Home > Blog > Reacquainting Ourselves with Rural Small Towns

January 19, 2017

Reacquainting Ourselves with Rural Small Towns

By Daniel Im

Our Q&A Webinars are a monthly segment designed for Plus Members to hear from leading experts in church planting, multisite, and multiplication. For this month’s segment, Ed and I talk with Donnie Griggs, Lead Pastor of One Harbor Church in Morehead City, NC, as well as author of Small Town Jesus, about rural church planting. You can watch the full segment here.

Reacquainting Ourselves with Rural Small Towns

Every winter I put up my golf clubs. For me, it’s usually too cold and wet—not to mention it gets darker earlier—for me to play. Thus, it’s not until the spring that I pull them back out. As you could imagine, my golf game is a little rusty every spring after having gone (sometimes) three to four months without playing. So, each spring I have to become reacquainted with my golf swing so that I can keep the ball in play.

Most of us know what it is like to reacquaint ourselves with something in the present that we have done in the past—even though some time has elapsed. This could be playing a sport we haven’t played in years (or months), repairing something that we haven’t repaired in years, or navigating roads we haven’t traveled in a while. In each case, there’s always a period of time where we need to reacquaint ourselves in the present with that thing we have done in the past.

It’s the same way with rural (and small town) church planting and mission engagement. For effective ministry in the 21st Century, church leaders, practitioners, and planters will need to reacquaint themselves with it.

Prior to the church (in general) shifting their church planting focus and mission engagement to the cities and suburbs, the church’s presence and focus tended to be, by in large, outside the cities in more small town (rural) areas. But the recent and current strategic and intentional focus on cities and suburbs has left a vacuum of resources, direction, and strategy for small towns everywhere.

While this is understandable, we must not forget the small towns and rural areas where people still reside. The reality is that millions of Americans still live in areas like these. In fact, the recent US presidential election demonstrated the weight of the small town (rural) American voting bloc. Although we haven’t strategically and intentionally focused on such areas in decades, it’s important for the church—leaders, practitioners, and planters—to reacquaint themselves with these areas so that we can effectively reach them with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Recently, Ed and I conversed with Donnie Griggs, Lead Pastor of One Harbor Church in Morehead City, NC and author ofSmall Town Jesus, about becoming reacquainted with ministry and mission in rural small town areas. There were at least three questions Donnie answered that would help anyone become reacquainted with effective and fruitful ministry and mission in rural small towns.

1. What kind of leaders are most effective in such areas?

In the church planting realm, there are certain characteristics and qualities that are transferrable from one context to another. For instance, most church planters need to exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit, perseverance, the ability to start something from nothing, and an ability to equip and empower people to do ministry. In addition to these, Donnie, believes that the most effective leader and church planter in rural and small town areas is an indigenous, humble, and teachable person who doesn’t view the small town ministry as a stepping stone to a larger context. Therefore, Donnie seeks to equip [indigenous] leaders of such contexts versus extracting them from outside the context. While Donnie believes this strategy is most effective, he (and One Harbor) still assess, train, and equip outsiders who sense a call to plant in such contexts.

Click here for the full video, and to read the final two questions and answers that help reacquaint people to ministry and mission in small towns and rural areas.

This video is part of Plus Membership. To get full access to it, and much more, I encourage you to become a Plus Member. Click here to see all the benefits of becoming a Plus Member.


  • “Reacquainting Ourselves with Rural Small Towns”
  • With lots of focus and attention being placed on urban and suburban areas, we must not forget those living in rural and small towns.
  • Although there’s not been much mission strategy in rural small town areas, we must reacquaint ourselves with such areas to be effective.
  • The most effective church planter in small towns is an indigenous, humble, & teachable person…
  • Breaking the missional code in a small town or rural area may be just as difficult as in a suburban or urban context.


Daniel Im

Daniel Im (@danielsangi) is the Director of Church Multiplication for NewChurches.com at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville. He is the author of No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts that will Transform Your Ministry, and co-author of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (2nd ed) with Ed Stetzer. He also co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast, the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast, and a brand new podcast with his wife on marriage and parenting called the IMbetween Podcast. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Visit Danielim.com to learn more.


view all
The Imperfect Pastor

Exclusive Content

Making a Plan for Outreach and Evangelism With Kevin Harney [Behind-the-Scenes]
The Importance of Outreach and Evangelism

Exclusive Content

The Difficulty in Finding Mentors as Non-Denominationalism Grows

Exclusive Content

The Three Greats of the Jesus Mission

Exclusive Content

Leading Change in Your Church [Ready-to-Use Resources]