The Son of a Small Town
Words of encouragement to those in small town ministry
The city limit sign that you see when entering Susanville, CA is misleading, to say the least. Out of the 17,500 people that are considered residents of Susanville, over 11,000 are inmates at one of two correctional facilities just outside of town.
As the son of a prison guard, I grew up in this small town.
I was born at the tiny hospital on Hospital Ln. On snow days in mid-January, I joined my parents in shoveling the snow off of the roof of our home and then invited my friends over to jump off into the piles of deep powder below. I graduated from the local school district where I took classes from teachers who once taught my own parents when they were in school. I went to the local junior college after graduation and worked as a delivery guy for the only furniture store in town to help cover the cost of books & tuition. I grew up and married a girl from that same small town… our high school valedictorian and daughter of my family’s dentist.
I am the son of a small town.
I think back to my home church, pastored by two men who were also full-time teachers at our local high school, and I can’t help but wonder where I’d be without them. I didn’t grow up in the Church and only attended a church after an 8th grade friend of mine bugged me enough to go to youth group with him. At church, I found people who accepted me as a part of their family and men who took me under their wings and taught me much of what I know about leadership and integrity.
As a high school student, those men allowed me to be in inner-circle discussions about the future of our church – the facility we would rent, the ways we might reach out into our community, the direction of our youth group and even the content of our Sunday morning service. They gave me my first internship (for $50/month) and launched me into vocational ministry. Every time that I speak at a conference, write an article for others to read, run a large event at church or lead a child to Christ, I think back to my own small town beginnings and wonder if other small town pastors know the impact that they’re making on the Kingdom.
So, today, I just want to take a moment to say thanks to the small town pastors out there. My home church had 40 people on a busy Sunday and never had a full-time person on staff. Yet, because they invested in a student that they saw potential in, the impact of their ministry has grown exponentially, children & families outside of their small town have come to know Jesus, and the Kingdom of Heaven has gotten a little bigger.
And, as a shout out to small town pastors who are investing in the Kingdom, I met a guy this last year who works his tail off to resource small town children’s ministry leaders. His name is Jared Massey and he writes over at www.smalltownkidmin.com. This shout out is completely unsolicited. He’s just a great guy who you should check out.
Today, I’m thankful for Jon Westfall and Jon Archer – my pastors, teachers, mentors and friends.
If you’re reading this today, I’d encourage you to thank the people who have pastored you along your journey. And, if you’re doing ministry in a small town, find a young person to invest in – I look forward to learning from them one day.