American rural counties include 46.2 million people, or 15 percent of the U.S. population. We can all learn a lot from what God is doing in rural America, as well as how to best support churches and pastors in these areas.

In this podcast, which is part of our Everything You Need to Know About Pastoring series, NAE President Leith Anderson talks with Paul Jorgensen and Martin Allen, pastors at Cornerstone Church in Litchfield, Minnesota, about the ins and outs of rural church ministry, including:

  • How the particularities of rural culture impact how rural churches operate;
  • The unique challenges that pastors of rural churches face;
  • Examples of programs and initiatives that work well in rural contexts; and
  • How rural churches can attract excellent pastors.

Read a Portion of the Transcript

Leith: Paul, as the lead pastor, how do you determine whether the church is healthy? … How do you sort out health from numerical size and growth? Maybe it’s impossible to completely do it. But what’s your take on that?

Paul: Well, it’s interesting. I’m sitting here, and I’m looking at a white board that has a list of indicators and then spiritual health in a separate column, because we were talking about this very thing. We have some indicators we like to use — obviously attendance is one of them. We kind of refer to it as the Big Three. We didn’t make this up; we learned it from someone else.

First of all, regular attendance at worship services and inviting friends to the services. That’s going to be a mark of health. Secondly, being in a group. If somebody chooses to be in a small group, they’re certainly doing something that can help with spiritual health. And then thirdly, if they’re choosing to serve in some capacity and to give in some capacity. Those are marks of health.

But in addition to that, there are some other things. These are more ambiguous, but I think they’re part of it as well. How do people respond to initiatives? I’ll give you an example. We’re going to be having a day coming where we’re calling people to — whatever town they live in — spend 45 minutes to an hour just walking together on the streets of their community and praying for their town. Well, if people respond well to that initiative, that’s a sign of growth.

I think consistency in their lives. Holy living. Again, we’re in a small town, so there aren’t a lot of secrets. And you kind of know what’s going on in people’s lives. Balance. Are they finding ways to lead balanced lives? Something as simple as, how many calls do we get in a week with people saying they need counseling? Those kind of things are all indicators of health. How we handle conflict? How we interact with each other when we disagree with each other? I think those are things that point to spiritual health.

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Today’s Conversation is brought to you by Belhaven University.