About Town and Country Ministries
With its passage of the Action Plan of the National Comprehensive Plan for Town and Country Ministry in the United States, titled "Born Again in Every Place," the 2004 General Conference of The United Methodist Church accepted the invitation to change the general view of town and country churches from being problems to being assets. In addition, this acceptance signaled that we, as a denomination, were agreeing to learn about the current realities of town and country communities, to address their concerns and to imagine new possibilities.
Laity and clergy in town and country churches across the country identified their concerns and issues in a survey taken by a task force on town and country ministries. They included:
- The leadership skills of the laity
- Ministries with youth and children
- Changing populations and "new neighbors"
- The need to improve the economic base of rural areas, and
- The preparation of clergy for serving in rural areas and the length of time pastors remain in such appointments.
The new possibilities include the need to:
- Move our Focus from a survival mentality to self-sacrificing servanthood.
- Take Initiative for Christ's ministry in our own community, no longer waiting to be "rescued," but rather activating ourselves for service and witness.
- Recognize and use the Resources available to us, replacing notions of scarcity and inadequacy by embracing the abundance of God's gifts to us.
- Release the Energy used sometimes to maintain a timid vision of God's call to ministry, and letting it loose for empowerment and promise.
The Action Plan's anticipated, over-arching desired outcomes are:
- To develop, support and affirm effective ministries for town and country cultures and contexts.
- To develop, strengthen and sustain effective leadership for town and country ministries.
Surrounding all of this is the biblical concept of sharing - the creation of a teaching/learning/sharing way of life. No matter the number of people who attend worship on Sunday morning or the size of the budget,
every church has something it can teach,
every church has something it can learn,
all can benefit by sharing.
Together we dream in faith that we might be "Born Again in Every Place"!
Implementing the Action Plan is the role of the National Town and Country Comprehensive Plan Advisory Team. This team comprises laity and clergy from town and country settings across the church, representatives from the Council of Bishops, and resource persons from general-church boards and agencies.
Logo design by Wanda Hayes Eichler, Graywood Designs, Pigeon, Michigan.