Monday, October 11, 2010
Book Review: Transforming Church in Rural America
Transforming Church in Rural America
By Shannon O'Dell
New Leaf Press, 2010
English, 200 pages
Small church buildings dotting the countryside are home to ministries that often struggle with limited attendance, no money, and little expectation that change can revitalize their future. In Transforming Church in Rural America, Pastor Shannon O'Dell shares a powerful vision of relevance, possibility, and excellence for these small churches, or for any ministry that is stuck in a rural state of mind. The book reveals: how to generate growth through transformed lives; ways to create active evangelism in your community; no-cost solutions for staffing challenges, enhancing the worship experience, and inspiring volunteers. Focusing on vision, attitude, leadership, and innovation, you can learn the practical strategies and biblical guidance that helped to grow a church of 31 into a multi-campus church of several thousand, with a national and global outreach. Discover effective structure and ways to cast God-given vision so others can follow and make an impact. Experience the blueprint for transforming into effective, dynamic, and thriving churches - no matter where the location or how small it may be.
I want to start off by saying: I am a pastor's wife. We serve a "small rural church". However, if you look at statistics across the nation, we serve a "normal, average sized church" in a small community.
Some of the points in the book are valid. A "small" church does have to grow in order to not disappear over the years. That's just a basic fact of life. Your members are going to pass away. I haven't met one person yet who isn't going to die someday.
That being said, I was put off by the tone at the beginning of the book. I understand that the author is telling how his ideas were changed, but he comes across as really down on rural American small churches. The stories he tells about his first months/years in the church however are not un-common. Everyone has their favorite pew.
To me, it sounds like the author was disappointed to be called to a small church and then proceeded to try to change it into the large church he was initially wanting. The statement "I was also learning - valuable lessons, learning what they never tell you about rural ministry: ...and I was never told that, as a rural pastor, I was going to be hated" makes me sad. It makes me sad that the description of his former congregants is that hateful. It makes me sad that so much church history was demolished over a few pews.
I do like the 5 keys to ministry in a small church: Vision, Attitude, Leadership, Understanding and Enduring Excellence. I also like that he addresses these in not only the church setting, but in the life and home of the pastor.
All in all, it's a worth-while read for a pastor and other leaders of "small" churches. There is so much that can be gleaned from the pages.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review from BookSneeze. No additional compensation was received and I was only required to write an honest review. All opinions are my own.