It is common to stereotype small rural communities as being resistant to accepting women pastors. My experiences in small rural communities has shown the opposite with rural communities accepting and embracing women pastors.
I know that being a male has colored my experiences a bit. However, being a male did automatically granted me entrance into the “locker room” to hear the unfiltered talk of the men. And throughout my experiences I’ve found that small rural communities are accepting of women pastors.
And yes, I’m fully aware that there are rural communities in the nation that don’t accept women pastors…but my point here is that we need to stop believing the stereotype that women cannot pastor in small rural communities. Rather we should encourage women to pursue to Creator King and support them on their call to minister to those living in rural communities.
To show this acceptation, I offer four case studies of women pastors who have had a tremendous impact on their communities.
Case Study #1:
Fairly soon after my wife and I moved to Sweet (a small rural community of about 200 to 300 people), the local United Methodist Church appointed a women pastor to run both the church in Emmett (a town of around 6,000) and in Sweet. Over the years as my wife and I got to know this pastor and members of the congregation, we quickly realized that this women pastor was amazing. She somehow found the time to love and care for people in both communities. I also never heard a negative word about her even though I heard many a negative comment about her male predecessor.
Case Study #2:
Around the same time, the Lutheran Church in a neighboring rural community of about 800 residences appointed a women pastor. This gal, who I sadly did not get to know very well, faithfully served her Lord and community for seven years. From all outward appearances, it would seem that this small community accepted and respected her.
Case Study #3:
This case study is a little closer to home as it concerns the church my wife and I helped start and then later pastored. During our time at the Sweet Vineyard Christian Fellowship, we helped open up the church leadership to women at all levels – a decision that was met with great joy and emotions by the congregation. Later after I moved out of the community, the church selected a woman as their pastor and she is rocking it!
Case Study #4:
I would like to go more historical rather than contemporary for my last case study. In the mid-1900’s, my great-grandmother served as the pastor of a small rural community in the foothills of Ozarks Mountains. While she considered herself a “temporary” pastor (she was, after all, a product of her times), she served in that role for many decades and was, if the stories are correct, very much accepted by the church and the wider community.
Rather than falling prey to the stereotypes, let us encourage people of all genders (women and men) to purse the call of God on their lives to pastor churches in small rural communities. These communities have a lot to offer to the wider world with their focus on family and friends. Their practice of living at a slower pace is also something we all can learn from as this quickly urbanized world seeks to speed up our lives.