I am convinced that Matthew must have been a “southerner.” All you have to do is read Matthew chapter 1 to prove he was concerned with genealogy. We southerners are acutely aware of “WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?” In small communities, which in our case involves our county, we must be clear on the genealogy factor. You must assume that everyone is related by birth, by marriage or that everyone just plain old knows each other by associations. This one fact should guide what you say about folks who do not attend your church as well as those who do. What you say carries weight and you don’t want to injure your ability to reach, to keep, or to teach.
I have found that outside involvement is crucial to the advancement of my name and the church’s name in and amongst the folks in our county. Because of my willingness to do what is needed for others, I have been approached to help the county hospital, Dept. of Human Services, Health Dept., County Child Advocacy Council, the Boy Scouts etc. I mention those because it is necessary for people in these organizations to know your character. They need to know that you can work well with others. That you come on time to meetings. That you have ideas and skills to help their organization and the community. Be known as a “go to” person. Whether it is to lead or to be a helper, be concerned and enthusiastic. You will increase in many ways by building relationships outside your four walls. We are now able to place point of sale displays in the county hospital that tell their patients that we have healing teams available. We are allowed to teaching biblical healing in the chapel of the hospital. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you are available, friendly and helpful.
Cooperating with the other local ministers also plays a part in the overall picture of how you will be perceived as a leader. How you are perceived whether true or false becomes your reality. Like it or not. You will find challenges in doctrines and personalities but love always wins in the end.
Improve and keep up your property. It will be another source of how you are evaluated by those interested in your church as well as the community. Because of our remodel, we were used by the County for Circuit Court for nine months while the county courthouse was being remodeled. We were allowed to make an announcement for our church to all the 125 perspective jurors every month for the nine months that they used our building. The opportunity to pray for a sick man occurred one day resulting in a miracle in front of all those folks. Free publicity can come at unexpected times in ways not foreseen in advance.
We have also opened our church to be used by the County Extension Office for Seminars, the local hospital for healthcare events and by the Health Department for Health Fairs. I am included on the county hospital’s website in a video that was used to help obtain grant money for rural health care. The video can be viewed at bwwmh.com—look at the bottom left of the homepage under Tombigbee Healthcare Video.
Down South, “who your people are” is a very important part of who you are. Getting out into the community and just having a sincere interest in others goes a long way in a small town. You can’t stay within your four walls and be very effective in a small town. Folks want to know that you honestly care about them and about the area you now call home. “Home is where your heart is” more than just a saying; it is the most important key to small town ministry. You can’t act like you are just passing through. It needs to be that you have come to stay.