I was ‘that kid.’ Growing up in a small town, I naturally couldn’t wait to leave the confines of a place where everyone knows your family’s life history—where there’s a farm run by your best friend’s family, where there’s the grocery store you can’t go in without seeing someone you went to kindergarten with or your grandma’s neighbor.
Teenage me wanted to go to Chicago or Boston or somewhere with more main roads than you could count on one hand. Eventually, though, I realized colleges in Chicago were thousands of dollars more expensive than the one in my small hometown. And reality really set in as I apprehensively decided to live at my parents house and make the two minute commute to campus each day.
In college, as I grew in my faith, I found an abundance of resources that supported my championing of cities. But now, I had a biblical reason to move to a city, too! They were better than small towns in every way—at least that’s what the books, podcasts, sermons, and other sources were telling me. They weren’t saying that outright, but the amount of focus on analyzing and investing in ministry in cities was clear. These cities were full of people who didn’t know the gospel so there was a greater need for believers to move to them.
Of course, cities do truly provide unique opportunities to share the gospel. And there is a need for the gospel there. Over the past several years, much attention has been focused on analyzing ministry in urban areas, and we’ve seen a resurgence of church planters and Christians coming to these cities. Praise God!
But there is also a need for resources, focus, and energy spent on ministry in small towns. Because often (not always), ministry in small places, in small churches, and in small communities is seen as either a stepping stone to somewhere else, a second choice, or a last resort.
Enter Small Town Mission: A Guide for Mission-Driven Communities, by Aaron Morrow.
As this book supports, small towns aren’t stepping stones. They’re not less-than, boring, or even small minded. They’re full of extraordinary people who live together in the good, the bad, and the ugly. Communities in small towns can feel impossible to integrate into because of their close-knit nature. They can be guarded, they can be different, and they can be hard to understand at first. But the people in these small towns need the gospel just like any other community. And like a city, there are unique ways to minister to and share the gospel with them.
Small Town Mission is full of practical tips to ‘reach’ those in a small town, but it really applies to ministry in most any context. The focus isn’t on winning people to yourself, your church, or even your preferences—it’s on sharing Jesus with them! Read this book, hand it to your neighbor, friend, church member, or even read it with them as it’s designed to be read in a group. Contextualize ministry with those around you who understand the nuances and quirks of small town living.
Be encouraged by this book as it anchors on the gospel, the local church, equipping people, and missional community. Morrow understands that where you live, work, and play is your first mission field. There’s incredible value in your small town, full of image bearing, ordinary-extraordinary people.
“God wants missionaries at the end of the earth, at the end of the cul-de-sac, at the end of the cornfield, and at the end of the hallway at work.”
Jamie Chaplin and her husband, Corey, recently moved from the midwest to Rhode Island to partner with a church plant, Mount Hope Church. Jamie has worked in the advertising, marketing and publishing world since graduating from college, and is excited to join the Upstream team as Marketing Manager.