A small town has a way of growing on you. Now, I understand that the phrase “small town” means many things to many different people. From my perspective, Washington, IA is a small town with a little over 7,000 people. However, I’m fully aware that some of you out there would define a small town as comprising just one flashing red light with a few hundred people (or less). But I grew up in cities of 60,000+. So, from my vantage point, Washington, IA with a population of 7,000 is a small town. And a small town has a way of growing on you.
I remember when I first took the pastorate out here on the prairie. It was the fall of 2013, and I was truly excited at all of the possibilities in front of me. However, if I was completely honest, I didn’t really know how long I would stick around. For many years after I took this pastorate, my heart yearned to be in a bigger church in a bigger city. But God has a way of changing our hearts and causing us to love His desires for us.
A little over 9 years into my adventure out here on the prairie, I absolutely love it. I mean that…I’m not just saying that to be nice. This place has grown on me in so many ways. I love being a small church, small town pastor. Indeed, there are plenty of perks to being in my situation. For instance,
- As a small-town pastor, you get to do a little bit of everything. From preaching God’s Word on Sunday morning to making hospital calls on Monday morning, there is plenty to keep me busy. I officiate weddings and funerals. I perform counseling and administration. I prep for meetings and lead in meetings. I officiate the ordinances and help throw special events. I even help clean the church on occasion. I don’t specialize in any one area of ministry. I get the privilege of doing a little bit of everything. In fact, it’s kind of funny…In the church world, bigger is usually associated with better. But in the Army world (where I served from 2006-2010), smaller is usually associated with better. In the Army, the more elite the soldier, the smaller his unit or team. I kind of like that analogy. In some ways, it gives me confidence that my small church, small town ministry isn’t inferior to a larger ministry. In fact, in some ways, it’s better.
- As a small-town pastor, you get to watch people grow up. What I mean by that is usually the people I’m ministering to in a small-town will stick around for a long time. Many of them were born and raised here and have no intention of ever leaving. That means for those individuals who marry and have children in this area, they’re going to stick around for a while. Which means I have the privilege of watching their children grow up. I get to visit these new babies in the hospital, dedicate them a few years later, teach them lessons in our Wednesday night kids program a few years after that, and continue to watch them grow up out here on the prairie. As I watch, I pray, and ask for God to do a work in their lives that only God can do.
- As a small-town pastor, you get to engage more relationally with your community. In other words, you get to really know your community by really getting to know the leaders in your community. Because of the nature of the small-town I minister in, I’ve gotten to know our business leaders, law enforcement officers, funeral directors, real estate agents, attorneys, military veterans, and even our mayor. I get the opportunity to pour into these professionals, getting to know them personally and praying with them and for them. It’s a thrill to be walking around the downtown square and meeting people left and right that are simultaneously my neighbors and fellow community leaders.
- As a small-town pastor, you get to make a true impact. My heart often aches when I hear of pastors who bounce from church to church every 2-4 years. How can you get to know your people and make a lasting impact when you’re only at your church for such a short period of time? I’ve only been at Prairie Flower Baptist Church for a little over 9 years and, in many ways, I’m just now beginning to feel like I’m connecting with my church and community. I long for the day that I hit the 10-year mark. And then, once I hit that 14-year mark, I would have surpassed my predecessor and will be the longest serving pastor in Prairie Flower’s almost 170-year history. How exciting! But more than that, I just firmly believe that the longer I stick around this small church in this small town, I can make a difference in people’s lives. How? By consistently sharing the Word with them, praying for them, being there in their high points and low points, and loving and leading them no matter what…And one of the best ways I can love and lead my people is by joyfully committing to stick around for a while. And I plan to do just that. Why? Because a small town truly has a way of growing on you. I guarantee it.