In addition to new developing ethnic congregations throughout the country, there are many small Churches where a few people have faithfully worshiped for decades. In these often rural areas the Church struggles to remain viable and is often sustained by dedicated Lay people. The rural or small town church is facing a challenges around sustainability and difficulties maintaining Sunday services. Small churches have the same needs as larger metropolitan congregations but often have three issues to overcome:
- Geographic Location
- Dispersed population
- Small non affluent congregation
Its easy to identify problems but more difficult to come up with solutions.The Lay Preacher has a role in encouraging and equipping Gods people. As we think about the church we should be clear that every church is critical to the body of Christ. The Lay Preacher has a prime role encouraging renewal and strengthening the small church through faithful preaching.
There needs for Pastoral sensitivity when Preaching in small and rural Churches. It is important to ”Know your audience’ and recognise their special characteristics such as faithfulness, longevity and familial relationships. In many small rural congregations the people may not be strong on academics but they are on hospitality, grace and sensitivity to whats going on around them.
Some years ago when the writer was a Bible College student some of us were assigned to take Services at a small rural Church which had been on the same site for about 110 years. If ten worshipers attended Church that was a good attendance. The people of this community were strong in their faith but worried they would be closed down by the wider denomination. In taking services at this Church one needed to avoid perceived misalignment and preaching or praying which created alarm or compounded anxieties. It was really important to be well informed and prepared. Prayer led preparation was essential.
We as Lay Preachers should not forget the reassurance from Jesus in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”