Steven Schenewerk is pastor of Winston’s Community Baptist Church in Winston, Oregon. He blogs at WCBCpastor’s Blog.
I have seen countless articles encouraging young adults to consider serving urban poor populations. That is wonderful. But what I haven’t seen are many articles or encouragements for young adults to consider serving rural poor. Serving in a rural, poor community certainly is not glamorous and it is certainly not economically advantageous. However, there are several reasons I believe we need to encourage young college and seminary students to consider serving in rural communities.
First, opportunities abound. In the small Southern Baptist association that my church participates in there are fewer than a dozen churches. Currently only three of the churches have full-time pastors. The other churches are limping along with weekend warrior pastors (those who live in another community but spend the weekend in the community of the church they are serving), or closing their doors, or drifting without any true sense of leadership and purpose. Pastors are needed!
Second, serving churches in smaller communities immediately enriches cross-denominational fellowship. Some of my closest friends are pastors serving in different denominations. A group of us meet every week for support, discussion, prayer and the best $3.50 breakfast in town! These friendships have challenged me theologically and spiritually enriched me.
Third, rural communities are ripe with leadership opportunities. One of the factors impacting my particular community is the rapidly increasing number of young adults moving away. While many urban centers are experiencing economic growth, southern Oregon is lagging behind in economic growth. The absence of these younger families has created a vacuum of leadership that is begging to be filled. There are some younger families stepping up, but many opportunities are still available. (Even an older pastor such as I has more opportunities than I can manage possibly fill).
Fourth, there are people dying without having heard the gospel. 30 years ago when I started pastoring most families owned at least one Bible. Today, in my community, I find fewer families that own Bibles and fewer individuals that have ever read one! While our church is not ‘setting the world on fire’ by baptizing hundreds, we do see meaningful adult conversions every year that result in transformed lives and we see children impacted by the gospel!
May God raise up a generation of pastors and leaders who see the need not just in the city but in the country as well!