I’m a Rural Pastor! What Now?

Do not make any changes in the first year.

I’ll never forget the sunny day that Carole and I pulled into the parking lot of the Finchford Community Bible Church in Finchford, Iowa (population: 57) with all our possessions in the back of a small moving truck. About 30 smiling, friendly, and curious (“Oh! You like to fish!”) people helped us unload and settle into the parsonage. And they were calling me “Pastor Brian!”

As we settled into our new home, surrounded by boxes, and looking with gratitude at the table piled high with groceries, I wondered, What next? I knew that preaching, visiting, and leading were needed, but how exactly should I begin?

I would have done many things differently if I had started with the 34 years of Village Missionary and Executive Director experience I have now. I could have used the experience as a parent as well. However, it just doesn’t happen that way. But if you are about to start your own wonderful adventure (and it is wonderful) as a rural pastor, let me share a few things I’ve learned.

Village Missions strongly recommends that you not make any changes in the first year. You just don’t know enough about your context and you haven’t earned enough credibility to lead through changes. Don’t make them! But what do you do?

I strongly believe that your first year, and even following years, should be summarized by the word discovery. Discovery is the “act of finding something that had not been known before.” Launch on a discovery mission during your first year. Besides the normal routine of pastoral duties, you should seek to discover three areas.

The first area you need to discover is yourself. I found that my life as a rural pastor (Village Missionary) was quite different ...

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