Planning in Ministry: 3 Considerations

by D.G. Shipton

We are in the early day’s of a New Year, and it is a fresh start for us all.  It is a good time to reflect back on what you have been doing, with God’s help.  It is also a great time to think about what is to come in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

In the past several years I have been learning more and more to plan my busy schedule, because in the Small-Town ministry it is easy to get caught up in many different demands that can derail the main purpose of our service to God.  Most of my sermon schedules have grown from planning series, to planning an entire year, at least last year.  Many of the churches activities and ministries have plans that must be made, so that letters, notes, and promotions can be made up and distributed in timely manner.

Planning in ministry will keep you on track in those days when you wonder if you are really making an impact, and whether the effort is worth it.  When you have a plan, it can keep you focused even through these tough times.

Planning in ministry helps to keep others informed.  If you have to promote events planning is essential, so that you can get promotions out ahead of time.  Since most of our events in the Small-Town setting are carried out with volunteers, planning helps to keep those involved informed and up to date with changes and needs.  You will also be able to seek out the advice or ideas of others for projects, teaching, preaching or other ministry when they are included in the plan.

Planning in ministry helps to create clarity and variety in ministry.  Clarity of information and teaching or preaching grows stronger as you plan ahead.  It gives time to get needed research so that you can present a clearer understanding of the subject.  It helps with variety, since you are less likely to repeat the same stories or even the same songs as often if you have a plan to follow.

The challenge for you is to take some time in these early days of the year to give thanks to God for what he has allowed you to help with in the past year.  Then take some time in prayer and thought to plan what God may want to do in the coming year in your ministry.  May God help you as you plan ahead in the ministry you have been given.

 

                         ( Photo via <a href=”https://www.goodfreephotos.com/”>Good Free Photos</a> )

Advice for the Small Town Pastor, By a Small Town Pastor (part 3) “Putting it All Together”

By R. Duane Cragun,

 

Over the past two weeks we have discussed listing and learning from our congregation members and the community, and evaluating your situation for ministry. Now today is when we starting putting things together.

The think that I discovered when I started putting all the information and materials together was that I need help! For some reason we, as both ministers and people, tend to think it’s me against the world sometimes, but this simply isn’t the case. If we look at the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus the Christ, He certainly was in a, me against the world situation, yet look what he chose to do. Jesus picked 12 men to come along side of Him in His ministry of Salvation. Jesus the “Son of God”, the “King of kings”, the” Great I am,” the one who had all authority chose to have a “leadership team” on board and serving with Him. Yes Jesus had divine understanding but what about us, how do I a simple humans do this within our own church settings? Here what I learned.

Once we see a need that we are lead to address, and we have discerned what will be needed and how to obtain what we may not have access to as of yet, how do we build up a team of helpers?

I was in a church that was a good bunch of people, but they had no vision, yet I understood that I needed them to help me, so when I saw an area to work in I gathered all the info I could in that area and all that we had or could gain access to use in this effort, then I went before the leadership of the church and presented them what I saw as a need to be addressed, the reasons why I saw this area at this time, and what I saw as the best way to work in this said need, then I did something that may surprise some of you, I asked them what they thought about all that I had presented to them. I did this in this fashion so that we would all be looking at the need in the same light. This brought about two vital things in the kingdom grown we were seeking to address.

First, by asking them, I was inviting them to take ownership of this particular avenue in the ministry of the church. It went from being what the pastor wants to do to something I also would like to do.

Second, this empowered the leadership of the church, before the pastor would come in and do his thing until they would live in two to four years, now they were being encouraged to be involved in what we, not I saw as an area of need in the churches ministry efforts. This is developing leaders with in the body.

Here’s the great thing about all of this, during my ten years at this church, I was only told we don’t think we need to work in that area 1 time, everything else I was given vison to be involved in was something the church leadership partnered with me on.

In short, treat your leaders as part of the team, a leader with no followers is doing very little, but a leader with a team around him can change the world they live in, just look what Jesus and His apostles did.

Blessing to you and your ministry.

Robert Duane Cragun

The Children Shall Lead Them

This past weekend we had our annual children’s program.  In small-town church life, this is one of the biggest services a year.  I remember years ago, while church planting, when a good pastor friend of ours told us about how they focused on the kids.  Their yearly children’s program grew so much that they actually had to tell regular attendees to the church to stay away on the week of the program, unless they were working or greeting.  Can you imagine telling people to stay home or go to a neighboring church just so people who normally are not in church could have room.

