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September 2023 Newsletter

Pastoral Strengths and Challenges in Rural Ministry

Director, Dr. Trisha Wheelock

As part of the Kick Off, pastors participate in an interview with a Grand View faculty member. Here are several themes from the 2023 cohort related to pastoral strengths, challenges, and what they hope to get out of the project:

What are your strengths as a rural pastor?

  • Developing relationships with people and relating to people

  • Grounded in all God does, willingness to meet people where they are at and serve alongside

  • Background in connecting people to resources, being willing to get out into the community

  • Able to meet people where they are, ability to relate to people

  • Relatability as has lived in similar communities, has office hours for drop-ins

  • Remembering how people are connected, getting energized from being with people

  • Willing to live where the congregation lives (parsonage), visiting and connecting with people

  • Tenacity

  • Understands rural life, connecting well with people

  • Aware of how small communities work (cliques, being an outsider or insider) and thus being aware of who is not being included; ability to think outside the box

  • Grew up in an agricultural community so knows the lingo, likes getting to know people

  • Understands farming and can speak the language

  • Experience in communications and marketing and identity, helping with technology

  • Helping the multi-point congregations understand shared ministry

  • Appreciation for the cycle of rural life; as an introvert, doesn’t have strong social needs

  • Listens well, has a good sense of prayer, thoughtful, honest, not trite.

  • Developing relationships

  • Connecting with people, visitation, getting past the small talk, good preacher

  • Has always gravitated to older people, loves hearing their stories; making personal connections


What are your challenges as a rural pastor?

  • Finding time for myself and having boundaries (say “no”)

  • To remain committed to have “the main thing be the main thing” and not be distracted

  • Isolation, especially with being single. Being a woman

  • Always feels as though should be doing more due to limited resources

  • Time management as must balance amount of time given to each congregation

  • Being alone in the office or isolated from people; no colleagues nearby; being a woman

  • Everyone has an opinion rooted in history of the church; navigating nuanced realities of discussions (discussions are not always about what they seem to be about)

  • Knowing everyone in the community, technology (church doesn’t have ANY)

  • Scheduling time off to rejuvenate

  • Lack of personal friendships in people who don’t have anything to do with the church

  • Being at a church that has never had a female pastor

  • Trusting self of being capable of being a pastor; being young, single, a woman

  • Working with youth

  • Is a very different pastor than the one at the congregation previously; being an introvert so activities that require extroversion are exhausting; having multiple “bosses”

  • Personally unorganized, which can affect communication, isolation

  • Being expected to go to everything in the small community; working with conservative attitudes

  • Cannot have ministry of presence as members don’t reach out when they have a problem

  • Being a woman, feeling as though only gets invited to community events to bless the food; community doesn’t reach out with concerns until after they are addressed; being a city person

  • Administration and feeling as though must make all the decisions

  • Congregants who want to help are not able to physically; those who are physically able are busy; lack of ability or willingness to get new ministries off the ground


What are you hoping to get from the Moses Project?

  • A community of people to turn to for support and advice (and to be able to give the same)

  • Doesn’t want to be a pastor that just does the bare minimum. Feels as though they have been “white knuckling it” for a while.

  • Community and structure

  • How to better make a difference in the community and more effectively spread the word

  • New insights, new knowledge perspective, working with peers/mentors outside current context

  • Collegiality with others from rural areas, physically being at Grand View

  • Connections with those in similar contexts, collaboration, mutual learning

  • Collaborate with people who understand the rural context and lack of resources

  • Camaraderie, learning about pastoral imagination, learning and reading

  • Energy, revitalization

  • Continuing education that translates to rural ministry, connection to colleagues/collegiality

  • Building relationships with colleagues; has felt as though has lost their way

  • Ideas from cohort, new enthusiasm for ministry

  • Discernment as to whether the work is so difficult that they should not be in ministry

  • Collegiality, connection, guided readings

  • Diversity in books provided, having a cohort and mentor

  • Personal encouragement through listening to the stories of others; to be reinvigorated

  • Discernment as things have been “ugly” and has looked for jobs outside the church

  • Intentional getting together with people, healthy communication with other pastors, having accountability

  • Fulfill community education requirements, have a network of people to support and get support

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