CNLP 234: Donnie Griggs on How To Make a Big Difference in a Small Town, What Works and What Doesn’t in Small Communities, and Finding Great Leaders

So many leaders write off small towns and villages as places not worth investing in. Donnie Griggs would beg to differ.

He tells the story of how he planted a church in a town of 9000, only to see it grow to one with 1600-1800 people in small towns and villages. Donnie talks about how to find leaders, surviving the fishbowl and what works and what doesn’t in a smaller setting.

Welcome to Episode 234 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Guest Links

 Donnie Griggs | Facebook | Twitter

One Harbor Church | Small Town Jesus

Episode Links

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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

3 Insights from Donnie

1. Urban-centric idols and the lack of theological and missional clarity are keeping people from small town ministry

Recruiting leaders to minister in small towns isn’t an easy task – and motivating them to stay is even harder. Here’s what Donnie says are the three main things keeping people from small town ministry:

Urban-centric Idolatry: Good coffee, great shopping and the potential for thousands of twitter followers won’t be found in most small towns. Unfortunately, those worldly comforts are keeping many from ministering in less attractive zip codes.

Theological Grid: A theological grid hasn’t been well established. People forget the important connection that Jesus himself was born in a small town, did big things in small towns and sent his disciples to small towns.

Missional Clarity: There’s a massive need for missional movement in small towns. People still have a very simplistic view of these regions – Andy Griffith’s Mayberry town. But in reality, these areas are riddled with addiction, human trafficking, and depression.

2. Admitting imperfection isn’t always embraced in a small town

When a pastor admits to being human, it’s usually well-received and accepted by the church community in a larger suburb or city setting. Church goers like knowing their pastor struggles with the same issues and isn’t trying to be perfect. Being real is refreshing.

But in many small towns, that’s not always the case. Smaller, rural congregations tend to hold their pastors up on pedestals and want to assume they have their lives all together.

If you find yourself in this type of situation, whatever your church setting, it’s important to continue to show them your flaws in an honest, relatable way, even if you’re met with pushback. Keep bringing home the point that there’s only one Jesus and he is definitely not you.

3. God wants you to share the gospel wherever he’s placed you 

If you are struggling with where God has placed you today, don’t lose hope. Remember that God is sovereign and predetermined where you are right now – where you were and whatever’s coming next. You could have been born in anytime in history, anywhere in the world, but he put you where you are right now because that’s where he wants you to be.

Right now where you are has big problems that only Jesus can solve and he wants to use you to do something about them. Consider how you can make the gospel relevant to the people all around you because they need it desperately. God put you there to give it to them.

Quotes from Episode 234

We thought small town America was fine, so we focused on suburbs and cities. There's been 50 or 60 years since people took rural ministry seriously and we can now see the ramifications for that. @TheCarolinaDon Click To Tweet People want to be known of, but they don't want to be known. That's just human nature. You want everybody to like you at a distance. @TheCarolinaDon Click To Tweet It's a challenge to fight to build away from yourself in a culture that wants to build towards you. @TheCarolinaDon Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 234

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Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

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Over the years, one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being a public speaker is having opportunities to hang out with Carey…It’s not a matter of if you’ll run into these challenges; it’s a matter of when. Be prepared by spending a little time with a leader who has already been there.” Jon Acuff, NYT best-selling author

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Next Episode: John Van Pay

John Van Pay’s first decade of ministry didn’t go the way he planned. He was driven and ambitious, but his wife was ready to leave him. That caught John’s attention. He then went on to plant a church with the stated plan of being home 5 nights a week. He honored that. Within a decade, Gateway Church became the fastest growing church in America. John explains how to find margin even in a season of growth and how to say no to stay focused.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 235.

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