With over 48 million people in rural America, there is an emerging movement to plant churches in rural areas. As more people and resources move to urban settings, the rural heartland has gradually become under-resourced, overlooked, and often forgotten. Men and women who heed the call to ministry in rural areas often fall off the radar, as they bear the burden alone. Mainstream church-planting resources are often not helpful. Rural church-planting strategies are markedly different from strategies in any other context. How does evangelism and church planting work in a town where everybody knows your name? How can a church planter find resources and mobilize volunteers in the rural context? This track explores those tough questions.
Donnie Griggs was born and raised in a small town called Morehead City, in coastal North Carolina, where he planted One Harbor Church. He is also the author of Small Town Jesus. Donnie’s passion is to see churches in small towns and rural areas equipped and empowered to radically engage culture and make disciples. Because of this passion, in addition to leading One Harbor Church, Donnie also travels frequently in the United States and internationally to help strengthen and encourage other church leaders and planters.
Workshop 1: “Dreaming God Sized Dreams for A Small-Town Church”
Workshop 2: “Leading a Church Full of Good Local Missionaries”
Matt Griswold is the Lead Pastor of Connexion in Mt. Vernon, IL. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has been married for 14 years to Mary. They have two daughters, Emma and Lydia. Matt has learned first hand the benefits of discipleship and mentoring. Prior to Matt becoming the Lead Pastor, he was the Worship Leader for the first seven years that Connexion existed. Matt and Mary were a part of building a multiplying disciplemaking culture through Connexion Church that is currently being used to reach their community and grow followers of Jesus. It is their passion to see people experience God’s full potential for their lives, spiritually. The goal of mentoring and discipleship is simple: to pass it on to someone else.
Shannon O’Dell is a devoted husband and father of four. People know him as innovative, inspiring, and committed to reaching out to struggling rural churches and churches with a rural state of mind. He has served Brand New Church as senior pastor for over seven years in Bergman, Arkansas, a small community of just over 400 people.
Brand New Church has grown from 31 to 2000 members with 7 campuses, network churches, and an online campus under Shannon’s leadership. He is the author of “Transforming Church in Rural America” and “At The Table.”
Workshop 1: “Transforming Church in Rural America”
Workshop 2: “The Call to Rural America”
Chrissy Schaeffer served as the primary researcher on the Rural Matters Report completed by OneHope. She serves with OneHope as a researcher, studying the effectiveness of the ministry’s programs and initiatives. She was born and raised in a small community in Pennsylvania, which is where her passion for raising up children and youth in small rural communities began. Chrissy recently earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in Communications Media from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She, her husband, and daughter now live in southwestern Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh.
Workshop 1: “Condition of Rural Communities”