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Can a Sunday school ministry thrive out in a rural community? The US Census Bureau, the USDA’s Economic Research Services, and the US Office of Management and Budget all agree that a rural area is defined as having no city or town with a population over 50,000. They go further in stating that the rural area needs to be no less than 999 square miles or a population density of no greater than one person per square mile. A great example of a church that is excelling in a rural community is the Corinth Baptist Church in Haralson County, Georgia. A 20-minute drive allows people in four counties to attend the church and the total population within that zone is less than 48,000.
A closer inspection of the community living within a three-mile circle of the church provides an even better understanding of this particular mission field. The total population is only 2,983 and the growth in population has recently started to decline following 20 years of increase. The community surrounding the church is primarily Anglo and consists of an aging population. The traditional family is still very strong in the community, but there are an increasing number of single mothers. Seventy-five percent of the households are below the national level in average household income.
Some experts might propose that a church has no chance of experiencing growth under these circumstances. Don’t say that, however, to the members of Corinth Baptist Church. John Lemmings said he knew his church was in a rural area when he was called as pastor because they are “a long distance from any city.” He said it takes “over 30 minutes to drive to any store.” He also stated “farming was very prominent in the community. 40-50% of the families living within three miles of the church are either full time or part time farmers.” The largest employer in the area is the Haralson County School System, but some drive well over an hour into the metro Atlanta area for work.
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