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September 2020 Newsletter

Program Evaluation of 2019-2020 Cohort: What We’re Learning

Director, Dr. Trisha Wheelock

 

Moses Project pastors participate in confidential, anonymous interviews at the start and conclusion of the program. These interviews, conducted by Grand View faculty and staff, seek to understand participants’ assessments of the strengths and challenges they face in rural ministry as well as what they expect from the Moses Project. Pastors participated in an onsite interview August 2019, and a follow up online survey in June 2020 (COVID-19 necessitated cancelling in person interviews). Here’s a summary of what pastors said:

Pastors identify their strengths as rural pastors:

  • Relationship with congregants—pastors described positive relationships with congregants. They said, “My people know that I love them,” “I’ve built a lot of street cred with trust,” and they were known as “being willing to go to the places that a lot of people don’t want to go to.”

  • Church related skills—pastors identified in themselves the following ministry skills: carrying out worship, being in front of people, teaching, developing children’s sermons, and working with youth. One pastor said, “As long as I take care of people, I can get a lot of grace for a lot of mistakes.”

  • Relationship with the community—pastors are involved in local activities and willing to challenge the community in their thinking.

  • Attitudes about rural ministry—a cluster of pastors expressed familiarity with and appreciation for rural culture. One said, “I love it. I am definitely a part of the community. This is the first time of my life where I feel like I’m part of a community.”

Pastors recognize challenges of working in rural ministry:

  • Congregants—at times, relationships with church members can be difficult

    • people in the church who expect the pastor will leave for a new call soon and how this expectation impacts the relationship

    •  congregants are sometimes unwelcoming to new members (especially those who are non-White, non-English speaking, and immigrants)

    • Congregants unwilling to change

  • Community—some pastors acknowledged rivalry between local churches that makes collaborative work challenging. Some feel as though they can’t be seen as anything other than the minister, “Wherever I go, I’m the pastor, so I feel like I need to hole up in my house.” Also related to community, many pastors feel isolated or like they’re living in a “fishbowl.”  

What Pastors Hope to get from the Moses Project:

Pastors hoped for spiritual gains, strengthened personal knowledge and skills, connection to each other, and to develop a better understanding of the church. One pastor remarked, “I want that reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s not just for a paycheck, you know, it’s a purpose.”

 

What pastors said they got from the Moses Project

  • A network of colleagues to exchange ideas and address challenges

  • Clarity about their call

  • Resources for responding to challenges in rural ministry

  • Initiative to implant new ideas such as individual change, church activities, and improving connections

One pastor summed up the experience this way, “Here you may find a people to travel with you in a wilderness that often feels like your own, but in truth hosts a great number of us. Together we listen for God’s instruction, sort out how to survive with the daily bread we’re given, and God willing lead other wandering beggars to find it too.”

Thank you to Dr. Cathy Beck-Cross and Debbie Gannon of Grand View University for conducting interviews and composing reports for The Moses Project.

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