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Working with rural communities - things to think about
Rural churches can easily join in with a year of mission in 2014. Mission is about making a difference to people and their communities through actions and words. Rural churches are already good at knowing the communities of which they are a part and are often already deeply involved in community life. These existing relationships with rural communities, give an advantage over many churches in towns and cities that have to work hard even to be known in their areas.
For some rural congregations, especially small ones, mission can seem like an impossible task, or one that needs to be done by someone else, but it is not. Everyone has some skill or gift that they can contribute to making a difference for the Kingdom of God as effective mission in the countryside is based around the whole community. So what can you do?
Some things to think about first.
What do you already do that can be extended or developed further?
Do you run a regular coffee morning or lunch club, a social evening or other special event? Who is it for, can the invitation be extended more widely? Can they be used as an opportunity to reach out to people who are isolated or who have no contact with the church? Have you thought of creating an opportunity for people to talk and ask for prayer as part of the event?
What is already being done in the community that you can join in with?
Are there other organisations present in the community that need help and volunteers? Consider if local schools, uniformed organisations for children and young people, the youth club, sports club or pensioners group needs volunteers.
Make use of existing contacts and relationships?
Many people in a community are involved in more than one activity in that place so that each person is at the centre of a web connecting lots of different people. These networks of contacts and friendships are lifelines for communication of information, hope and love. Local organisations can be where church members work out their response to Christ’s call, making a difference through words and actions.
Pray for the community regularly?
Do you pray regularly for your community, its people, groups, businesses and activities? Make a list to be used regularly in public and private prayer. Can you organize a special service to celebrate the work of different groups and activities?
What resources can help?
The Arthur Rank Centre has produced a
simple toolkit to help you understand your local rural congregation and the community you serve before thinking about
community-based mission. The toolkit will help you to get an accurate picture of the local community and its needs, identify the gifts and skills of the congregation, investigate the possibility of working in partnership with others and assess ways of developing further.
Other good publications for rural mission
The Arthur Rank Centre – a wide range of resources on rural churches including on mission, evangelism, community engagement, worship and church buildings
Country Way – life and faith in rural Britain
– a magazine for rural churches to share ideas information and inspiration
a resource book for mission in rural churches
SHAPE – your SHAPE for God’s service – material to help identify the gifts God has given, specifically for rural churches
Caring for All – a pastoral care course
Growing in Welcome – a resource from the Episcopal Church of Scotland to help churches review the quality of their welcome and outreach
Rural Ministries – an evangelical mission agency committed to planting and growing rural churches in the countryside
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