God’s country: Rural challenges
Rural churches face special problems. Jerry Marshall reports on three who found innovative solutions
We live in challenging times. The global financial crisis revealed the fragility of our economy and there is growing pressure on our environment and security. Meanwhile, we have seen unprecedented change in society, culture and attitudes to faith. While 59% of the population called themselves Christian at the last census, with 25% saying they had no faith, almost the reverse is true for those under 25. Mainstream churches face declining congregations and a terrifying demographic.
In rural areas, there are further challenges: hidden poverty, isolation, lack of services, transport costs and the loss of working age people, especially the young, as they seek jobs and affordable housing in the cities. Many farmers are facing particular difficulties such as bovine TB and extreme weather conditions.
The need for and potential of the church is greater than ever, but the days where villages had one or more churches and chapels, each with their own dedicated minister, are long gone. Village churches are typically small, poorly resourced, and have their work cut out just to survive, let alone respond to the physical, social and spiritual needs of their communities.
This is a time to respond to the challenges we face by re-imagining mission and ministry. It’s a time for creative and entrepreneurial church leadership. Entrepreneurial leadership can be treated cautiously by Christians, but it’s a creative process that can be applied to almost any sphere of activity. At heart, it’s about seeing needs and opportunities, and bringing together the resources needed to address that need. Some rural churches have come up with new ways of doing just that. …
Jerry Marshall is CEO of the Arthur Rank Centre. He is an entrepreneur with a background in agriculture
This is an extract from the September 2013 edition of Reform