So what is that going to look like? I have a pretty good idea of where I’d like to go with this. Generally, the idea is that Rural Church Mission isn’t so much about helping rural churches sustain ministry but about coming alongside rural churches as they express mission in their context and finding ways together to maximize rural missional potential. Following is a bit of an outline of the kinds of questions I’m asking.
- Information Gathering
What are the challenges faced by rural Estonian congregations?
How are rural realities changing and what is the prognosis?
What are the hopes of rural churches in regards to these questions?
- Regional Strategy
What part does the rural church play in the EKKBL’s overall mission?
How do small churches fit understandings of “church growth”, “church planting”, or “missional church”?
Can rural churches express themselves missionally in coordination with existing structures or must new ones be developed?
- Appreciative Inquiry
What unique resources and capabilities can the rural church contribute to the Kingdom of God?
Are there ways of translating limitations faced by rural churches as opportunities for mission?
Can rural church resources and capabilities be utilized not only locally but also in a more coordinated way regionally or nationally?
- Congregational Equipping
How can a particular rural church realize its full missional potential?
Are there ways in which rural congregations can build one another up as “volunteer experts”?
Are there resources in the wider body of Christ that can be brought to bear on this process?
All of this is of course focused on our context here in Estonia. But I see lots of parallels with the churches of the Inland Northwest. I also tend to think that the answers we will find as we explore these questions will apply not only to rural churches but perhaps to small churches in general, especially those dealing with low resources and challenging environments (inner city, rural, church plants). It is an exciting journey to be embarking on and I hope to use this space to process my thoughts and hear your feedback!