Our service this year didn’t push people out of the building, but it was wonderful to see families who normally are not in church in the service.  It was great to see both parents of children, who don’t even live in the same town, putting aside differences and coming to worship and see their children.  One grandparent even told us how much they appreciated that we kept the focus on the story of Christ, and on the kids.  She said her own church had been making the services more about the adults and they were happy to see the children running the service.

Over the years of ministry I have had people help my wife with the kids and say how much they learn from the kids.  We are reminded in Isaiah 11 of when God will restore all things to the place it was before sin entered the world.  In reference of course to Jesus, verse 6 says “a child will lead them.”  However, many people play down children, or push them off to the side.  I am often reminded that we can learn a lot from children.  Especially, about peace, love, and faith.  After all, Jesus even said we should have the “faith of a child” (Matthew 18:3).

Never underestimate the power of your children’s program.  More important, never underestimate the power of God’s work through the children of your church.  You may be surprised by how much they can lead others to Jesus, and just how much you will learn from them.

Keep building your ministry to families on the whole family approach, which Jesus has for all of us.  May God bless your ministry Journey.

 

A Living Part of Our Communities

I walk down the halls of the local school, and I think of the kids and families of my community.  We are not unique, but an average Mid-American rural community.  Yet, the people are important to me.

  My wife an I have lived just under ten years.  We have watched children grow up from elementary through college, and some we have known since they we a few hours old.  I substitute  in the local nd help our local Youth For Christ leader, and it is great to see how young people are comfortable with me many time.

I learned long ago in ministry that I have a much more interaction with my community, by simply laying aside so called planned evangelistic outreach, and living life with the people of my community.  It is my community, and that is a key to small town and rural ministry, it may take time but when you really become a part of the community ministry takes a Kore comfortable and open place.

I encourage any pastor moving into a small town to get with other ministers for support.  However, to minister to people you have to become a true part of the community.  You have to work and play with them in the everyday, and in time you will hopefully be able to show them Jesus in all you do.

          Blessings on your ministry journey

A Tribe We Call Church

 

ID-100277647
Photo Courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net, by Vlado

 

Most of the Bible is filled with tribal languages, especially through the Old Testament. Abraham was the leader of a small tribe, which would grow with his children and grandchildren into what we know as the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus comes on the scene and calls twelve men and a group of women together to continue his mission into the world. The day of Pentecost comes and we find that about 120 people were gathered together. This, in reality, is a tribe. It is a group of people joined together in all aspects of their lives, and working for the common goal and mission.
Early Church gatherings and church formations throughout much of history have operated much like the tribal system from which Israel formed. A leader or a handful of leaders formed a church, what some might call a small group today. That group would grow, but in most cases because they were meeting in homes the group size eventually was forced to split. When we read Paul’s writings to the churches of the New Testament. These writings are often to a group of leaders, who likely had churches throughout the cities and provinces that he was writing. It would have been impossible for a persecuted church to gather inthe hundreds and thousands in one location without drawing the unwanted attention of Rome. We have to remember that at the time Christianity was considered illegal atheism to the Roman Authorities.
Following this beginning, the Church Universal grew through people carrying God’s word, in small groups, out to the world. Churches were established in villages, towns, cities, and rural areas of the world. These establishments started much like they do today, with a handful of people joining together for study and encouragement, again what some would call small groups. Family leaders brought their families together, and out of these groups a church formed. Even the early beginnings of American Christianity, from the small tribe of pilgrims to the many established churches that popped up with settlers as the nation grew, was built upon the joining of several families in a common focus. This is still the basis of a majority of the churches in America, where most churches remain under 150 people in weekly attendance. In fact, if you seriously study the growth of small groups in the mega-church movements you will find that successful growth beyond the 150 mark entails some sort of formation of groups of tens, the twenties, and even fifties, for deeper study and fellowship. This is because people tend toward a deep relationship in a smaller group, and most of us have deep relational needs. It is how we are created to live and work by God.
Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fisher-Wright have written an organizational leadership book entitled, “Tribal Leadership”. It is a great book for learning about the dynamics for leading and strengthening your leadership as a tribal leader. I would encourage anyone interested in tribal leadership or who leads a small group or smaller church to look into the thoughts of this book. In the beginning, of their book, they describe some information about what tribes are. Here are a few descriptions they give:

