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Population Decline in Rural America: A Case for Continued Church Planting and Ministry Investment

This study researched the feasibility of church planting and ministry investment in rural areas.

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Written by Dwight D. Dozier

This study researched the feasibility of church planting and ministry investment in rural areas in light of depopulation and its corresponding economic and social impact. Some church planters concluded that small town ministry offered little investment return and that efforts should focus on urban and suburban areas.

Population decline in rural America impacted communities beyond fewer people living there. With a declining population, communities experienced economic downturns, increased substance abuse and addictions, higher crime rates and mental illness, and fewer amenities and restricted access to essential services. These realities cried out for spiritual solutions. However, in the circumstances begging for healthy churches, churches have closed or declined into irrelevance.

In America, the evangelical church demonstrated indifference toward rural ministry, which created a challenging environment to recruit pastoral leaders and financial investors. This study pointed to evidence of opportunity and success models in small towns, making a case for human and financial resource investment.

Statistical analysis, literature analysis, personal interviews, and two case studies demonstrated the potential success and supported this position. While the literature analysis will be broad and general, the statistical analysis and case studies will focus on rural Assemblies of God in Kansas.

Church planting draws the attention of ministry investors; contrariwise, few wish to discuss revitalization. However, church revitalization plays an essential role in restoring spiritual vitality to rural communities. Bringing a dying church into a healthy trajectory requires a strategy and leaders committed to change.

Revitalization occurs when the power of Pentecost aligns with the purpose of Pentecost within the life of a church; when the mission of God emanates through the church into the community. The revitalization process in any context starts with an honest assessment, including facilities, music, ministries, and approachability. An honest assessment of approachability can prove painful.

It remains beyond this paper’s scope to suggest detailed strategies, yet a church willing to adapt can find an abundance of resources, successful models, and people ready to help. A willing church can experience new life, but a church that exists for itself will cease to exist.

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