishes," which means multiple preaching stations taken care of by one pastor.  And the same is happening throughout the rural lands of Protestantism.  Included in this is the closing down of a percentage of congregations as well.

A similar scenario is playing out in urban settings, with multiple sites overseen by one pastor or one staff.    The urban difference is the amount of people in the various neighborhoods, which is basically plenty, as opposed to the thinning out of the rural communities (at least that's my impression) through the decades.  Maybe you've been to some of those rural and small town confabs, Tom - what's the thought when it comes to outreach mission in the multiple site preaching stations?  My impression is that a lot of the work could be described as pastoral chaplaincy - taking care of a dwindling and aging small group or two or three of them.  Is there thought given to demographics/potential work in different ways? 

I say this just having been in touch with a pastor who came from an urban background and has really started some new kinds of ministry in a rural setting that I hadn't thought would be possible.  I'm trying to listen in more to understand the context.  But what's your understanding of how this moves forward?

Dave Benke

As you noted, one huge difference between very small congregations in rural versus urban settings is that urban settings have a huge population of people to whom we can witness and who could be potential members.  In contrast, many rural ND towns are dying.  The pastor I mentioned who serves a 4 point parish in our circuit lives in a town of less that 200 people - and that's the BIG town among the 4 communities he serves.  A couple of the towns where he serves congregations have less than 100 people - and those who mainly elderly people.  The young families often end up moving to the bigger communities to obtain education opportunities for their children. 

Now, this doesn't mean we do not have legitimate ministry in these very small towns.  We have to find some way to serve our elderly members who live there - and usually that means a pastor from a nearby congregation or a retired pastor.  It also may mean the District considering calling a full time circuit rider who could travel to these communities and visit our elderly people there.

As for our congregations in these small communities, one challenge to evangelism is that they already know everyone - and they know them all too well.  This familiarity, depending on the history of their relationship, might actually get in the way of witnessing sometimes.  But that doesn't mean they shouldn't try.  In some cases reconciliation ministry is needed in these small communities.   In addition, members of our small rural congregations could find ways to minister to those in their small towns who have various needs - if they are not ministering to them already.  In some cases, the people in small towns in ND are actually doing a good job looking out for one another.

This is a great response, Tom.  Small town/rural America, even with various and sundry problems and issues, still is where people by nature help people out - even if they don't like them much.  A challenge then is combining congregations across larger acreages, when the people from, say, Wautoma, don't really have that much to do with the people from Plainfield.  And that's not just accidental.   Anyway, it takes some wisdom and knowledge of local lore to craft a plan with legs when people are taking their legs and moving out.

On the urban side, it's transition, as all-white neighborhoods were taken over by non-white people a generation ago, and now the grandchildren are coming back to, say, Bushwick, Brooklyn and driving out the people who came in 40 years ago and paying jacked-up rents. 

I've had a long hesitancy about statistics trying to demonstrate that only 40% of rural people have a church home.  Maybe that's the case, but my childhood with rural relatives and their friends contained no one who wasn't in somebody's church.

Dave Benke

Well, Plainfield IS Ed Gein country.