  • “Human beings form tribes”. (Introduction)
  • “Every organization is really a set of small towns. We call these small towns tribes.” (p.3-4)
  • “A tribe is a group of between 20 and 150 people.” (p.3-4)

I found the number “between 20 and 150” very interesting. I’ve been told for more than twenty years of pastoral ministry that a small church is a church under 150 people. I have also been taught that in most cases a person can only effectively pastor about 150 people before they must call on others for help and expand the pastoral care. It was refreshing to see in print what God was already laying on my own heart, that I must change my ministry from being worried about super growth, numbers, or trying to lead a corporation. A few years ago I fought my own ego and the pressure of many in the background in which I find myself ministering. I began seeing that the smaller or small-town church isn’t a bad thing, its simply different than the larger church focus, of most books out on church health. I began to see that, like much of the Biblical history and much of human history, we in small town ministry operate more as a tribe than a corporation.
I am being encouraged through this book on “Tribal Leadership”. I am starting to see some better ways to lead the tribe in which God has called me to lead. I am also understanding in my experience more and more that, like Abraham, Jacob, and others in the Bible, I am not some general out in front of troops or leading from behind to get people to do what I want to be done. Instead, I am living life with the people. I am going through the trials and problems with them. When they hurt, I hurt. When they cry, I cry. When they celebrate, I celebrate. I know many larger church pastors say these things about those they lead, but the reality of psychological and personal dynamics show us that it is impossible to really know thousands of people personally at a level that makes us a family with them. A tribe is, in essence, the agreement of a group of families to form a united family group. In the smaller church the pastor, and more often the pastor and spouse, are called to be the leader of that family group, that tribe.
I want to encourage others who are on this same journey, in a similar call to the smaller parish life. Yes, there will be painful experiences in your ministry. Yes, there will be times you hurt so badly and hope so hard that you loose sleep over those whom you have let into your heart. It is the risk of being in a family. The risk of being a part of a tribe. Stopping thinking that you are leading some business organization, and start simply living life with the tribe God has called you to. You may not have your name on the cover of a major leadership magazine or ever speak to hundreds of thousands of people. However, you will know the joy of seeing children grow into adults who carry God into their own families and daily lives. You will be blessed to have a family unit far larger than just you, your spouse, and your children. You will find ties that really can last a lifetime. In the end, you will not know just how many people you have affected within the greater community that you have become a part of. This is especially true if you can help to bring true Godly love and unity into the DNA of your tribe.
I pray that God blesses you, as you lead the tribe you are called to lead. I pray that God gives you the daily call to be the leader who unites and encourages the tribe toward greater things in His purpose within the community that you are called to live.

(Book note: Logan, Dave; King, John; Fischer-Wright, Halee (2009-10-13). Tribal Leadership. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)

