Rural churches

FINDING NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
THROUGH THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY

Author
Carolyn Fenner Moss D.Min.
Abstract
This Doctor of Ministry project explores the relationship between Christian community and new technologies in the context of a small, rural, family based Presbyterian congregation. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced technology usage to Slippery Rock Presbyterian Church. This paper describes the demographic, economic and historical context of the congregation. Then, it explores definitions of Christian community, with an emphasis on boundaries that shape Christian communities. It continues considering Old and New Testament Scriptures as they relate to community formation. Finally, the paper presents a project that examined the potential formation of Christian community using a devotional study presented on a Facebook group during Advent 2021.

The Loss of Baptist Identity: How the Loss of the Baptist Name Impacts Theological Identity

Author
Josiah Hoagland D.Min.
Abstract
Throughout the United States, many Baptist churches have been following a recent trend of dropping “Baptist” from the church title. Research has shown that with the rise of post-denominationalism, there is a loss of identity in Baptist churches. This study explores the effects of dropping the name Baptist from a church’s title and its perceived impact on the theological identity of the church. This study includes a literature review analyzing the current body of literature on Baptist identity. Six Converge North Central Baptist churches were studied, three with a Baptist name and three without, using church surveys and interviews with church leaders to determine what theological differences exist between the two categories. The results of the study showed theological differences between the two categories; however, further research, including a quantitative analysis of Baptist churches spanning a broader region of the United States, would be helpful in determining catalysts for Baptist churches dropping the Baptist name.

A study on the revitalization of local church through environmental missions : focusing on ecumenical ecology

Author
Gwang Sub Lee
Abstract
". . . . Can Jeonnong Methodist Church be established as a green community church that accepts the environmental crisis and responds to it as an essential issue of faith? And can this environmental practice become a valid tool for communicating with the church's surrounding region? Then will the church show a way to move forward as a village church? The three mission theologies discussed in this paper are suggested as methods to overcome this problem. The first is ecumenical mission theology. This theology is used as the perspective for looking at environmental and ecological problems. The second is "Laudato si'", written by Pope Francis. The integrated ecology presented in "Laudato si'" gives a deep insight into practical theology with a strong foundation in spiritual theology. The third is the village ministry theory, which has recently been spotlighted as a natural result of local ecumenism. Environmental faith inherently aims for recovery by using communication and harmony. These three theological frameworks allow an assessment of whether green faith can be implemented through practical theology and missiology. . . ." -- Leaf [2].

Developing a Church Health Strategy for First Baptist Church, Lake Providence, Louisiana, to Address Rural Depopulation

Author
Justin D Clark
Abstract
The purpose of this project was to develop a church health strategy for First Baptist Church, Lake Providence, Louisiana, to address rural depopulation. A demographics study of East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, provided evidence of rural depopulation around Lake Providence. Research into strategy models of healthy churches determined a list of best practices of those models. With the help of a strategy development team, a church health strategy that addresses the realities of rural depopulation was developed and presented to First Baptist Church, Lake Providence, Louisiana, for approval. The project's evaluation methods included expert evaluators for the demographic study, the best practices of church health, and the church health strategy presented. Additionally, the strategy development team provided an evaluation of the strategy development process. The project director utilized the strategy model for this project.

The Sanctified Journey: Labyrinths and Gospel Contemplation in a Wesleyan Context

Author
Matthew R.J. McEwen D.Min.
Abstract
Spiritual formation is the process of following Jesus and how we become like him. Although some view this process as a linear experience, the pattern of a labyrinth is another way to describe this spiritual journey. The image of a labyrinth is not only used as the model of spiritual formation, but is also the metaphor employed throughout a spiritual autobiography and a summary of a ministry research project. Research was conducted at Holt Free Methodist Church and involved a small group that had the opportunity to walk a canvas labyrinth while practicing Gospel contemplation. A narrative methodology was used for interpreting the data that was collected through field notes, the use of a denominational survey, and exit interviews. Just as individuals walk a labyrinth at a unique pace, the same result is seen in the practice of Gospel contemplation. The uniqueness of an individual is a key component to the process of spiritual formation. The outcome of this research project resulted in spiritual growth for the researcher, the participants and the congregation in general.

Wellsprings in the wilderness : forming shared ministries as a United Methodist renewal strategy

Author
Kevin R. Conrad
Abstract
In our current situation, named an ecclesial and cultural wilderness, a return to the wellsprings of theology as a source of ecclesial renewal is essential. In the tradition of Wesleyan practical divinity, the project focuses on formation of cooperative parishes as a theologically sound means of reordering the life of the church with the hope of missional renewal. The outcome of the project demonstrates how ecclesial and theological renewal complement each other. The author researched how formation of intentional Christian community can unleash new missional connection and capacity in a rural setting.

[Note about entry: Abstract submitted to the Atla RIM database on behalf of the author. The text appears in its entirety as it does in the original abstract page of the author’s project paper. Neither words nor content have been edited.]

Cultivating God's farm : using agricultural and biblical stories and seasons to re-seed hope in small rural churches

Author
Rebecca Leigh Collison
Abstract
Through linking agrarian, biblical, and small rural church stories from the lens of farming the land, spiritual growth can be initiated and hope restored to the struggling small rural church. This project was conducted through small group study and discussion in small rural churches in a district of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church. Specific attention was given to one small church over a two-year period where qualitative and quantitative growth was realized as the individuals reclaimed their roots in God’s story and planted seeds of hope through rich layers of shared faith and stories.

[Note about entry: Abstract submitted to the Atla RIM database on behalf of the author. The text appears in its entirety as it does in the original abstract page of the author’s project paper. Neither words nor content have been edited.]

REMEMBERING FAITH EXPERIENCES IN THE OSTFRISIAN COMMUNITY AND IMPLICATION IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Author
Jay Allen Johnson D.Min.
Abstract
All spiritual growth is contingent upon remembering the past. Insight has value only
when shared with others. A series of mnemonic devices found in Scripture are keys to maintaining a successful spiritual walk. These methods, proven throughout church history, require diligent retention and dispersal of information in the context of relational support. Ethnographic research in rural Ostfrisian communities indicates that when routinely practiced, these methods form broad spiritual patterns that reflect a deepening commitment to faith issues. This project reveals indicators that assist eidetic recall of spiritual events. Within individual groups, spiritual maturity across the generations can be traced to the consistent practice of these mnemonic devices.

Looking at salvation the visual and material culture of the small church and the community

Author
Barbara Suffecool
Abstract
The purpose of this project was to help congregations and pastors become more aware of and intentional about the impact of the theology of the visual and material objects within the worship space, focusing specifically on small rural churches and their communities. The author used surveys and interviews to ascertain the meaning images held not only for the individual members but also for pastors, visitors, and the congregation as an entity. The project results suggest that pastors need to be open to dialogue with the congregation on the theological impact of images and material objects.

Shifting a small rural congregation's understanding of leadership

Author
Terry Hunt
Abstract
The Shifting a Small Rural Congregation's Understanding of Church Leadership project used the methodology of qualitative research through questionnaires designed to measure the leader's awareness of the qualities and characteristics of a leader. Most congregational leaders would come to an agreement that developing new leaders is a critical responsibility of the local church, yet some United Methodist Churches actually do not have an intentional process where leaders are being developed. The Day-Long Lay Leadership Retreat was expected to train the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline mandated Administrative Committees. This Retreat focused on the leader's job descriptions and responsibility to be trained, to train and entrust others with Christian service.
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