Many times the church in rural America has been perceived as having very little potential for growth, and pastors have not desired to pastor there for that reason. The desire behind this project is to help churches and pastors to begin to see both the growth potential for the rural church and to help define some options for that growth to happen. While in many rural areas the population continues to decline as it has for the last one hundred years, there does seem to be growth beginning to happen in rural areas within thirty miles of the larger cities.
This project studies theological, historical and biblical understandings of the church to help establish the belief that all churches should grow, even those located in areas of population decline, like the rural church. Theological and biblical understandings of the Kingdom of God are studied as well, to help develop the concept of this Kingdom, of which the rural church is a part. The rural church needs to understand that it is part of something larger that must grow to accomplish God's purposes on this earth. While there are some unique characteristics for churches in the rural context, growth is still possible and needs to be a part of the direction for the rural church.
Through studying seven rural churches in the State of Michigan, five ministry principles were discovered for rural churches. Also, five options for rural churches were delineated and procedures for following those options were discussed. The churches answered surveys and were visited; the pastors were interviewed to help determine the results mentioned. There are some specific methods for assessment for churches and two of them are listed. Also the methods for selection of these options for growth were determined.
The principles and options were specifically applied to Edgewood Church of God and the results of those procedures were then evaluated. These principles and these options for growth are applicable to other rural churches. Space is given to the perception of those outside rural ministries toward the rural church and rural pastors.