Living as a Small Church Pastor: The Dread of Monday

Sunday is not only the highlight of our week; it is when we must put our all out to the edge of burnout. We ride the Spiritual high of seeing God move in the lives of people, whom we are called to minister to. The build up of a week’s preparation has come to a fulfillment. We have put all our energy into this day of being a part of God’s movement among His people.
Yes, we have faced those who are not as excited with our message, or with what God is doing in the church where we are called to minister. We have weathered the critics, the cynics, and the complainers. We usually will have more stokes of accolade than scars of battle. Sunday is what every pastor hopes and prays will succeed on some level for the Lord. Our whole life is thrown into ministering to people, and worshiping along side them. The hopes and aspirations of our lives are thrown into Sunday.
Monday morning then comes along to sap the joy and energy of our lives into oblivion. It is the sudden stop at the end of a rollercoaster of the week. All of the perpetual energy, the ups, downs, and turns of a Sunday have come to an end. It is likely the hardest day for every minister to get out of bed and face the day ahead.
There are two ways to handle Monday hide from the fact, or face it with all the strength that the Lord can offer us. Many ministers find Monday to be the best day to take off, since they are extremely worn and tired. Others feel that they must work, and that using a down day for some good is a better way to handle Monday. There are many in small church life haven’t the luxury of deciding this issue, because they work bi-vocationally. I will take some time to examine the bi-vocational issue at a later time. The reality is though that if you are bi-vocational, Monday may mean getting back to work at another job.
What if you decide Monday is the best time for a day off? How should you use the time? This question faces everyone, no matter what day they choose to have off. Since we are so drained on Monday it can be a danger to just cease to do anything. We need break from the normal activity, and from the work of ministry. However, we must use care about ignoring our spiritual regeneration. Many people make their day off a mockery of resting in the Lord. The issue is an issue of a Sabbath rest.
A Sabbath rest is not only a need, but a command of God. Some of you will argue with me that Monday is far from the Sabbath, but I will argue that we as ministers need to follow the rule of the Sabbath for our own lives too. The Sabbath is a day for ceasing from our usual labor, it is a day to focus upon God, and it is a day to be refreshed in our spirits. We can not take the people in our care into real worship, if we are not regularly in worship ourselves.
There are many ways we can find to worship. I know of some ministers who take time for in depth Bible reading. Some read through hymnals to be inspired and meditate upon the words of the writers of the hymnals. There are some who prefer to go into nature and pray and be alone with God. You will need to find your own way in what works best to revive your heart and soul. The real fact is to do it. Seek God out and be refreshed in His loving care.

Recently I was rereading A Conversation with Jesus by Stephen Seamands. He
references a conversation by Lyle Rader with Samuel Logan Brengle, an outstanding leader
in the Salvation Army in the early twentieth century.
One day Lyle Rader asked Brengle, “Sir, what has been your greatest temptation in
ministry?”
Brengle thought for a moment, then responded, “Actually, I have only one temptation in
ministry. If I win the battle with this temptation, everything else in my life and ministry
falls into place. But if I loose the battle, I soon find myself confronted with all sorts of other
temptations.”
“What is the temptation?” Rader asked.
“It’s the temptation to want to do something for God each day, before I’ve first spent
time with Him,” Brengle replied. [1]

We sometimes need to be reminded to feed our souls. Brengle was big enough to admit his need, and his own weakness. In ministry we often let the work of ministering to others rob our own personal time. To do something for God gives us satisfaction, adrenaline, and even a spiritual high. This makes sitting still with God alone for a while hard to do. It makes learning from others hard to do at times.

