All Small Towns are not Created Equally

Communication is always tricky. Even for those who speak the same language we also have to account for so many variables that you wonder sometimes if we're even speaking the same language. It's about context. In the ministry world the word "context" is one that we use and bat around like a volleyball at the beach. However, when it comes down to the specific applications of it is where it gets sticky.

Next week is our Small Town Church Planting online meet-up. The assumption is that we all know what small towns are or even their overall caricature and culture. Therefore when we both say "small town" we mean the exact same thing, right? As one who grew up in America's Heartland I should know what small towns are and the dynamics that shape life in these communities, especially since I grew up in a town of 2,400 people. Right?

But that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Context truly is everything.

When I think, say, talk about, or use the word "small town" I no longer think in terms of small town middle-America. You know, with nice people, a quaint downtown, and the community is surrounded by farms. Instead, when I think of small towns I think mostly of declining mining communities in Arizona. Or I think of colonias close to the Mexican border. What's the difference? Lots.

When I think of small towns I think of communities that are pushing 50% poverty rate. I'm mindful of economic decline usually tied to loss of jobs in resource extraction (i.e. mining). I think of communities in need or a turnaround. That sounds like a lot of communities across the continent. The point? The context is always the hinterlands. Meaning, places and communities that are struggling ... could be from poverty, job loss, lack of resources, loss of services and amenities, shuttered buildings, low self-esteem and more. These are the kinds of places where we want to send intrepid church planters and entrepreneurs.

Next week when we jump into our online meet-up let's be mindful of these differences. Even more so let's share and hear stories about the various contexts represented. Let's also collectively talk and explore about a new way forward for church planting and creative startups in these kinds of communities.