Of the lasting legacies that John Wimber left to the Vineyard movement, equipping the saints and everyone gets to play are two of my favorites. As a young follower of Jesus, I recall the Vineyard churches I attended always emphasizing that all of God’s people can and should(!) participate in the works of the kingdom. When my pastors taught on healing, there was always an opportunity for everyone to pray for others to be healed by God. We were equipped to build up the church and do the work of ministry, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:11-16.
I loved this emphasis on being equipped and the opportunity to participate being open to all of the church, not just a select few. Rather than viewing ministry the work of seminary-trained pastors, the Vineyard has traditionally believed, emphasized, and practiced an approach that equips people to go and “do the stuff.” It’s part of our DNA
So what does the Small Town USA partnership have to do with equipping and everyone participating? I’d like to think it has everything to do with what we’re trying to do! After all, the Small Town USA partnership exists to:
- Strategically work together to effectively plant healthy churches in small town USA.
- Equip, empower, and resource church planters heading into rural communities.
Before I explain some ways that the Small Town USA partnership can help you, I want to explain a bit about who the partnership exists for…
Small Town USA Partnership: Everyone Gets to Play
The Small Town USA partnership exists for both churches, church plants, church planters, and pastors! We are not here only for churches in small towns, though we certainly want to help those that are. We are also not just focused on church planters interested in planting in rural America.
Rather, we’d like to see everyone get involved in rural church planting! And if we’re going to plant 750 churches in ten years, lots of those churches are going to be in small towns.
So I imagine that someone pastoring a large church, say Rich Nathan, could turn to the Small Town USA partnership and say, “Hey, I’ve got two people who have a real heart to plant a church in a small town in Ohio with a population of 5,000 people. Could you help us connect them with some other people in a similar context?” Yes, yes we can Rich!
Or perhaps a pastor in a large city like Atlanta might take notice that she is surrounded by small towns and that if the church she serves is going to make an impact in Georgia, they need to start gearing up for some rural church planting. Could we help her get in the game? Absolutely!
The Small Town USA partnership is for anyone interested in planting in or sending to rural America. Everyone gets to play, regardless of whether they are pastors, church planters, big churches, small churches, or whatever – we just want to plant churches that plant churches that plant churches that plant churches, especially in small towns! Basically we exist for everyone and anyone, especially you reading this!
So how can the Small Town USA partnership help you? Great question…
Small Town USA Partnership: Equipping Disciples to Make Disciples
So what does the Small Town USA partnership have to offer? Why should pastors get in touch with us? What should compel future church planters to connect with the Small Town USA partnership?
First, the Small Town USA partnership has some of the brightest missional minds related to the rural context that I know of. Now, that might sound a bit arrogant coming from someone who is a part of the partnership but I do not mean myself! Specifically speaking, Joel Seymour and Ross Nelson, the two pioneers of this partnership, have taught me so much about doing ministry in a small town. The other people in the partnership are also very passionate about our focus and have years of experience, many ideas, and so much more to offer. If I was going to plant a church in an urban context, I would run to someone like Jay Pathak or Tim Keller. Ross Nelson is our Jay Pathak and Joel Seymour is our Tim Keller (anyone who knows Ross or Joel should be laughing right now!).
Second, we have a growing number of contacts across the United States who are also interested in connecting with others with the goal of planting churches in rural communities. Our goal of increasing church planting triads (3 pastors/churches working together to plant churches) is working well, so capitalizing on our contacts should prove very helpful. If you want to plant a church or be involved in planting churches in Small Town USA, let us know! We can connect you with others. These church planting triads are relational ways to encourage and receive encouragement, coach and receive coaching, and share resources!
Third, we’re doing *free* webinars, including the upcoming one with Phil Strout on March 10 @ 10am CST (register here). You can watch our past ones here and download the Small Town USA Partnership Webinar Schedule too.
Fourth, we are praying for you. Seriously. In fact, this morning I woke up at 6:30am and spent some time just praying for about 25 pastors/leaders in the Northwest Region of the Vineyard. I know that Joel Seymour and Ross Nelson are also praying for you and your churches and the communities that God is calling you to love, serve, and evangelize. And I know that Michael Gatlin is praying too. We’d love to hear from you if you have some specific things to pray for!
Fifth, we can connect you church planters with coaches and help as you are “doing the stuff” in rural America. We both love the context to which you’ve been sent and understand the contextual challenges.
Let’s go change the world for Jesus…
- What questions do you have?
- What would be helpful for you?
- How can we serve you?