Don't ever underestimate the importance of small town or rural ministry. Even though the vast majority of our churches are located away from the densely populated metropolitan areas, we can still find creative ways to impact the world beyond the four walls of the church. Opportunities for effective ministry abound in these settings.
We have been able to expand the ministry of our rural congregation through the local newspaper.
Most small town papers offer much greater access than their metropolitan counterparts. Typically, smaller newspapers are pleased to receive a well-written news release about upcoming events at churches in and around the community. But the newspaper offers another possibility one might want to consider.
We were pastoring in a small town in east central Illinois (population 3,000) where our local newspaper was published only two days a week. I had always appreciated the fact that the editor was willing to provide space to the community ministerial association. Pastors were given opportunity to write a 350-word column on a topic of their choice and submit it for publication on a rotating basis.
I saw great value in being able to write a column such as this. When my week rolled around, I would condense a recent sermon and submit it for publication. Suddenly, the message that God had laid upon my heart to deliver to our small congregation was reaching hundreds.
Unfortunately, few pastors seemed willing to contribute a column, so this space was often filled with generic Christian stories pulled from the wire service.
After seeing that pattern, I approached the editor and promised that he would never be without a ministerial column again. After a few months of being the only pastor contributing to this page, the editor agreed to add our church's name and my picture as identifiers to a column that was becoming standard fare in our community newspaper.
Many people from the community, both churched and un-churched, would comment to me about how a particular column had spoken to them. What I did for several years in a community of 3,000, I continue to do in a different setting today. Here, the population is 20,000 so the daily distribution is much broader. This newspaper is even available online.
Don't underestimate the possibilities. Take advantage of every opportunity to get the gospel message to those who need to hear about Jesus. Set an appointment with the editor of the local newspaper. He or she would probably be glad to hear from you!
Steve Greene is pastor of Seymour, Indiana, First Church of the Nazarene. He writes a weekly column for the local newspaper there.
Holiness Today, Jan/Feb 2011