Rural Churches: The Field is Ripe for Harvest, Rev. Joseph Fricke
By some definitions of “rural,” approximately four out of every seven WELS congregations in the Midwest are located in rural areas. Most of those congregations exist in a community of less than 5000. Moreover, you hear in the news about the “urbanization of America” and the decline of the family farm. Thus, in these rural churches, you hear people say things like:
“The congregation is getting older and our small town is dying. How can we do evangelism?”
“The young people graduate from high school and move away.”
“The small family farms are disappearing at an alarming rate. How can the church survive if there aren’t any more families in the area?”
“There are already 14 other Christian churches, surely they all go somewhere.”
“The main street businesses are closing.”
The news seems so depressing. Don’t be afraid! God is still with us.
There is good news! In fact, there is great news! Here is where we will begin. Don’t believe the overblown stereotypes of the demise of small-town America. They are greatly exaggerated. Moreover, not only is it possible to do evangelism in a small community, a compelling case can be made that evangelism in rural areas can be done much more easily, more thoroughly, and more naturally than in densely populated areas. And you do not have to spend any money to do it.
In this presentation, we will dispel some of the small-town stereotypes. We will learn how to find and relate to the unchurched. We will see how to employ members who are already equipped to share the gospel. We will discuss the role of the pastor in modeling and equipping those members and the key factors in faithfully witnessing for Jesus in rural America.
The Word works, even in a small town. With the Lord’s blessing, you will leave encouraged and confident that the Lord still loves those in small places and wants them to be saved. He has given us the honor of proclaiming the gospel to them.
Rev. Joseph Fricke
Pastor Joe Fricke is a 1993 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and currently serves a multi-site parish at St. Paul’s in Mauston and Adams-Friendship, Wis. He has been a parish pastor for 26 years and has served in rural communities with populations of less than 4,500 for 22 of those years.
He has served many small town congregations (either full time or vacancy) in Valentine, Nebraska, population of 2,907, Mission, South Dakota (1,760) , Brewster, Nebraska (17), Mauston, Wisconsin (4,394), Wonewoc, Wisconsin (816) and helped start a mission congregation in Adams-Friendship, Wisconsin (2,605). The one large city he has served in was Portland, Oregon. Population 647,805. He has been serving as the Western Wisconsin District Evangelism Coordinator since 2008 and currently serves on the Synod’s Commission on Evangelism.