While riding the public transportation in Dallas, I tried a little experiment. My ride from the hotel to the convention center was about forty minutes. The return trip was the same. I had to make these trips for four days. So that is eight trips, each at forty minutes, for a total of about 320 minutes. That’s more than five hours! Most of the time, I would try to make conversation with the other people on the train. I even had the chance to witness to one lady. However, on one trip I decided to just sit quietly. Noone talked to me. I wasn’t on my phone or reading a book. I was sitting there.
Most days at home, I can’t go to post office in under 30 minutes due to people stopping me to visit. I know almost everyone that lives in our town. We depend on each other and must work together in order for our little town to survive. I believe this is why most small towns value community over capability.
A recent article about our town sums it up perfectly. Go read it! The idea of “neighbor” being a verb is a great definition of community. Being present, being part of the whole is often more important than being the most talented or gifted.
Pastoring in a small town demands that a pastor gets involved in the community. Failure to contribute in ways outside of the church is an error that will hinder and most likely end a ministry. In Bible College, I was taught, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The easiest way to show that you care is to get involved in the community.
A church in a small town should work to be the best church FOR their community, not the best church IN their community. This idea was shared with me by another small town pastor. It has been a great motivator for me.
You may be a great preacher. You may have the best ideas. But if you pastor in a small town, you had better get into the community and contribute or you won’t last long. Small towns value community over your capability.
So, here are a few ideas to help you get involved.
Volunteer with Public Service – Volunteer Fire Departments, Emergency Medical Services, Police Chaplain, Red Cross, Emergency management. I serve as a volunteer EMT.
Local Boards and Councils – Chamber of Commerce, School board, Council on Aging, Fair board, Advisory boards. I serve on the board for a local pregnancy outreach center. My wife serves on the Fire Foundation mentioned in the article.
Help with Youth Activities – 4-H, Science Fair Judge, Coaching Sports. Our community also does a Kid’s Fishing Tournament.
Community Events – Our town does “Town & Country Day” in the Spring. They do a Christmas Stroll in the Winter. Our church often provides a bounce house for those days. We also help sponsor the local rodeo.
Support Local Businesses – No doubt it is cheaper to go to the bigger chain stores. However, the nearest Walmart for us is 84 miles away. We need the local grocery store, we need the local hardware store, and we really like our local coffee shop. In order for those places to stay in business, they need customers. Support the local businesses as much as possible.