Vermont is one of the least religious states in the United States. It’s also one of the most rural.
That means gospel work in the Green Mountain State won’t be glamorous. It likely won’t be big or fast-moving (though God can do surprising things, which we yearn for him to do). His kingdom will advance in Vermont and other rural regions through an army of committed gospel workers—men and women, young and old, pastors (full-time and bivocational) and laypeople—willing to lay down and pour out their lives in small, unknown places.
Already in Action
We’ve got good news: those gospel workers are already on the ground, and hard at work. We know, because we just spent a hugely encouraging day with them.
On May 16, more than 80 men and women (rural and small town pastors, laypeople, and ministry leaders) packed the sanctuary of the Red Door Church in South Royalton, Vermont. We spent the day praying, singing, eating (you must try Vermont’s best donuts), and considering how God means for the gospel to penetrate and transform the small places of Vermont and New England. The gathering was sponsored by Small Town Summits, which partners with TGC New England to reach the small places of our region.
In addition to Vermont leaders, we welcomed Christian workers from New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Leaders from CCEF New England, Vermont Church Planting, Village Missions, the Baptist Convention of New England, and Acts 29 took part in the summit, and the pastors ranged from ministry interns and those just starting out to those who’ve served in ministry for more than 35 years.
Breakout sessions reflected on various aspects of ministry in small places, including evangelism, discipleship, worship-leading, and soul care, as well as the unique challenges and opportunities for women ministering in small places.
Quiet, Noticeable Movement
There was a strong sense of God’s presence and manifest mercy throughout the day. Afterward one small-town Vermont pastor reflected that, in his 16 years of ministry, he had never attended an event designed specifically for him and the small-place work to which God has called him.
Another spoke of the encouragement he felt after the summit and the encouragement his church received when he returned that evening with a report. A church planter said, “Thank you for some fantastic equipping! Already looking forward to the next one.”
A pastor just beginning in ministry shared this perspective on Vermont: “There’s a quiet but noticeable movement happening here of God calling many to reach this place with the love of God in a fresh and powerful way.”
It’s a remarkable privilege to come alongside and learn from devoted Christian workers in the small places of New England. Small Town Summits has now gathered rural/small-town leaders in New Hampshire (November 2017) and Vermont (May 2018) and we’re already preparing for our next Summit, November 17, 2018, in Dexter, Maine.
What we’re finding so far in these summits is that God has positioned many choice servants in the small places of New England. They are laboring faithfully, creatively, joyfully, and productively, though their work is sometimes lonely and discouraging, and often unheralded. We’re in awe of these men and women. And we’re more committed than ever to learning from them and seeking to encourage and equip them in the deeply valuable work they do.