Faith in Rural Communities
A significant number of North Carolina’s 80 rural counties are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, with many facing compounding issues of aging populations, out-migration of youth, and worsening health outcomes.
Despite these troubling facts, rural communities are rich in assets. Recent research suggests some young adults are likely to return to rural areas to raise a family and be part of a tight-knit community. The key to attracting those individuals — and keeping those who have stayed — is engaged community institutions and visionary local leadership.
Rural faith communities are uniquely positioned to be those institutions and to provide that leadership.
Thanks to a five-year grant from The Duke Endowment, the Rural Center is working to build more economically-dynamic and socially-inclusive communities in rural North Carolina by partnering with United Methodist churches.
The Faith in Rural Communities initiative will initially partner with 64 Methodist churches throughout the state to assess their congregational assets and opportunities for community engagement. A smaller subset of congregations will then receive in-depth coaching and leadership training to develop local outreach projects that support community growth and nurture laity and pastoral leadership in rural communities.
The work with selected congregations will result in high-impact mission projects developed to benefit the economic health and social wellbeing of the local communities, while also enhancing congregational life within the churches and increase overall church vitality.