I am a member of the Geneva United Methodist Church, and have been all of my life. I didn’t attend for about 40 years – but I’m still a member. It’s a small church, in a small town. Today I attended another Methodist church in the small town of Manson, Iowa. It dawned on me how very much alike our two churches are and how they are also very much an example they are to how small towns can thrive and grow.
1. If you’re a visitor, figure out where to sit before you do anything. Most small town church members have belonged for a long time and have claimed their seats already. “That’s the During pew” or “That’s the pew the Meyer’s sit in.”
As a visitor to any small town, particularly if you are visiting for a long time or moving there, it’s a good idea to figure out where the regulars are. Find the coffee clubs, it’s where you can hear the tall tales. Ask the store owners about themselves – you might have to coax them, but they’ll tell you. Talk to teachers and see where the young people go – they know. Remember they may already have their pew claimed, but if treated well they will slide over and ask you to join them.
2.I’ve yet to go to a small town church where they don’t appreciate a good singer. In my church, most of us are not good singers. But we try – and when someone visits, we love it when they sing loud and well!
Don’t be afraid to sing in a small town. That means, share your stories and give people lots of great ideas. Most people want to hear good news – not bad news. Don’t be afraid to say “if you’re massively opposed please let us know. And be sure to let us know a solution that will work too!” Civil discourse can be encouraging and bring about new ideas. Letting the dictators who don’t want to change anything be in charge will not help anyone. Change is good – keep singing!
3. Small town churches almost always know how to feed a crowd. Jesus fed the multitudes and it’s a lesson small town churches carry out today – feed the people.
Same goes in a small town – feed the people. Give them things they can fill not only their belly with, but their heads and hearts too. People are starving for kindness, and it’s pretty easy to be kind.
John Wesley said:
do no harm
and love God.
These are words that Christians can live by – but also words small towns can take to heart and make happen.