One rural reality that seems to be overlooked is mission and service. Often, denominational bodies continue to push mission as this singular thing a church does. For a while it was going on a mission trip, and then “big event” missions, and then it is regular service as a group in the community. However, if you just ask people in your congregations, they are likely already doing service and missions. They may just not call it that.
Many formally volunteer at local hunger ministries, elementary schools, meals on wheels, the senior center, the hospital or elsewhere. Many others are just apt to respond to a need. They help a elderly neighbor with yardwork, sit with someone who has been sick, share from their garden, farm, or hunts and so much more. Then, there are the special offerings and collections that happen.
While we want people to be in service, money and specific asks are often more crucial. An agency or person may not need twenty people, but high quality paper plates and cash to bulk buy food are desperately needed. On top of that, churches are regularly coordinating things like Blood Drives, laundry days, book and reading programs, and community events that they may not call a mission.
We have to better figure out how to identify and lift up the everyday service and mission, because regularly the denominational language comes across as “this is the only way to do service and your mission is not good enough.” Moreover, the word “mission” is still, in most spaces seen as a “go do elsewhere” and if it’s local, it’s service or just “doing for people,” “helping people,” or “helping the community.”
We need to let people define their realities regardless of what organizations and agencies want to prescribe. People in rural areas are imitating Christ, regardless of whether it meets specific guidelines.