Two years ago we moved from the Chicago suburbs to northern Minnesota—a major cultural adjustment.
Driving through town recently, I approached a four-way stop. The cross-traffic sat passively, watching me slow down and come to a complete stop before starting out. As I waited I complained to my son, "Can you believe it? They sit and wait when they could have gone, and now I have to wait for them."
"Well, Dad," Nathan said coolly, "this isn't Chicago, you know."
He was right. In a small town, sometimes you have to wait. Accepting a different pace of life here has been a significant part of maintaining my ministry edge.
When I lived in metropolitan areas, I found numerous opportunities for sharpening ministry skills. I had my pick of seminars, seminaries, consultants, libraries, large churches, and creative colleagues. Progressive business people and entrepreneurs stretched and challenged me with their big ideas.
Now, I'm back in a small town, and I sometimes feel like I'm losing my edge. It's not the size of the town that dulls me, it's how I respond to my setting. But I've discovered I can grow intellectually and spiritually even in a climate that pressures me to reduce my vision to suit the lowest common denominator. This means countering two prevailing attitudes.
"We know best."
Small-town pride is legendary. We cheer for our school teams. We stand together against out-of-towners.
However, local pride can stifle fresh input. Recently, after our church building committee had examined the options, I felt it was time to recruit someone to stretch our thinking. The idea of bringing in a consultant, however, raised resistance.
"Three years ago we spent $16,000 to bring in a fundraising expert," said one deacon. "It was a waste ...