Do you attend or lead a small church? Is your church in a rural area? The NC Conference Media Center offers books and resources specifically tailored to your congregation’s unique challenges. We have books about small and rural church leadership, leading small youth groups, and teaching all ages of children in one room. We also recommend some online classes and other online resources of use to small and rural churches.
Leadership and Significance
Small and rural churches are vital to the communities they serve, and they can thrive within their context. Use these books to discover the significance of your congregation and learn how to lead it well.
Reclaiming Rural: Building Thriving Rural Congregations by Allen T. Stanton. Rev. Stanton uses his experience serving a rural church in the NC Conference and his time as a Rural Faith Communities Fellow at the Institute for Emerging Issues to provide this energetic and encouraging guide to building thriving rural congregations. The book explores the myths and realities of rural places, and how those common narratives impact the leadership of rural churches. Arguing for a practice of evangelism imbued with a mission of vitality, Rev. Stanton promotes the church as a leader in economic and community development, modeled upon a Wesleyan theology of grace.
Small on Purpose: Life in a Significant Church by Lewis A. Parks. This book is a joyful and honest look at the kingdom-enriching characteristics of small congregations. Rev. Parks demonstrates how to see and build upon those strengths. He shows us how life in a small congregation is profoundly significant and the important role these churches play. The book includes clear instructions on how leaders can streamline ministry to maximize the unique and powerful contributions small churches make in their communities.
Small Church Checkup: Assessing Your Church’s Health and Creating a Treatment Plan by Kay Kotan and Phil Schroeder. This resource provides a guide to help you find hope, alternatives, and the possibility of a new beginning. Included are tools to help you measure your church’s vitality, evaluate the results, and diagnose your church’s condition, along with several options for treatment plans as you seek to faithfully serve your community. Follow the steps outlined in these pages to evaluate where you are and what the next steps on your journey need to be as you seek to be a “not yet big church,” “a stable, small church,” or a church that chooses to close and be repurposed for unexpected new life.
God’s Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church by Brad Roth. With the poetic force of Kathleen Norris and the pastoral warmth of Eugene Peterson, Kansas pastor Roth sets forth a vision for vibrant rural churches, for ministry in congregations that bear a profound sense of both loss and possibility, and for harvesting fruits of transformation and renewal. Rooted in stories from Scripture, his own ministry, and interviews with rural church leaders, Rev. Roth offers a sturdy theological and practical alternative to church-growth strategies that rely on success stories and flashy metrics. Rediscover the stunning abundance of God’s presence in rural communities. Learn to live and love and minister right where you are, no matter how small or unassuming it may seem.
The Gifts of the Small Church by Jason Byassee. In this clear-eyed, humorous appraisal, Jason Byassee contends that the “church around the corner” occupies a particular place in the divine economy, that it is especially capable of forming us in the virtues, perspectives, and habits that make up the Christian life. Having been a rural, small membership church pastor in Western NC, Rev. Byassee knows too well the particular vices and temptations to which they are subject. But he also knows the particular graces they’ve been given. Anyone who serves, or belongs to, a “church around the corner” will find their ministry strengthened by this enlivening, inspiring book.
Legacy of Faith: Rural Methodist Churches in North Carolina by Laura A.W. Phillips. James B. Duke grew up knowing the significance that churches held in rural communities. “My old daddy always said that if he amounted to anything in life it was due to the Methodist circuit riders who frequently visited his home and whose preaching and counsel brought out the best that was in him,” he once said. “If I amount to anything in this world, I owe it to my daddy and the Methodist church.” In the Indenture of Trust that created The Duke Endowment, James B. Duke set aside support for the building and maintenance of United Methodist churches in rural North Carolina. This book, Legacy of Faith, celebrates those churches, their architecture, history, and service.
We do have additional books on small and rural church leadership in our collection. A complete list of these books can be found in the Small and Rural Churches pathfinder in our online catalog.
Small Church Youth Ministry
Small(er) Church Youth Ministry: No Staff, No Money, No Problem! by Brad Fiscus with Stephanie Caro. If you are doing youth ministry at a small(er) church, this book is for you. The authors will show you how to start, build, and lead an effective disciple-making youth ministry. You’ll learn how other churches have created vibrant youth ministries without a lot of money or even a youth minister. Designed for use by individuals or in a team environment, it provides biblical foundation, practical helps, tools, and activities that have been proven to work in churches just like yours.
Single Digit Youth Groups: Working with Fewer than 10 Teens by Marcy Balcomb. This helpful book begins with a scriptural foundation and recognizing the benefits of single-digit youth groups. It then provides advice for adult leaders, starting or restarting a youth group, doing cooperative youth ministry, and safety issues. It also includes 42 great activities and reproducible forms.
