(Dear Small Church Friends, I am SO pumped to bring you this 3-part series from Brent Lacy, a rural youth ministry guy. He recently published his first book, Rural Youth Ministry through Group’s new line, Everyday Youth Ministry. I asked him to write this series because I know that many of you serve in rural settings and so I thought he could serve you best in this area. Enjoy! – Stephanie)
Article 1) The Challenges of Rural Youth Ministry
Youth Worker: Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to impact a generation of forgotten students. Many come from low socio-economic status in dysfunctional families facing problems like drugs, cohabitation, divorce, alcohol and domestic abuse. These students are scattered in remote parts of your ministry area, often in hard-to-reach places like farms and small towns. This message will not self-destruct. This is your calling. Welcome to Rural Youth Ministry.
What does the school district look like?
The rural school district is a remarkable beast. You often see two types of school districts. First you see districts that were created by consolidating multiple smaller districts. Then you have districts that were created because the existing districts were too far apart. Either way, you are left with this reality: You may have a lot of driving ahead of you! My county in Western Indiana has a population density of about 39 people per square mile. Within that total population, about 1,150 seventh- to 12th-grade students are enrolled in three school districts (not including home-school students). That makes just over 2.6 teenagers per square mile. That means I do a lot of driving to connect with students and parents.
Who are the subcultures?
It is also very important to identify any subcultures that may exist. Unlike workers in many urban or suburban settings, you probably don’t have the same level of ethnic diversity in your community. You have the opportunity to study your main subcultures with greater depth. This will allow you to minister more relevantly and connect more effectively with individuals and families.
Where I live, a major subculture is the Old Order Amish. In 1990, a group of Old Order Amish from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, made the decision to relocate to Parke County, Indiana. They sold their land in Pennsylvania for top dollar and were able to buy farmland in Indiana at much cheaper prices and in larger quantities. They have a totally different culture that segregates them from “the English”. Our community of believers try to take advantage of every opportunity we get to share the love of Christ with their community.
Brent Lacy serves as Youth Pastor in rural Western Indiana. He has served in rural youth ministry for 13 years. His first book, “Everyday Youth Ministry: Rural Youth Ministry: Thrive Where You’re Planted” is now available from Group/Simply Youth Ministry and on the Amazon Kindle Store. You can check out his blog at http://ministryplace.net