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Our Vision

Our vision is to build socially dynamic and economically vibrant rural faith communities across every town and crossroads in North Carolina.

We believe what is needed for rural churches and communities to thrive and prosper is already there. So, through Connect Church, we locate the powerful intersection between church assets and community opportunities.

Our Faith in Rural Communities Program celebrated its five-year anniversary in 2023. In that time, we have invested more than $400,000 in 55 rural churches, worked directly with 450 parishioners and reached thousands more with projects that have transformed their communities.

Pews in a historic church in the Netherlands

Five Years of Faith in Rural Communities

"We believe that rural churches are the experts and rural people are the experts in their community and the churches are taking that local expertise and tackling challenges."

Dr. Heather Kilbourne, Director of Faith in Rural Communities

Connect Church

Connect Church increases community engagement through coaching, resources, and grant assistance. Participating churches create a team of six to 10 church members who are ready to lead their church’s local missional engagement. These teams meet monthly with a Rural Center coach for one year. The program assists the church in determining their resources, understanding the trends and opportunities in the larger community, and developing a strategic plan for increasing their impact outside the walls of the church.

The application period for our 2025 cohort will open in Fall 2024.

Through partnership with The Duke Endowment and the Lilly Endowment, Faith in Rural Communities works with churches from the mountains to the sea of North Carolina. We have worked with more than 60 churches in the state.

What We Offer

  • Monthly coaching for a team of church leaders
  • Assistance in understanding the community’s and the church’s assets
  • Networking with other churches asking the same questions
  • A grant up to $10,000 for Duke Endowment eligible churches to launch a new or expanded missional engagement project

Community Connect

Community Connect is an 18-month program for churches with the desire and capacity to make an even greater impact on their community. Churches invited to this program identify a need in their community and then form a team of leaders across a broad range of sectors (government, local nonprofits, school board, churches, etc.) to address that need. The team will receive training in collaborative leadership as well as asset-based community development and on-going coaching as they develop a project and work to implement it.

If you have any questions about this program, contact Andrew Hudgins at [email protected].

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Previous Connect Church Participants

  • Alleghany - Grayson UMC Charge, Alleghany County
  • Allensville UMC, Person County
  • Bethany UMC, Dare County
  • Bethesda UMC, Robeson County
  • Big Sandy UMC, Buncombe County
  • Boone Advent Chrisitan Church, Watauga County
  • Boonville UMC, Yadkin County
  • Calvary Memorial UMC, Greene County
  • Centenary Church, Rowan County

Good Neighbor Experiment

The Good Neighbor Experiment is the newest program from Faith in Rural Communities. This program is the result of a partnership with The Neighboring Movement in Wichita, Kansas. It is a four-month learning cohort that takes Jesus' call to love your neighbors literally and seriously. It is designed to help congregations move from inauthenticity to joy, draining program management to relationships, and scarcity to abundance using the tools of asset-based community development.

The program includes:

  • Four weeks of worship service resources (scripture and hymn recommendations, sermon outlines, children's moment illustrations, and more)
  • Fifteen weeks of small group study with practical applications to help the members of your church get to know their neighbors better
  • Monthly coaching with a trained coach while in the program, with access to additional support once you complete the program
  • Invitation to two in-person events with other churches from across the state also participating in the cohort
Black Man scoops food from buffet at a church hospitality dinner.

Creating a place where everyone is welcome

“My big dream is to make the church a friendly, warm place where people can come and feel included and feel wanted and know the love of Jesus. A place where everyone is welcome.”

The Rev. Tracy Schumpert, Western Rockingham Ministry Center

Want to learn more?