Friday, January 29, 2010

Reaching Postmodern Rural Communities - Part One - Rural Communities are Changing

In the stereotypical rural American community everyone knows everyone and there are lots of interpersonal connections through school, church, and community organizations. In those types of communities, it is common for many people to be related by blood or marriage to a significant portion of the local population. All the natives know the unofficial way of how things get done, which usually has a lot more to do with who you know than any official policies and procedures. Such communities are often more conservative than urban areas. Such communities are normally more respectful of religion in general, though not everyone goes to church. Such communities are normally more Caucasian than urban areas, have lower crime rates and frequently have a lower educational level than the national average. This is the stereotype many people have of rural American communities and, in the past, many aspects of that stereotype were probably accurate.

However, rural American communities are rapidly changing. Though the rural stereotypes can still be found, they are increasingly the minority culture in rural areas. As well-educated and socially active families have grown frustrated with urban life and disenchanted with suburban sprawl, they are increasingly moving to rural areas. Sometimes they are people who once lived in the area who have now moved back. But more often they are urbanites seeking to escape all the problems of urban living. With the advent of computer and Internet technology, urbanites can now live anywhere and still have the same income level they once had to live in the city to attain.

But it is not just the newcomers who are changing the nature of rural communities. The same technology that made it possible for outsiders to move in has also brought the outside world to rural communities. Rural teenagers can now be just as connected and up to date on music, clothing styles and philosophical concepts as their urban counterparts. Rural adults are now exposed to more progressive ideas and concepts than ever before and some of them are buying into these new ideas.

Rural areas have traditionally been the strongholds for religion and faith in American life. But how do these changes in the rural community impact the local church? I will address the impact of these cultural changes on the rural church in my next blog post.


  1. Terry,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. I appreciate receiving them via email and I look forward to the next one. Did you get a chance to read my last sermon? If so, I would appreciate your feedback. Hope to mail a check for Haitian relief to you guys on Monday.

    God bless,


  2. Anxiously awaiting part two.

  3. I like this too.

  4. Pastor Ervin SmithJanuary 29, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    This is good reading. Thank you, Terry.

  5. Dr. Jerry C. WhiteJanuary 29, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    Right on target as I see it from my experience.

  6. Interesting, I live in a community that I left in 1971 and returned to in 2007. Interesting because the same families are very much in evidence. I have long said the internet and its availability is what is bringing the biggest change. When I was a teenager and went into Madison (the big city) I stuck out like a sore thumb, country boy, goes to town. The internet became the great equalizer. Now the country kid dresses, walks, talks, watches, etc, the same as their city cousins. For that matter this even goes beyond state and regional borders.

    Like all other places there are now so many more places to go to meet the social needs of people, the church is becoming irrelevant as a social meeting place.

  7. As we serve on the Western Slopes of the Green Mountains, in the center of a rural community the mix of people can be seen from the folks that have lived here all thier life to the outsiders that have come north to excape the urban sprawl. One thing is clear is a fact not theory. "People are doubting the existance of God" There is are common factors. One has to be technology, however the bigest is the fact that in the 1960's we removed prayer from school. The second common factor, "What you Believe will determine what you Believe."

  8. It is interesting that many think the one of the common denominators for the downgrade in our country is removal of prayer in schools. I began first grade in 1959 in a small one room school in rural southwestern WI. I honestly do not remember every hearing a prayer at school. I believe that when we removed character as a requirement for teachers that we changed the entire dynamic of the learning experience. By this I mean that at one time you had to, at least from the outside, have the appearance of a moral lifestyle. Meaning you could not be living with someone and keep your job. You couldn't hang out at bars and keep your job, etc. Now as long as you are not a pedophile you can pretty much live any way you want and still be a teacher and one of the primary influences on the lives of children.

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