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September 28, 2017

We Need Small Town Churches

By Daniel Im

*Plus Members can listen to this entire Behind-The-Scenes interview by logging in and clicking here.

Doing ministry in a fishbowl

When you think of a small town, you probably imagine a town of about 5,000 people with one school, one barbershop, a corner store, and maybe a church. Everyone knows everyone. This image isn’t too far from reality for pastor and church planter, Donnie Griggs. With a population of about 9,400, Morehead City, NC, is as rural as they come.

Working with a primarily indigenous culture, the ministry approach in small towns can be slightly different than urban or suburban cultures. The population is typically comprised of families who have inhabited the area for generations. Small towns often have a deep sense of camaraderie and a rich heritage. So what is ministry like in these rural areas? Donnie described it like doing ministry in a fishbowl.

In both small towns and big cities, ministry has to be done well, but contextualization is key to determining the approach you use to reach the community. Where mailers and flyers may be effective in big cities, in small towns they are often perceived as gimmicky and disingenuous. The way things succeed in small towns is by word of mouth.

We see this in the Gospels when the Church was comprised of small rural churches that grew because influential people spread the good news to people they knew. The same is true today in these rural towns—churches grow when people tell other people they know. Donnie shared how their church grew because they got to know the community well and spent time building relationships with influencers in the area.

To be a good fisher of men, you need to know what rig to use

I love the analogy Donnie gave about ministering in small towns versus big cities. When fishing in an ocean, you would use a different rig than you would in a small, fresh water lake. Not only are the fish different—living in different conditions and climates—but they are also drawn to different bait. In larger cities, you can cast a much larger net, and somebody will most likely show up, while in small towns you have to be much more strategic and concentrated.

All pastors—be it in small towns or in big cities—must encourage their congregation to invite people. So if word of mouth is the primary tool used to reach people in rural towns, how do you ensure and equip your people to invite the lost to your church?

To read the remainder of this article and to listen to the entire Behind-The-Scenes segment with Donnie Griggs, click here for the full post.

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.


  • “Dream big and let God decide what happens.”-@TheCarolinaDon
  • “To be a good fisher of men, you need to know what rig to use.”-@TheCarolinaDon
  • “The important thing is to enjoy Jesus and love people no matter how big the church is, or how many Twitter followers you have.”-@TheCarolinaDon


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.


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