Rural Development Requires Spiritual Development

Image from the USDA Communities of Faith and Opportunity Playbook

When I first learned about this “USDA grant opportunity” that had chosen Bucklin, I was skeptical. I know that throwing money at a problem doesn’t fix the problem, and I didn’t know if the USDA knew that. Then they appointed me as Quarterback the day before the initial meeting with Mike Beatty, Director of the Office of Partnership and Public Engagement.

I went into that meeting not fully knowing what we were getting into and without a concrete agenda, because I didn’t even really know the goal of this meeting. I was tossed in the deep end, but I didn’t drown! I’m not sure you could call what I did “swimming”, but we’re getting there.

This whole initiative is first about getting local individuals thinking about and investing themselves in developing their communities, and then connecting them with grant and microloan opportunities to help. The really cool piece is that the USDA recognized the need to engage the local church first. “They”(someone at the government level) recognized that these kinds of initiatives are far more successful when people of faith, the Church, are involved and leading the way.

I had the pleasure of sharing about this project on the local radio station this morning with “Big Erv” and, my colleague, Michael Shank of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Like I shared on the air, you can paint a house and make it look good, but if you don’t fix the broken foundation, it will still fall down. Spiritual development is a key component in rural development.

Audio recorded by Daniel Riegerix listening to 99.1 KDWD Marceline October 10, 2019

(Sorry, there is a brief chunk in the middle that went silent. Technical difficulties on the recording end.)

I have often heard people in rural ministry say things like, “Our community isn’t growing, so our church can’t grow either.” This is no excuse for not engaging in vital ministry in our rural areas. Rural ministry may look different than ministry in any other area. It may involve rural development strategies, grant applications, and fund management.

Some of the grant and loan opportunities that are available to our areas require 501c3 agencies as the applicant/grantee. Hmm…do you know anyone in your area with a Non-profit 501c3 status? Why, yes, yes you do!

But available rural development funding is not being brought into your area because churches aren’t engaging in that kind of ministry.

This is not something I learned about in seminary, but that’s ok because, as a pastor, my job is to equip the lay people for ministry. And, as a Methodist Deacon my job is to connect the Church with the needs and opportunities for ministry in our communities and the world. I am so excited to see what God does with our faithful response to this initiative in Bucklin and other areas too!

BEFORE you get started in any of this, I highly recommend you and anyone who will partner with you read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself by Steven Corbett and Brian Fikkert. You need the solid, Biblically grounded foundation provided in this book if you are going to successfully engage in rural development ministry together with your community.

If you have questions or would like to learn more, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to visit with you or meet with your congregation about engaging in rural development focused ministry.

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