Making Monday, or part of Monday your day for Spiritual Renewal means marking it off in stone and ink on our day planners. Yes real emergencies will arise, but the normal routine of life is not an emergency. If we are to take others deeper, then we must get serious about the care of our own spiritual life. There is no guilt in spending time away from work, so that we can get to know the one who calls us in a deeper way.
Spiritual and emotional renewal can come in times alone, or in meeting with others who are in ministry. One of the greatest times of my early ministry came, as I was striving to plant a church in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I was blessed with getting to know a group of local pastors very well. Eight to ten of us met weekly for coffee, prayer, and building one another up in the Lord. I came to need these weekly times of renewal. It was the spiritual recharge I needed.
I have had the opportunity to meet with other groups on a monthly basis and always feel stronger for our time together. Sometimes it’s over coffee, breakfast, lunch, or a round of golf. Always we set aside time to share our greatest concerns, and encourage each other in the daily life of ministry. Just like the parishner’s who are revived by being with others in church, I am revived by being with others in ministry.
I have a friend and accountability partner who I still call just about every Monday, sometimes at other times too. We need others, because we are created to need others and not as ‘Lone Rangers’.
You may feel that working is the best thing to do on Monday. Maybe you need to see something accomplished just overcome the feeling of depression that wants to creep in on Monday. I tend to fall into this category. I do work Monday, but I do not work as hard as on some other days.
Generally I start most work days with a visit to our local gas station, or reading at home in personal study by seven in the morning. I use this time for personal growth, or to start my sermon for Sunday morning. Some have questioned my setting at a gas station, drinking coffee, and studying. However, I can see about seventy percent of my local village while sitting here. It makes for good contact as well as keeping me aware of the needs of my community, as I prepare to preach to people.
Monday I sometimes have the coffee, just to give me reason for getting going. However, I do not return to my office for work. I generally try to use my morning on Monday for reading, refocusing, or writing. Writing articles such as this are still ministry, but it is not the normal sermon preparation, visitation, and other duties I have in my church. It gives me time to do ministry with a different focus. I sometimes will take on special projects that need attention, such as an upcoming youth event. Again it is doing work, but not the usual office routine.
If I do any routine work, it generally doesn’t happen until after ten, and most likely not until afternoon. I try to do letters or follow up ministries on Monday afternoon. Sometimes I visit, especially those in need whom I couldn’t get to on Sunday. By doing follow up and visitation ministries on Monday I get the focus off of myself. By doing special ministries, or writing I get the focus off of myself. I have found that when I am lower in my spiritual take, and emotional tank I need to seek God. I have also found for myself that time alone when I am emotionally drained often leads to a more negative outcome. I don’t revive well if I am too tired, I actually run the risk of sinking further in toward a depressive attitude.
That is why I will not take a Monday off, at least in its entirety. I may at times only work a half a day, and go play golf with a member of the church or a ministerial colleague. I may work most of the day, but focus on other ministries outside the routine. But, I do not allow myself to take the whole day off, because I need to keep going, or be drawn in to the dread of Monday.
I do take a day off to do the things I mentioned earlier. In fact my district requires pastor’s to set this up yearly as part of our minister’s salary package. The problem is that like many other bi-vocational pastor’s my day is hard to lock down for a year at a time. I substitute teach, which is a blessing since it doesn’t require me to lock down a set time for work. It also doesn’t dominate my ministry schedule, although from October to May I average twenty to thirty hours of work at the school. My day off often moves around, since I may be scheduled at times on my day off.
I strive to take Friday as my day off, believing like many in ministry that refocusing my heart and soul before the big weekend is best. I also have found that there are fewer disturbances on Friday, since most people are getting ready for their weekend and families are focused on the children’s sporting events. I do go to community functions and sporting events, which is outreach in a small community. However, this is not work for me, because I enjoy being a part of the community in which I live.
When my schedule moves around from the normal plan I try to let the congregation know, as much as possible. I often list the best hours to contact me in the bulletin each week, right by the church phone number. This seems to help keep the communication lines open. Most people I have found respect the pastor’s need for time off, and even encourage them to get away.
That is my usual key to time off, getting away. I can not relax in my home next to the church, or at the church. I often visit friends for a round of golf and prayer. Sometimes I take a book and my fishing rod and head for a local river. I take a walk a nearby State Park and spend time just talking with the Lord. That is what I strive to do, spend time with Him.
I am not perfect. I like Paul say, ‘not that I have reached it yet.’ Yet I strive to focus my life on Christ, and take time for just the two of us. I know when I have missed this, because my spirit hungers to be with the Lord. I am a work in progress, but I encourage you to keep working in your own personal walk. Let your life be renewed in Him. If you miss your time away this week, then get back with Him next week. It is the only way we can ever hope to sustain for the long term in the Ministry journey God has called us to.

— Keep on your Journey for Jesus this week.

[1] A Conversation with Jesus (Renewing Your Passion for Ministry, by Stephen Seamands, © 1994 Victor Books / SP Publications, Inc.; 1825 College Avenue, Wheaton, IL 60187 (page 18)

