Mama Caro

Stephanie "Mama" Caro's humorous, straightforward style keeps her busy presenting at conferences, training events, camps, mission trips, retreats, churches, etc. She is Senior Consultant for Ministry Architects and author of "Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches" and "99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker." Her next book, “Ten Solutions (to Ten Common Mistakes Small Churches Make)” comes out in 2015. Stephanie is a contributing author to several ministry resources in addition to her regular column “Smaller Church Youth Ministry” in Group Magazine. Stephanie and her husband, Steve, live in Houston, TX.

(Here’s the 2nd installment from Brent Lacy from his new book, Rural Youth Ministry. Enjoy! – Stephanie)

Article 2) The Value of your Community in Rural Youth Ministry

You won’t be very long in your new place of Rural Youth Ministry before you hear some form of the following statement – “you’re just a transplant; what do you know?” How do you react to such a statement? You may be a seasoned youth worker of many years, but that fact might not be worth much more than rat poop to many in your community,  or even your church!  You’ll gain a lot more buy-in when you have a plan that focuses on preparing for the challenges of your transition.

  • Attitude is everything-Your initial attitude can make or break your time in a rural ministry. In some denominations, you have no say where you go; it’s what you signed on for when you accepted the Call in that denomination. Your assignment there isn’t the fault of the congregation or community members who are a part of your new rural environment.
  • Rural will almost never be the city, deal with it. If you’re coming into a rural setting after serving or living in an urban or suburban community, please realize that rural ministry is not the city, nor will not ever become the city (in 99.99999 of situations), so don’t try to make it the city. The same utilities, stores, restaurants, attitudes, or leadership that you had in the larger population may not be available in your new setting. It doesn’t make your new community a bad place, just different.
  • The Lie of “Blank Slate.” In most rural areas, you’re not the first person to do youth ministry in your community. You may be the first paid youth worker in your church history (which I am), but not the first youth worker ever.  Don’t buy into the well-intentioned lie of “you have a blank slate here.” Someone has done youth ministry that has impacted your church’s perspective toward youth ministry. This can be either very good or very bad.

If you are ministering in your hometown…Perhaps you’re a youth worker living and serving in your hometown. Maybe you never left—or you moved away and came back to serve in a church where
you grew up. Once I interviewed for a position in the church I attended growing up and it
was the hardest interview of my life! It wasn’t the questions that made it so tough. No, the
biggest hurdle was the internal mind game I played of “the people in this room have known me since I was in diapers, and they want to hire me?”  There are good situations that can come from serving in your home church. You have an edge: an understanding of the history of the area and church that other “outsider” youth workers don’t have.

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  • Tom Shriver says:

    This is a great post, Stephanie! My last Church was a rural Church and I bought into the “Blank Slate” idea because…well…my pastor told me I had one! But you’re right – you never – ever – really have a blank slate. There’s always something someone has done/not done that people will be happy to fill you in on after a month or two (or maybe your first day).

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