When Small Town Ministry Becomes a Long-Term Commitment

I was a youth pastor in the largest town in Montana for seven years. The thought of going to a small town was petrifying. I grew up in a small town and never wanted to go back. As a result, longevity in a small town was not the plan because a small town was not in the plan.

When it became obvious that a small town was in my future, I told God, “three years.” Consequently, you can you can imagine my surprise when three years into my stint in a small town, population 1600, I was shaken with the realization that I had fallen in love with my congregation and community.

Since then, I have been asked to consider positions in much larger venues. Over and over again have felt God’s leading to stay put. In many ways, I feel like I would be taking a step down by leaving. I would have to accept a larger salary for the diminished return of not seeing long-term ministry goals achieved. I would accept a much larger congregation with its responsibilities for the deep relationships that have been built here and around the world. And I would accept a more restricted schedule because of new ministry demands for the freedom in my schedule built by years of trust, understanding, and missions work.

Found Benefits of Long-Term Small Town Ministry

  1.  Longevity produces an incredible amount of trust. People share deeply with pastors they know are going to be around in the next year or two. And the church tends to give longer-term pastors more freedom in decision making.
  2. Longevity allows pastors to work on super long-term goals. No exit plan, allows a pastor to build long-term discipleship models and ministries that couldn’t be built in a year or two.
  3. Longevity allows pastors and churches to celebrate their history together. Furthermore, celebrating the good times happens best when the challenges times have had a chance to pass by. A history of salvations, baptisms, family dedications, ministry successes, and God moments will always trump the lean times, conflicts, and tragedies.
  4. Longevity and developing spiritual health in a church often go together. One of the key factors in developing spiritual health is discernment, and discernment often takes time. A lack of discernment about sin, barriers to growth, and spiritual ruts sabotages maturity. Long term ministry allows for discernment, insight, and observation. It takes time parents to raise children to maturity. The same is true with believers. Maturity develops with time and attention to what matters most.
  5. Longevity allows small town ministers to realize that BIG ministry happens in small settings. Small town churches are often changing the world in big ways. Some small churches are doing more ministry that other churches double, triple and even quadruple their size. Their vision is as big as the world.
  6. Longevity allows small town pastors and leaders to plan BIG ministry goals. Enough said!

Small Doesn’t Mean Small Ministry

I truly believe that small town pastors and leaders are changing the world in big ways. And I believe that God often uses the small to transform the community and the world.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin… Zechariah 4:10

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