Growing the flock in rural communities
Bill Nelsen, pastor of St. Paul's and Trinity
Lutheran Churches in Gaylord, Minn.,
blesses a farm family with prayers for
a safe harvesting season.
By Maggie Cumings
With welcome baskets in hand, out they went two by two. Their mission? To invite their neighbors to church.
For some members of the outreach teams at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Trinity Lutheran Church, two ELCA congregations in Gaylord, Minn., visiting neighbors on behalf of their congregations was a first-time opportunity.
"It actually turned out to be fun," says David Kahle, a member of Trinity. "It's something you don't usually do, and it's hard to get started. But once you do, it's enjoyable."
While greeting neighbors is the fun part, moving door-to-door in a farming community requires logging in-the-car miles. But members believe it's worth the effort.
Bill Nelsen, pastor of St. Paul’s and Trinity, encourages members of both congregations to see themselves as everyday evangelists. Bible study and an "Evangelism 101" training session are also helpful in equipping members to grow their flock.
"You've also gotta do things a little bit different," says David. And, they do.
Both St. Paul’s and Trinity have a variety of special worship services aimed at the rural and farming community. There's a Tractor Roll-In and Harvest Blessing Service, a Country Western/Blue Grass Service, a Jazz Service featuring the local high school band, and a Rogation Service to bless seeds in the spring.
The Tractor Roll-In and Harvest Blessing is an especially meaningful service for this farming community. At the end of the service, Bill and Jon Anderson, bishop of the ELCA Southwestern Minnesota Synod, blesses each family and their combines with prayers for a safe and successful harvest.
"It's been three years and my combine hasn't broken down yet," says David with a chuckle.
Participation in these services has grown in the past two years. Membership in both congregations is on the rise as is the excitement about God's mission and vision for St. Paul’s and Trinity.
"We believe that we are just at the beginning of our ongoing evangelism efforts," says Bill. The Holy Spirit is at work in southwestern Minnesota, growing God's people into the evangelists God has called them to be.
Maggie Cumings is pastor of Beckville Lutheran Church in Litchfield, Minn., and First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cosmos, Minn. She lives in Litchfield with her husband, Mike, and their daughter, Zoe.