It all started out fairly harmless a few years back. I was invited to a breakfast with Michael Gatlin, national director of Multiply Vineyard, along with a few regional Vineyard pastors. Michael shared his crazy vision of 750 church plants in 10 years. He painted a great picture and asked us to pray about committing. Then came my question: what about small towns and rural America? I had been looking at the VineyardUSA map and noticed lots of wide open spaces outside of metro areas. Some states that are more rural in nature had 1 Vineyard (hello West Virginia) while others simply had none (hello North Dakota). I asked Michael what could be done to help this disturbing fact? Would a conference help wave the flag of small town USA church planting?
He said yes.
And so the journey began.
Not more than a year passed after that initial meeting until we had our first Small Town Vineyard conference. Fifty Five folks showed up to Southeastern Ohio from over eleven states. Places like Missouri, Colorado, and Wisconsin were represented by pastors and church planters. Ross Nelson from Northern Wisconsin taught us about the importance of relationships and contextualizing our ministry for small towns. Jim Egli, from the Champaign-Urbana IL Vineyard, taught on how to do multi-sites in small towns. Michael Gatlin, national director of Multiply Vineyard, and Tony Webb, of Vision Ohio, showed up to bring their insights to our roundtable discussion. And I shared about my first church plant in rural NW Ohio and also why we should plant in small towns.
The results? Well immediately we had folks tell us at the conference that it was the first church planting event where they felt understood. Everything was scaled for small town and churches of 50-100 instead of metro areas and mega-churches. One attendee, Ronnie Higuera, solidified his call to leave the worship pastor position at his church and start a multi-site in a small town.
Since then a partnership has been formed, coaching triads have started up, blogs written, and every other month webinars established. But it all started with conference.
We thought you might enjoy watching the sessions from that first conference. You’ll find the links below:
In this first session Joel shares his own story as well as answering the question of why should we even plant in small towns.
In session 2 Ross Nelson shares about the ins and outs of planting in rural America.
Jim Egli teaches the basics of starting a multi-site in Small Town USA.
In session 4 Ross goes deeper into what it takes to plant a church in a small town vs. what it may look like in a big town.
Jim Egli goes into the nuts and bolts of what it takes to do a multi-site style church.
This session features a panel discussion with Michael Gatlin, Tony Webb, Ross Nelson, and Jim Egli with Joel Seymour moderating.
More panel discussion and Q&A this time moderated by Malcolm Lanhem, a missional community leader in the village of Bremen, OH.
About the author
Joel Seymour is beloved child of God, the husband of Kristi, the father of 3 great kids, and the lead pastor of the Lancaster Vineyard. Although Lancaster is a mid-sized town, his first church plant was in a town of 5,000. He serves on the team of the Small Town Vineyard Partnership and as an Area Leader for Vineyard USA. His particular Area is mainly comprised of villages, small towns, and rural areas. He can be reached through Twitter @JoelSeymour or via email [email protected]