Most people know that my husband and I have known each other our whole lives, as we both attended the same tiny, small-town church. Flash forward about 31 years, and we're still at the same church (well, most of the time) - and everything is pretty much the same, only everyone has gotten older. We have 25 people or so on Sunday morning, a little handful that are willing and able to teach, preach and coordinate, and no children except for my two girls. As you can imagine, this is more than a little frustrating.
This is why - although I am in no position of ministry - I was attracted to Shannon O'Dell's new book, Transforming Church in Rural America. The back cover explains that it will help you to "experience the blueprint for transforming into effective, dynamic, and thriving churches - no matter where the location or how small it may be."
O'Dell writes in a wonderfully conversational style - much like sitting down for a chat with an old friend. I adore his sense of humor and his biographical anecdotes. He tells the story of being called to a rural church, not wanting to go, and trying to get out of it...then reversing his attitude to accept Christ's purpose in his life and working to grow his new church in Arkansas. Today, Brand New Church has a congregation of thousands, with several campuses and followers via satellite in several countries. The story of this church's growth is amazing, and you'll read all about it in this book.
However, it did seem more biographical than informational to me. Sure, there are insightful tips and words of wisdom that would apply to growing any church...but many of them were repeated throughout the book, and I'll admit that I got a little bored with it about halfway through.
If you are in a position of leadership and have vision for your rural church - which is one of the key ingredients to growth, according to O'Dell - then this book is certainly worth a read. His is obviously a success story, and there are many great web links scattered throughout the book that would provide even more information.
However, if you are not a church leader, or if your little church is resistant to change (as are many) or just doesn't have people willing to work toward that change...you may be left as I was, with wonderful new ideas but no practical way to implement them.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in return for an honest, objective review on my blog. I honestly want to give the book a five-star rating because I really enjoyed the read and am amazed and inspired by the pastor's attitude and vision for his own church...but the repetition just bothered me a little. Sorry, Shannon.