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Backroads in Rural Ministry

March 5 - April 9, 2019

Registration Fee: $60 (includes 0.5 CEU, please see CEUs tab below for information on how to earn 1 CEU)
Instructor: Dr. Jonathan LeMaster-Smith

The roads of rural ministry travel a world grappling with complex issues. Loss of industry, population shifts, and community disruptions dot the landscape of rural life. This six-week webinar series explores the nuances, struggles, and opportunities within the fields of rural ministry. Each webinar builds on the previous one and comes with suggested readings, exercises, and next steps for ministry. Webinars take place each week on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. Central Time.

Week 1: Defining the “Rural” in Rural Ministry

The rural United States is a diverse place with many different types of community. This webinar explores the variety of rural communities in the United States. Every community is unique, but there are some issues that experts deem “durable.” They tend to pop up in many places and often shift the landscapes of rural ministry.

Week 2: We’re Not There to “Save” the Rural Church

Many rural communities hope their new church staff, whether they are pastors, outreach coordinators, or youth ministers, will be their salvation. This webinar rethinks rural ministry as a communal process of searching the countryside for the possibilities for renewal and resurrection, within the contemporary issues.

Week 3: Learning the Flow of Your Ministry

While churches claim to want significant change that will set a new trajectory for their community, they often do not know what that means. The same is true for rural ministry folk who face this daunting task. Learning the ebbs and flows of rural communities and ministries is crucial. The key components of this webinar are listening, collaborating, and confessing with the community.

Week 4: Rural Heritage and Fertile Ground for New Life

Rural communities often cling to their heritage in ways more hindering than catalyzing. A rethinking of heritage in light of a theology of resurrection creates the potential for a new model of rural ministry. Heritage and hope, the themes of this webinar, become the nutrients for new growth in the rural communities.

Week 5: The Lonely Stretches

Many people in rural ministry find it isolating and draining. For persons in very remote ministry settings, the isolation is often worse. Certain myths of ministry still linger, and they often do harm for those in ministry and their community. This webinar explores the causes of isolation and exhaustion in ministry and offers some creative solutions to these problems.

Week 6: Rural Improvisation and Creation

Prescribed plans for ministry often encounter bumps in the road (and sometimes major potholes). Embracing improvisation over standardization allows for creative and connectional ministries. Learning deal with the potholes and to expect the surprises are the focus of this final webinar.

Jonathan LeMaster-SmithJonathan LeMaster-Smith is a graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary with a PhD in Christian Education and Congregational Studies. The focus of his work over the past ten years has been rural ministry, particularly after the loss of industry in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He lives is Western North Carolina with his wife, Rev. Shannon LeMaster-Smith, a Deacon in The United Methodist Church. He serves on staff at Oak Hill United Methodist Church in Morganton, NC, as the Director of Connectional Ministries. He also serves as adjunct faculty for several institutions including Garrett-Evangelical. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, spending time with his family, and cooking. Also, he once had a pet snapping turtle.

Participants who attend all six webinars (or view the recording between March 5-April 12, 2019) will receive 0.5 CEUs as a part of the regular registration fee of $60.

Partipants who like to receive 1 CEU may do so by attending all six webinars (or view the recording between March 5-April 12, 2019), reading the book, God's Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church, and writing a 3-4 page response paper. The directions for the paper will be shared closer to the start of the offering. The registration fee for the 1 CEU option is $85 and you will need to purchase the book separately.