The Rural Project: A Big Vision for Small Places
A new initiative has been formed to gather rural churches in partnership to evangelise, revitalise, and plant churches in rural areas.
I wonder what you picture when you hear “rural churches”.
- A dozen aging congregants struggling to see growth?
- A Welsh revival chapel now turned into a Carpet Warehouse?
- A popular wedding venue that is nearly empty on a Sunday morning?
Or do you see a gospel opportunity? A neglected field, ripe for harvest if the Lord sends workers?
We started The Rural Project because we believe rural Britain presents a wonderful evangelistic opportunity. Although individual communities are small, the UK’s rural population is 10.6 million.
Yet, as we speak to rural leaders, similar problems rise again and again:
- Feelings of isolation.
- Discouragement by slow fruit.
- Lack of funding for gospel workers.
- Young leaders leaving to urban churches.
- Urban methods that don’t work in their context.
Our aim is to gather rural churches in partnership to evangelise, revitalise, and plant churches in rural areas.
This is how we plan to do it.
The Rural Project
The Rural Project is an initiative to create prayerful partnership to evangelise rural Britain.
Our plans fall into four categories.
One of the challenges for rural churches is isolation. The Rural Project is bringing together evangelicals in rural areas for networking.
So far this has included:
- Setting up a steering team of leaders from across the UK.
- Getting in touch with rural evangelicals to share our vision.
- Gathering online for fellowship four times a year.
Raising leaders can be a real challenge away from big cities. Many churches will not have any trained leaders.
We’re partnering with Crosslands Seminary to provide online training modules from 2024 onwards. These can help train rural leaders at all levels of church life to effectively reach their areas.
Most rural churches cannot support trainee pastors, which can lead to potential pastors leaving rural areas. We want to support ministry candidates training in rural areas through ‘Rural Residencies’.
This will involve:
- A 4-year part-time Crosslands Masters course.
- Two years on placement with an existing rural church.
- Two years focused on a new rural plant/revitilisation.
Depending on funding, we hope to have three candidates supported evenly spread across England, Scotland, and Wales.
There is no replacement for in-person relationships. Our first Rural Project Conference will take place in Bakewell on Saturday 30 September 2023.
We have Jon Hindley speaking on “Weakness our strength”. We hope this will be a great chance to build relationships with Christians from other parts of the UK.
Who should get involved in The Rural Project?
First and foremost, rural Christians. Defining rural can be a bit of a challenge! The English government defines it as a place with a population under 10,000. That covers a range of places from English commuter villages to Welsh seaside resorts or Scottish islands.
There may be others interested in the work. We’ve had contact from urban churches hoping to provide ministry trainees with rural experience, as well as suburban churches considering planting rurally. If that’s you we’d love to talk.
If you want to get involved as an individual or as a church leader, there are various ways you can: