I have served in a few small rural churches. I have had conversations with many rural pastors. Some have healthy, thriving churches. Others are in communities that are very small, and so the church is very small as well. This means that they have a hard time paying a pastor, and if they do, the salary is quite low.
I have been wondering for a while if some of these rural churches would benefit from joining up with some neighboring churches to form one church with multiple sites in multiple small communities. I am serving a small church right now. There is a small church in a very small community about thirty minutes away that has no pastor presently. Another 30 minutes or so down the road is another small community with a church that has been dwindling, and also does not have a pastor right now with no idea how they can afford their next one.
What if churches like this joined together? Not into one congregation but as one church serving three small communities. The one church can afford a pastor, though the salary is very low. The other two do not have a pastor. What if the churches formed one church that could then hire 2 pastors to serve all three churches. They could share finances and share resources.
Here are some benefits I see.
1. You could have a lead pastor to do most of the preaching, set the direction, and work with the leadership of each site.
2. A system would be worked out to have the lead pastor at each site in person at least twice a month on a Sunday. Service times could be adjusted to allow for the pastor to preach in person at two of the sites each Sunday. Video format could be used for the off Sundays. Or, a layperson, or a second pastor could preach on those off Sundays.
3.Each site would have their own elected leadership. They would each meet separately to discuss local issues one month and then a few from each leadership board would meet the alternating month to discuss the big picture. Finances would all flow into one bucket. Each site would build their budget and these three would then be part of making up the larger budget.
4. If you had enough finances to afford a second pastor, you could now determine how best to staff. Maybe you would hire someone to be in charge of Children and Youth Ministry at each site. You could, at least occasionally, meet with all the youth from each site for events. Or maybe you could hire some part-time people to be site pastors but who would also serve the larger church in an area they were gifted in (serving as a Worship Pastor, or Small Groups Pastor, etc.).
5. This would allow for an ongoing presence in each of these small towns, still serve the church and equip and encourage them in reaching their community, and the shared resources would provide the pastoral care they needed.
I am really curious if anyone has an example of this working somewhere. If you do, please email me and let me know how it works.