As rural America continues to undergo massive economic and demographic shifts, rural churches are uniquely positioned to provide community leadership. Leading a rural congregation requires a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing these communities, as well as a strong theological and community-focused identity. Allen T. Stanton describes how in establishing this identity, rural leaders build a meaningful and vital ministry.
Reclaiming Rural explores the myths and realities of rural places, and how those common narratives impact the leadership of rural churches. Ultimately, rural congregations must practice a contextual understanding of vitality, which understands both the strengths and challenges of leading in a rural setting.
Arguing for a practice of evangelism imbued with this mission of vitality, Reclaiming Rural promotes the church as a leader in economic and community development, modeled upon a Wesleyan theology of grace. Acknowledging the many challenges facing rural churches, this book is an energetic and encouraging guide to overcoming social and economic obstacles to build a thriving congregation.
Rev. Allen T. Stanton is the executive director of the Turner Center at Martin Methodist College and an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. Previously, he has served as the pastor of a small-membership rural church in North Carolina, and as the Rural Faith Communities Fellow at the Institute for Emerging Issues, a public-policy think-tank at North Carolina State University.
Chapter 1 - Reclaiming the Narrative
Chapter 2 - Reclaiming Vitality
Chapter 3 - Reclaiming Evangelism
Chapter 4 - Reclaiming Our Theological Goals
Chapter 5 – Reclaiming Practice
Chapter 6 – Reclaiming a Future
Reclaiming Rural offers a compelling call for understanding rural churches as essential, yet endlessly varied and diverse, parts of healthy rural communities. As a book that calls for deep engagement in the places we call home—be it our local communities or our theological traditions—Reclaiming Rural is a welcome addition to the growing literature on rural ministry and a call to greater attentiveness right where we are.
Reclaiming Rural is a really valuable book. It should be read not only by those who feel the call to rural ministry but perhaps more importantly to those tasked with leading national and regional denominational bodies. It will be important for such leaders to understand what rural ministry might look like and can look like.
When Allen Stanton writes of rural congregations as anchor institutions, do not take it lightly. Institutions are essential to the ways in which we order our lives, and Stanton’s vision of congregations as trusted local institutions that can lead whole communities into God’s purpose is important.
Reclaiming Rural offers a delightfully direct account revealing the depth of often overlooked gifts from rural communities and congregations. Stanton draws on a wide range of pertinent interdisciplinary studies to inform his candid and wise arguments that push the reader to consider the depth of possibilities.
08/19/2021: The author joined the hosts to discuss the faith leaders in more rural communities can connect to their congregations.
8/10/21, UM News: Stanton's book is mentioned and quoted in this article.
9/3/21, Daily Yonder: The author was featured in an interview on the topic of his book.
10/14/2021, Religion New Service: Allen T. Stanton and his book are featured in a piece about small and midsize membership churches.