If your students are die-hard John Deere advocates, then you might serve in a small country church. If you have a homegrown cow in your freezer, then you might serve in a small country church. If your students come to church in boots and buckles and have guns and know how to use them, then you might serve in a small country church. If your newborn son is heralded as the “County’s Own Dairy Baby”, then yes. You are serving in a small country church!
Ten years ago, I stepped into the doors of a whole new world with a steeple, high on a lush green hill. I was newly married and hailing from the city; just outside of Seoul, South Korea to be exact. I was accustomed to taxis, busses, subways, and my own two feet to navigate through the city. Of course, Korea was a culture shock at first, but I had prepared for that. Little did I know, moving to the country would be more of one.
In those first few months, I learned that you can make your own pickles and jam. (Never in my life did I know that people did this.) I learned that you don’t say you’re a vegetarian around cattle farmers. I learned that people sew with a sewing machine. I learned about 4-H and dairy princesses and cowboys.
I have also learned that a people’s economic level does not determine generosity. I have learned that there is a seasoned faith that comes with living off of the land and trusting God to provide in ways that we cannot. I have learned wisdom from the aged and look forward to getting those grey hairs myself.
This small country church is no longer foreign to me. It is home. However, it is uniquely home. A country church children’s ministry is going to look completely different from ministries in the suburbs or the city. If you are ministering in this unique environment, I pray that the following characteristics and considerations will be beneficial to you.
Unique Characteristics of a Small Country Church:
- A close-knit community; everyone knows everybody else
- Often very traditional and conservative
- Multiple family generations are represented
- Little to no budget allocated for ministries
- Fewer programs (and similar advantages)
- Fewer volunteers
- Little diversity
- Likely has deep roots in the community
- Church members are a hard-working and generous people
- Wary about change
11 Tips for Serving in this Setting:
- Take Charge: If a ministry does not exist – and it needs to – you may be the one to start it.
- Be Aware: Sin is prevalent as much in the country as it is in the city. Take security measures and precautions accordingly to protect each child in your ministry.
- Effect Change Slowly: Work with the church and not against it. We have a whole article with ideas for dealing with stubborn people.
- Draw on Unique Church Family Dynamics: Have a farmer tell and demonstrate the parable of the soils. Offer cooking, sewing, woodworking, and outdoors classes for kids. Provide opportunities for homeschoolers to get together such as field trips, workshops, and co-ops.
- Teach on Location: Use unique settings for lessons such as a field, barn, stream, hiking trail, hill, forest, camp, etc. Connect the location to scripture.
- Don’t Assume Anything: Many children in this setting have been raised in the church. They know the language and the Bible trivia. However, some of them do not have relationships with Christ. Continue to teach salvation and discipleship.
- Incorporate Multi-Generational Ministry: Use retired teachers to work in children’s ministry. Enlist the elderly in a vibrant prayer ministry. Start a pen pal ministry for children and shut-ins. Make cookies, cards, or crafts for the young or old. Go caroling at any time of the year.
- Get Creative with the Budget (or Lack Thereof): Use free lesson plans, do supply drives, recycle, talk to larger churches about using their curriculum when they are finished, and ask local businesses for donations.
- Set a Healthy Pace: Most likely, small country church ministry leaders are volunteers and have full-time jobs elsewhere. Establish priorities, find balance, and don’t go this alone!
- Encourage Diversity: Through books, media presentations, day trips, child sponsorship relationships, or mission trips, teach your students how to relate to others of varying cultures and backgrounds.
- Make Sundays Count: Many children and their families are not able to attend mid-week services due to long distance drives and the price of gas. Capitalize on the time that they are there!
If you have served in a small country church, we would love to hear your feedback. What considerations have you made that have been helpful to your ministry? Thank you for sharing!