Most of us hope, when we become followers of Jesus, that He will use us to make a difference for His Kingdom. Some of us realise we need some experience and equipping to maximise the effectiveness of our Christian witness. But most of us also feel that as well as training, we’d like to start making a difference now – not just in the future. The great thing about doing a church internship or ministry apprenticeship for a year or two is that you are training and making a difference at the same time. These schemes are provided by a range of churches. Larger city churches, for example, often have good facilities and large ministry teams to be a part of, as well as the advantages of city life and serving with others in your own age group. Smaller churches and small towns do not have most of these things. But they do have other advantages for people who’d like to grow and serve in a way that is not always possible in larger city churches. Here are my five reasons, as a small town small church pastor, that I hope will encourage you to consider a smaller church for a ministry apprenticeship scheme.
Smaller churches and small towns […] do have other advantages for people who’d like to grow and serve in a way that is not always possible in larger city churches.
1) You are needed. In a church of 70–90 people with one pastor there is a lot of ministry to do. It’s not just putting out chairs for a meeting (although, even when you do so, there are less of them to put out!); there are a range of ministries in which to serve and explore. It is frontline mission not just background training, with lots of opportunities to use your gifts to further God’s Kingdom, with the support and encouragement of people who are glad you are here.
2) You do real mission in the community. Smaller towns offer special mission opportunities. Our churches may be smaller, but are often connected to a much higher percentage of the overall local population. For example, the particular mission focus for our church is the large number of pupils in local schools. We give over 4000 children and young people the opportunity to consider something of the claims of Jesus and the Bible through school assemblies, Bible clubs and other ministries. So our ministry apprenticeship has a special focus on schools work as well as youth and community. A small church in a small town has a focused mission field, in which one keen Christian, willing to give some months of service, has the potential to make a much bigger impact, and do so straight away, because you are expanding a smaller group.
3) You still get quality training. Sometime people fear that in going to do an apprenticeship in a rural or small town context they will miss out on good quality ministry training. That is not necessarily true. With the flourishing of gospel partnerships across the country there is now, very often theological and ministry skills training within reach. Our apprentices attending the South West Gospel Partnership Ministry Training Course (currently in Bath) one day a week. And of course a key part of training in gospel ministry is actually doing it in the local church and community and receiving mentoring and feedback on the ground.
4) You join a family, not a program. Small churches are known for their more immediate sense of community and of being a family. It’s certainly the case here at Monmouth Baptist. Our Sunday church congregation is a mix of ages and we encourage small groups who meet midweek to pray for each other, study and serve together. But in a small town, you see the church family everywhere – at the post office, along the river or in the coffee shop. That’s as well as at the church’s weekly ministries.
5) It costs you something. King David once had the opportunity to do something for God at someone else’s expense. He refused. He said he would not offer the Lord something that cost him nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). It is sacrificial to join a small town ministry. It’s challenging to share Jesus with an extremely socio-economically mixed community – the outwardly affluent and hidden social problems. It’s challenging to face a greater likelihood of people being set in their ways. And although our town is not remote (we are less than an hour from major cities like Bristol and Cardiff), public transport is sporadic and the nearest McDonalds is at least 20 minutes away! Compared to the city, there are proportionally fewer people in their early 20s; both in the town and in the church. Small town and rural churches often do not have resources, or numbers of people, to provide streamlined age-specific ministries. Our smaller numbers do not attract the headline speakers and special meetings or make slick programs easy to run! So it’s challenging… but it’s worth it. And I believe it’s worth coming here because it is challenging! If you can cope without the easy access to fast food, or large numbers of people your age, or the city buzz, it could be the best thing you ever did.
There is loads of work to do, frontline mission, a harvest to gather and often the only thing lacking is workers!
So there are my five reasons. We do have some coffee shops, but more importantly, you’ll find dedicated people who rejoice when one person is willing to come and get stuck in. There is loads of work to do, frontline mission, a harvest to gather and often the only thing lacking is workers! The wider age range makes it more like a family and you may have the chance to spend time with older people who have walked with the Lord for many years. They in turn will be enthused and encouraged by your interest and energy. What a great combination! Mission and support. Purposeful challenges and real community in ways you’ll never know outside of a small place. What’s holding you back? Talk to a small church and see what God can do through you! If you’re willing, God will use you.