Bonus Podcast! Youth Ministry: Small Church. This podcast was started by a youth minister at a small United Methodist Church in California. It’s about helping under-resourced youth workers find the resources and the answers they need to succeed. It includes episodes on the Small(er) Church Youth Ministry book listed above and many more resources.
One Room Sunday School
If you have all ages of children in one Sunday School classroom, these resources are designed for your use. They provide easy-to-teach lessons for all seasons of the year.
All Together Now: 13 Sunday school lessons when you have kids of all ages in one room by Lois Keffer. For ages 4-12, these 13 interactive lessons will help kids experience the wonder and adventure of the Bible. They will grow closer to God and learn invaluable truths. With step-by-step instructions, it’s easy to lead your children on a journey through the Bible. The four books in this series are seasonal and when used together, they offer lessons year-round.
All-in-One Sunday School. Discover 13 fun, Bible-based programs full of creative ideas for classes with kids ages 4 to 12. You’ll save time and money–just gather a few common, inexpensive items, photocopy the handouts, and you’re ready to teach creative Bible lessons your kids will love. You’ll also discover how to help kids of multiple ages work together as a team, learn what to expect from different age groups, and be able to give young children the extra attention they crave while helping older children feel special as they help younger children learn. The four books in this series are seasonal and when used together, they offer lessons year-round.
One Room Sunday School. This quarterly curriculum kit offered by Cokesbury includes everything needed for Sunday School when you have kids ages 3-12 in one room. The kit includes a leader guide, reproducible kids’ book, resource pack, and CD-ROM. The CD-ROM is a quarterly music CD-ROM with added PowerPoint slides, song sheets, and instrumental tracks. The Resource Pack contains colorful, easy-to-use posters to reinforce the Bible story, plus storytelling helps, an attendance chart, and more! The Reproducible Kids’ Book is 96 pages of activities tailored to each session throughout the quarter. From coloring pages to creative writing prompts, this resource will lead children to a deeper understanding of each Bible lesson.
Ministry in the Rural Context. Beginning on June 20, 2021, this online class from Wesley Theological Seminary explores the diverse range of rural life in the United States and the opportunities for ministry these settings hold. Through an exploration of the cultural and theological realities in rural ministry, this six-week course offers a framework of creativity and hope for ministry grounded in a collection of resources, stories, and media designed to support those serving in rural communities.
Online Classes from BeADisciple.com
These short-term online classes are offered from Southwestern College, a United Methodist institution, through BeADisciple.com, a portal for Christian online education. Some of these courses contribute to a Certification in Rural Ministry.
Rural Ministry and Country Music. Beginning on July 12, 2021, this course is for church leaders who want to pair the imagery and storytelling of country music with the disciple-making goals of their faith communities. This three-week course explores the themes of country music and how they can support the discipleship ministries of the rural church without hiding from the realities of country music.
Engaging the Bible in Rural Ministry. Beginning on August 23, 2021, this online class is for laypeople and clergy in rural communities who want to explore the value of the Bible to their distinctive rural settings. Participants explore the unique places they live and how the Bible matters both inside and outside of the church without being glued to studies and sermons.
Rural Relationships and Rural Ministry. Beginning on August 23, 2021, this online class takes a drive down the backroads of our rural communities, exploring cultural, social, economic, and spiritual realities present in rural communities. Special attention is given to the need to explore the needs of the community and how student’s rural ministries can help.
Practical Theology in Rural Communities. Beginning on October 11, 2021, this online class engages both the terms “rural” and “practical theology” in ways that allow for application and inspiration of the Holy Spirit in rural ministry. As rural life looks very different depending upon context, this course allows for application which provides fewer solid answers, and more a toolbox for engaging in ministry.
Transforming Rural Places Through Congregational and Community Partnerships. Beginning on October 11, 2021, this online class helps students discern the best partnerships for their ministries to engage the gifts of their communities. Rural communities are built on connection and relationships, to place, people, heritage, and culture. Students will learn how to tap into these resources in order to build sustainable and creative connections for change.
Other Online Resources
Small Membership Congregations. This 2-part webinar series from Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church focused on effective congregations and the Nurture Outreach Witness model of ministry. The recording is archived and available for viewing.
Small Membership Churches. The Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary periodically publishes articles and podcasts about small churches that are archived on their blog. Several of the authors featured above have lent their voices to these publications.
Rural Faith Communities as Anchor Institutions. The Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State University offers a Rural Faith Communities initiative. It includes periodic gatherings for rural church leaders, peer networks, resources, and an emerging issues forum.
Request These Resources
These resources can be borrowed for free by anyone involved with a United Methodist Church in the North Carolina Conference. We will mail them to your home! All you need to do is fill out the Resource Request Form.