Or…. Small Town Problems are Gospel Opportunities
Small Towns can have big problems. While many small towns have a myriad of ideal qualities, it’s easy for locals to become anxious
about what’s not working. This personally happened to me after high school. I became cynical and sinful tending to see the worst in my area rather than the best. I became mopey because others were mopey.
Your small town does not need another mopey pastor. Your small town needs a gospel-fueled courageous pastor. Below are four steps to help you begin to redeem small-town problems for the glory of God.
1. Ask, “How does Jesus view my small town?”
First, lift your eyes from your circumstances to Jesus! Your view of Jesus may be too small for your small town. Do you know that Jesus loves your small town? Do you see He loves it? Do you believe He desires to expand His kingdom in it? You know your view of Jesus is too small when you think the problems you face in a small town are too big for Jesus.
2. Study your community
Next, don’t ignore the problems in your small town. Dig into them! I studied the demographics and problems of our county in the first two years of our young church plant. I surveyed schools, churches, counselors, and locals. I was face-to-face with all that ails our area. This was eye-opening; a little depressing, but it led to a gospel opportunity.
My research revealed that we were an economically weak area with a drug problem. Our largest employer was the school system; followed by government jobs in local prisons and institutions. We had a ton of small churches that were struggling to survive and reach the people in our area. We had a load of children in foster care. We had a majority of people lacking higher education.
I confess, part of me felt depressed when I researched our problems and led to thoughts of leaving town. Thankfully, God didn’t let me. My community was ripe for the kingdom of God to be expressed.
3. Cast vision that small town problems are gospel opportunities
Then, after you dig into the problems look for opportunities to solve them. I took the research I did back to my church and we began to ask Christ to transform our community. Slowly but surely we engaged the fight to see the kingdom of God expressed in our area. You must cast the vision to help others see local problems as gospel opportunities.
Here are some of the results:
Meg Reiner, one of our high powered females, launched a non-profit called “The Great Adventure Project.” She started a course called Conquering Addiction that has seen over 2,000 people go through the program. She and her team have taken this addiction course into the prisons, community supervision centers, treatment centers, jails and local churches.
Zack Mills, one of our local teachers, started a non-profit called “Parkland Hope Rising” that collects supplies and supports families who take in foster children. They also give backpacks filled with supplies to children in foster care.
Wendy Brown, another local teacher, began a feeding program at her local school. She calls it “Blessings in a Backpack,” and she has been responsible for the feeding of around 100 children in her high school on the weekends.
One of our Missional Communities began serving the children who live in a local hotel that rents weekly or monthly to those in need. They serve children food and run vacation bible schools where they live. Another Missional Community builds garden beds at local low-income housing projects and teaches people to grow their own food.
I did not start any of the missional efforts listed above. I simply casted a vision to start seeing problems as opportunities to love our small town like Jesus would.People have started catching the vision.
4. Lead the people from the building to the mission field
Finally, become a good local that leads your people from the pews to the streets. Send your people to the bonfires, the deer stands, and local sporting leagues. Throw killer parties in the park that people want to go to and be proud of. Build relationships with local schools to serve them. Meet local government workers and ask how your church can impact your neighborhood. Start asking the question, “How can we live as good locals?”
If you want to see the kingdom take root and grow in your small town, you must get the people out on mission. Start casting the vision that small town problems are great gospel opportunities. Your community will thank you. People will meet Jesus.