Dilemma of Rural Church: How to Help Aging Pastors Feed the Congregation?

A cross on the roof of a rural church
A cross on the roof of a rural church
By Elsie HuOctober 26th, 2022

"Li, are you not going to worship God this weekend again?"

"No. I need to take care of the children at home and it gets more and more difficult to understand the sermons for me.”

The above short conversation reflects the real situation of most rural churches today.

With hundreds of people attending Sunday service more than 20 years ago, a rural church has only a few dozen worshippers in a week, mainly elderly people, who sometimes should tend to children left at home, as they are forbidden to attend Sunday school according to the revised Regulations on Religious Affairs, said Y, a former pastor serving middle-aged believers for many years.

Pastor W (pseudonym) from Central China said that his church is stuck in a dilemma, as the aging church suffers the loss of young and middle-aged believers, with fewer young pastors.

Pastor W revealed that young and middle-aged Christians choose to work in cities, leaving middle-aged and elderly members in his church, which have difficulty in pastoral ministry.

"In addition, the village church workers have limited time and a low level of literacy," Pastor W continued.

Seeming idle at home, the elderly have to farm, do housework, and take care of their grandchildren, W added. Lacking young workers, the church is mainly served by middle-aged and elderly people who are not well educated or have not received any theological education but were engaged in preaching at the altar due to the needs of the ministry. With limited resources in the rural church for pastoral care, rural pastors could not disciple believers well or help them grow spiritually, as they tend to be more forgetful and have poorer understanding compared to young pastors, with increasing ages and hearing loss.

"How can we help middle-aged and elderly pastors in rural churches?" Pastor W sighed. "This is a question that we are thinking about all the time."

W said they tried to let young people lead the church, but they also had some difficulties, "For young pastors, they choose to work in the church while doing business, as they can’t serve full-time due to low salaries. If they just nurture believers in the church, they can't support their families. But if they spend time doing business, they can’t serve in the church well." As time passed, they chose to conduct one.

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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