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Small Oklahoma Church Sparks Effort to Evangelize in Rural America
by Stafford North
The 4th and College Church of Christ in Cordell, Oklahoma, a church of about seventy-five members, has recently begun a program to spark more evangelistic efforts by churches located in rural areas. In recent years, this church has reversed its downward trend and has increased its attendance by about 50 percent.
While recognizing the need for mission efforts abroad, the church believes that there are many opportunities to reach out to the lost in rural America. They point out that one in six or over fifty million Americans live in those parts of the country.
In an effort called Rural America Ministries (RAM), the church is hoping to use Cordell as a model for how a small church can mount a program of outreach that can not only revitalize the congregation but can bring many to Christ. They will involve their own members, but also will be seeking groups of college students from Oklahoma Christian University and state universities in Oklahoma to come there for summer work.
These college students will conduct a weekly outreach in the community, often an activity that would attract junior and/or senior high school students. Through these activities they will connect with these young people in a way that will make them interested in attending and learning from the congregation. The college students will also serve as recruiters for and as camp counselors at the Cordell Christian Camp.
Other possible activities for the summer groups would include working in Vacation Bible School in Cordell and in communities around Cordell, and participating in activities to help those congregations. The students would also be given time for their own spiritual growth using ministers at the Cordell congregation as mentors. The spiritual development activities would also a study of the kingdom in the gospel of Matthew.
The plan certainly has merit and should be a model for many other churches in rural areas. Since students going on summer campaigns from our Christian colleges and universities and from our preacher training schools often raise money from their home congregations and other contacts, the actual cost to the hosting congregation would not be great. They could provide housing, but would be getting some good workers without great expense. RAM currently is estimating that the student cost to participate in a twelve-week program would be about $500 a month or $1,500 for three months.
For the summer of 2013, the RAM program in Cordell already has recruited four students from Oklahoma Christian University and one from Southwest Oklahoma State University. Others are considering the possibility of coming for summer work in 2013.
Developing teams for work in rural America will take some expansion of the mindset because most student campaigns go abroad. At the same time, it should be recognized that in past years such groups have gone to the northeast and northwest to do evangelistic outreach. Those wishing more information on RAM should contact Jim Weaver at 405-615-8792 or Josh Yeager at 580-660-1621 or email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.