What You Don’t Know About Rural America: 3 Common Misconceptions

The physical presence of a church and its spiritual impact are not the same thing.

Many of us are busy. So much so that we rush from one thing to the next having failed to stop and assess whether or not our thoughts and beliefs match the current reality. As the president of an international children’s ministry, I am constantly bombarded by statistics and facts and challenged by the perspectives and paradigms of others.

Over the last several years, our team here at OneHope has dived into understanding one of the fastest-growing areas of need in the U.S.—the role of the Church in rural America. Here are the three most common misconceptions that have emerged from our research and conversations, with a takeaway that helped me reframe my perspective on this fast-emerging ministry space.

Misconception #1: Rural America is homogenous in place, people, and thought.

The media, especially post-election, stereotypes rural America as an easily identified place populated by a set of like-minded people. Summing up their sensibilities in a 30-second sound bite is grossly oversimplified and typically unflattering.

Yet the rural American reality is highly nuanced. Fifteen percent of Americans live on 72% of the land. The vastness of the geography alone multiplies the realities and identities of the people who live there. The complexity and diversity of rural areas requires an acute understanding of the cultural heterogeneity of its residents as well as the disparate economic, political, environmental, and historical influences that shape them.

There are stark differences among rural sections of America. In some parts of the country, scenic rural counties are retirement and vacation destinations—a strange blend of abundant wealth and abject poverty where industrialism is giving way to the service industry. …

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