Envisioning a future for rural ministry in Mountain Sky in 2050

March 05, 2020
Story submitted by Rebecca Dunagan
Pastor, Evans UMC, Evans, Colorado

Photos submitted by Rev. Chris Carr
District Superintendent, Trinity District
Mountain Sky Conference

I bet you didn’t know that over 80% of churches in the Mountain Sky Conference have average worship attendance under 125 people. Many of these churches are located far off the beaten path in rural communities. I bet you didn’t know that there is a United Methodist church in Montana that boasts a membership that constitutes 10% of the population of their entire town. Vital ministry in rural communities looks very different than in suburban or urban areas. 
From February 7 to 9, a group of about 20 pastors and a lay leader met together at Fort Morgan United Methodist Church in Fort Morgan, Colorado to dream of the future of United Methodist ministry in rural communities.
Over the course of three days, this group reflected on the unique challenges as well as the distinct blessings that come with serving in rural areas. These are definitely the people you want to hear their funniest ministry stories!
The group shared ideas and participated in a series of creative visioning exercises about what vital ministry in rural churches could look like in the next thirty years. Want a hint? It may mean that we move out of the sanctuary and into the natural community spaces like bars, schools, and hospitals. It also may mean that we use our buildings more to provide shelter, food, and housing to people in rural communities and that we worship through serving.
 Too often we come to a place and think, “If only we’d seen this coming and planned accordingly.” This group worked to make space for innovative responses to the challenges facing rural churches so that we maintain our United Methodist presence in our rural communities across our conference.

Stay tuned for more to come as we move into a discussion with more rural churches, pastors, and laypeople in an effort to proactively prepare for a vibrant, creative, transformative church not only for today, but also for 2050 and beyond.