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November 13, 2019

The Great Opportunity in Rural Church Planting

By New Churches Team

A Unique Approach

In 2004, when Jon Sanders and his family were called to South Dakota as church planters, they knew they would have to take a unique approach to reach their community. They came to South Dakota with no launch team, just Jon, his wife, and their children. There was an older man who had been running a ministry that gave them a foundation on which to start, but they really started from scratch. As Jon says, “We didn’t start at ground zero. We started below ground zero.”

The previous ministry had been meeting in a run-down facility, and Jon wanted the community to be introduced to the church as something new. So, they waited to announce to the community that they were there until they were able to rent a community center space and rebrand and rename what was already existing. Through that process, they never had a large launch or sent out mailers. When they began meeting on Sundays, their regular attendance started at around 20 people. They reached the community through word of mouth, events, and service opportunities. “We had to break pretty much all of the rules in church planting,” explains Jon.

Bivocational by Choice

Before coming to South Dakota, Jon was a career firefighter in Illinois. When they made the decision to become church planters, their family raised their salary so that Jon would not have to work. After a few years, the church was able to support Jon’s salary fully. But God had another plan in mind. God opened a door for Jon to join the Sioux Falls Fire and Rescue department on a full-time basis while also continuing to pastor full-time. Jon felt as if God was saying, “You gave this up to follow Me and I am giving it back to You.” This was a job Jon had a passion for and now God is giving him the opportunity to use his job to reach more people outside the church walls.

Jon encourages pastors to embrace being bivocational. It is nothing to be ashamed of or discouraged by. “God writes way cooler stories with our lives than we do if we just surrender to Him and let Him lead us and be willing to step out with courage when He invites us to,” Jon shares.

Multisite in a Rural Context

Five years into opening Rescue Church, all of the church goals had been accomplished, like owning their own space and being able to fully fund themselves. So, Jon went into a season of prayer and fasting to ask God what was next. During that time, God broke Jon’s heart for the rural landscape at a larger level and gave him a vision for multisite before Jon had ever even heard of the multisite context.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

New Churches Team

NewChurches.com wants to help you build a strong foundation by connecting you with top experts in the field of church planting and multisite ministry, and by regularly providing you with the resources, information, and community you need to thrive as you multiply the mission of Matthew 28.

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