Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)



First Advisor

Carole Spencer, PhD

Second Advisor

Kevin Glenn, DMin

Third Advisor

MaryKate Morse, PhD


Due to financial and demographic factors plus a shortage of qualified candidates, small, rural churches often struggle to secure and retain pastoral leadership. An examination of these problems from the perspective of the church and that of pastoral candidates reveals the remoteness of location among small, rural churches creates an inability to attract candidates. Faced with college loan indebtedness, young growing families, and the need for full employment for spouses, candidates feel unable to accept a call from a small, rural church. The dissertation reviews the origins of the church, the historical prevalence of the small, rural church, and the experience of the American church. The characteristics of small, rural churches are outlined and contrasted with those of large, urban churches. Then, the expectations small, rural churches have for pastoral leadership are considered. To illustrate the components of the problem, the pastoral leadership challenges of the fictitious Augusta Freedom Church are described throughout the paper. This church is a composite of several churches the author has known and observed. The contention expressed in the dissertation is that second career candidates, retired early from previous work, inspired and able to serve, can provide stable full-time pastoral leadership for small, rural churches. The paper examines other options used by small, rural churches, especially the bi-vocational pastor. What becomes clear is that small, rural churches can choose some form of part-time pastoral leadership or call a young Bible college or seminary graduate and pay these recent graduates what is actually a part-time wage. Both approaches tend to exacerbate the short tenure many small, rural churches currently face. xii How can small, rural churches recruit and retain strong pastoral leadership? The intention of the paper addresses this question and offers a solution to reduce the number of unfilled pastoral leadership vacancies among small, rural churches.

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