Rural pastors — a special calling

With Holy Week and Easter just behind us for another year, I’m thinking of the pastors of our churches around Hamilton County as they take a breath from the planning, scheduling, and executing special services, extra activities, and maybe some special meals like an Easter breakfast for this highlight of the Christian year.

Add to that just the basic, daily, run-of-the-mill caring for their flock that is the life of a small-town pastor, and you know these are busy, involved, dedicated folks who all deserve a break now and then. Especially, perhaps, about now.

I think that all ministers have a unique calling, and in small towns and rural churches it is very special. That’s especially the case now that our population is declining around the countryside and in some of our towns, too, so somehow the ministers are expected to do just as much with fewer people in their congregations. All too often the pastor sees lots of empty pews in the view from the pulpit, I’m afraid, which must be discouraging at times.

It used to be that little town churches were the centers of their communities, socially and spiritually. But now our culture has shifted away from that. Families no longer automatically look for a church when they move into a new community. And often, for whatever reasons, Sunday has become a secular day of rest, a chance for families to kick back without any responsibilities away from home. “I’m so-o-o busy,” is the commonly heard rallying cry, alternating with the standard “I’m so-o-o tired.”

All that makes the job of a pastor even more challenging. And not many small churches have a ministerial staff, as is often the case in big city mega-churches.

Being a pastor in a little town means being on call 24/7. Not only are they the spiritual leader of their congregation, they can be leaders in their community as well. Often, they are a minister to everyone in town, not just those in their congregation. They perform weddings and funerals, baptize, preach, maybe lead the choir and print the weekly bulletins, neaten up the church, maybe scoop the church sidewalks and mow the lawn, unlock the doors on Sunday mornings, turn up the heat or air conditioning in time, teach a Sunday School class or two, lead Bible study, call on shut-ins and the hospitalized from their congregation and their communities, attend board and committee meetings.

Add that’s not even adding in Advent and Holy Week.

For all their contributions – secular and spiritual – to the fabric that makes up our little town, I encourage you to thank a pastor whenever you can.