Living As A Small Church Pastor: I Relate to Small Town Life

Living as a Small Church Pastor: I Relate to Small Town Life

I grew up in rural small town America, like many with in our nation. My father was a deacon in the Baptist church we attended, while my grandmother attended the Wesleyan church just down the road. Growing up I attended the Baptist church, but often found myself going to children’s ministries at the church where my grandmother attended.
A couple of years after marrying my wife I accepted the call to ministry, and found myself as youth director of a church in the nearby city of five thousand. I helped the pastor and began to use my talents of preaching, teaching, and visitation with in the church. Two years later my family and I headed off for college.
While in college I continued to help out in assisting pastors. I spent one year helping a church in a city of over 50,000, and another in a city of 18,000. These experiences helped to develop my talents in ministry. I was given more opportunity to preach, and teach. These are to this day my strongest gifts and talents.
In 1997 I accepted my first solo-pastorate, while finishing up my last year of college. I felt called to start a new work in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and made plans to help this small church out for two-years. It was a great place to cut my teeth on solo ministry. The church was located in a village of less than 500 people, in the middle of the corn and soy bean fields of central Indiana. This independent church ran most of its own business affairs, which freed me up to study, and begin new Bible studies. I was able to grow in my pastoral care.
I was working and learning through the 1990’s, as the church growth movement was reaching its explosive growth. Every where I looked were the teachings and encouragements of growing bigger, and bigger being better. The problem was that I had grown up in small town America. I felt called to pastor and reach people on the front lines of America where the heart of the revivals of the past had begun. Working in my first solo pastorate I knew deep in my heart that I related to farmers and small business men better than big city executives or inner city works. The problem was that everywhere I turned were the calls of leadership was to bigger and better things. Everyone was talking about big churches and big ministries being the answer to the future of ministry.
I recall one instance in college, during a worship class with Professor Keith Drury. We were to share the trends of what we saw as the future of American worship and church life. Going around the room it was like listening to cookie cutter answers to me. Everyone had their own ideas and twists, but the reality was that everyone in the class was focused big and mega church ministry. Everyone that is, but me. I could see the attitudes and fear of smaller churches toward mega churches. I also knew a few people who had left bigger churches, because they felt they were impersonal and a place to get lost. I predicted that for many families they would feel lost and impersonal in a mega-church, and that many would desire the familiar, family feel of smaller church life.
Since, leaving college and seeing the trends I find more people leaving the mega-church for a more intimate congregation. I also see many mega-churches changing strategy to create an intimate feel for those who need the personal side of church life. Some churches call it small groups, some cells, others church with in church. The fact is that church needs intimacy and small church sometimes is the best way to fill that need.
After college, when I was called to plant a church in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula I found myself in a city of 20,000. The fact was that I was in the largest city for hundreds of miles around. Some who know me may feel that my small town attitude may have kept this church plant from succeeding. I wouldn’t agree. The fact is that even though the city was bigger than my background, the people had an attitude of small town life. It was true there were more people, but they had the same fears, cares, worries, and attitude of most the rural areas of Northern Michigan. Sometimes they were even more rural than small rural in their close knit families than other rural settings I had been in before.
I took on a ministry in a rural setting of Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula near Traverse City, before finding myself in Central Illinois where I now minister. I have learned a lot about the lives of the people I have ministered to, and I know they have learned about me. The intimacy factor can have its draw backs, since we all are close and everyone in the community is close. It is true news will travel through community fast. This can be a good thing too, since you can promote events and do well in a quicker manner than in many large city settings.
I guess the heart of all that I am trying to say is that I must confess to liking small town ministry. There you go, it’s in the open. While many small town pastors struggle with jealousy and inferiority I am coming to see that small town, and small church life isn’t all that bad. In fact for a country boy from Northern Michigan it is a pretty good place to be called to.
The fact is that we who pastor small town churches should look to Jesus Christ for His guidance in our ministries. We need His love to permeate every part of us, so we can face the challenges of small town ministry. It is okay to like your ministry, even with all the frustrations. We have to believe God is with us, and know that He will help us through what ever He allows to come our way. Don’t give into the voice of Satan that creeps into our minds and says give up. There are times when we should move on, but Satan wishes we would move right out of ministry. Too many of our brothers and sisters have listened to his lies. Let us find ways to encourage each other, and seek Christ continually to be in His perfect will.
It is my hope that I can help to be one of the avenues of encouragement along the way. I am hoping to utilize my own life stories, as well as those of other small town and small church pastors who are on the front lines of ministry. We are supposed to encourage one another. Paul reminds us in Philippians 4 that we are to think on the good things. This is why we should encourage one another through the battles of life. I encourage you to seek out an accountability partner or at least a ministerial colleague to spur one another on. Never tire in your service, but instead let God guide you daily in your service to God’s kingdom.

I recently attended a small town pastor’s seminar offered in our denomination. I took a few pages of notes, but far more important was the reviving spirit that flowed out of the men and women who shared their needs. It became a place of prayer and care, with others in the same place. I have always felt called to be a pastor who helps, encourages, and trains other pastors in the journey of ministry. That is why I feel compelled to add this column to my Blog on a regular basis in the future. I hope to add another article of my own experience, and others who are in small church life. We need to encourage each other. I am opening up my Blog for comments as well, and hope that people will begin to encourage one another through issues of small town life.

My prayers are with you, as I hope yours will be with me. Let us spur one another on in our

Journey with Jesus in the small churches of America.