I recently recieved a copy of Shannon O'Dell's Transforming Church in Rural America, breaking all the Rurals, and it couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. My husband was recently hired as a youth pastor of a very small rural church much like the one described in O'Dell's book, so I was interested in his take on how to transform such a church.
Using the acronym V.A.L.U.E, vision, attitude, leadership, understanding and enduring excellence, O'Dell shares his struggles and humble beginnings of transforming a small rural church desiring change but not wanting to let go of the past to get there. With humor and bits of sarcasim he shares exactly what it's like to worship and live in a rural community but also how using his VALUE system and listening for Gods ultimate timing a church can go from rural to virtual. He states the key is not in growing a congregation but growing the congregants, which I'd have to agree with.
This was a very interesting and well written book with alot of great ideas for rural churchs wanting change. Though I don't think some of these methods would work with alot of rural church's there were many methods in the book that would benefit church's of all sizes.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Book Review: "Transforming Church in Rural America" by Shannon O'Dell
I recently read a book on leading in a rural church. I became interested in, "Transforming Church in Rural America" written by Shannon O'Dell partly because I actually grew up in a small rural town; my grandfather and godfather both lead in rural churches. The title was what first attracted me to reading the book but once I started reading I was immediately struck by the similarities between the authors story and that of my husband and mine (especially his background in transfering from youth ministry to that of Senior Pastor) even though we are leading in an urban setting.
I believe Pastor Shannon's book is an example of transformational leadership that churches in various minitry settings could learn from. He offers some practical solutions for not only rural America, but ideas that can be adapted by main stream churches located in suburban or urban areas. Especially churches that have been on the scene for a while but who have gotton stagnant in their thinking or even given up believing that their church can make a difference in their communties. His story has a mixture of humor, some pain but a large portion of hope. You can tell that he was someone who has been humbled by his experience. He had to totally rely on God to do the extraordinary under seemingly impossible odds.
When Pastor Shannon started, he had a small congregation (which if you know most rural areas, it is pretty much the norm), but in a matter of a few years his church grew and they now minister to 1,000 of people all over the world. Talk about fufilling God size dreams! He does not offer a magical formula but his story does convey the importance of seeing the bigger picture and trusting God to work the plan even when we can't see where he is going with it!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and at one point I could not put it down. I actually read several passages out loud to my husband and he too enjoyed it. His testimony gave us hope that transformation is possible especially when you listen to God's voice and his vision for ministry. Many of the things he implemented are not just adaptable to ministry but in our personal lives as well. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is leading a church in a rural area, but I would also suggest it to those who are leading in churches that are looking to transform their community, ministries or church.
I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as a part of their BookSneeze.com Book Review Bloggers Program. I was not required or influenced to give a positive review in any way. The opinions expressed here are that of my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, part 255
In his book, Transforming Church in Rural America, Shannon O'Dell explains how he converted a tiny rural Arkansas church into a multi-site campus with added virtual followers from all over the world. O'Dell turned down several great positions at large urban churches to work at a poor church in the boonies. While his good intentions were often met with resistance, O'Dell continued and formed Brand New Church.
This book is geared towards helping rural pastors overcome the struggles of ministering to small churches. He explains the five most important "V.A.L.U.E's" needed for a successful church: vision, attitude, leadership, understanding, and enduring excellence. For O'Dell, vision is the most important. Without a vision, growth is not possible because congregates are not willing to wholeheartedly contribute without direction.
Transforming Church in Rural America is motivational for pastors or average people with a project of their own. O'Dell's advice can easily be applied to other situations. For example, O'Dell advises readers to realize they can do the impossible. "We do what seems logical," O'Dell writes, "things the Church can do in its own strength, things in our comfort zones" (64). However, visions should be larger. They should require much prayer to be possible.
In addition to his wise message, O'Dell interweaves telling anecdotes that reveal the personalities found in some rural churches. He explains the stress he underwent as board members refused to fill a sandbox for children. And, the massive hatred he experienced because he proposed that the church pews be replaced with more efficient seating. Trivial things such as these honestly brought O'Dell to tears.
Overall, O'Dell's book is a great motivational read. I highly recommend this book to others whether they are pastors or not.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
I've been serving local churches in ministry for over a decade. All of them have been small churches struggling to find ways to grow. Some have been limited by a worship of the past, others were hampered by overbearing leaders and others still by poor location combined with limited facilities. In his book, Transforming Church in Rural America, Shannon O'Dell writes a church growth book specifically geared to small churches in small population areas. By using examples from his own congregation in rural Arkansas, O'Dell challenges the 'myth' that only churches in large urban/suburban settings can grow and succeed in dynamic ministry.
Through the use of the acronym VALUE (Vision; Attitude; Leadership; Understanding; Enduring Excellence) O'Dell imparts principles that a congregation of any size can follow. The author outlines his own successes and failures for the reader's benefit. The book is written in a very conversational tone that makes it both easy to read and to understand.
As for negatives, they are minor. There is an emphasis on vision throughout the entire book. The other principles are overshadowed by O'Dell's focus on developing, adopting and communicating vision to leaders and congregants alike. The book might be better promoted on how to develop vision for the rural congregation. Although I did appreciate the emphasis that a leader with no vision has no business being the lead minister.
Also, under-emphasized throughout the book is one of the major keys to O'Dell's success: a supportive leadership. Experience has taught me that in order to effect change in the traditional, country church you must have the lay-leadership in your corner. If not, change will not occur. O'Dell's claim that change produces conflict is 100% accurate, and without leaders that are long-time members of the church giving support, a minister will not be able to achieve his vision, no matter how clear it is.
I would recommend this book to any leader in the rural church who desire to cast God's vision before the church. The principles O'Dell outlines are solid even though his methods may not work in every congregation.
Shannon O'Dell's book, Transforming Church in Rural America, is a nice blend of spirituality and practical advice. Shannon tells the story about his personal call to a rural church in Arkansas. As much as he tried to talk himself out of that pastorship, he eventually said yes and began his adventure. He speaks of the obstacles that he met and the strategies and philosophies that he used to build his church.
O'Dell encourages ministers to â€˜step out of the box' and be open to where God might be bringing you. He defines what he feels church leadership should look like and how to recognize those in your congregation who might assist you. He also speaks about the need for a strong personal faith and prayer life and transparency in ministry.
While O'Dell gives some very good tips for anyone in ministry, not just pastors, he always speaks about putting God first. In my opinion, this book is a good read for anyone trying to follow God's will in their lives. He uses everyday examples and real life scenarios to teach and guide but always urges not to let our egos take over when working in ministry. Transforming Church in Rural America is a good read with applications far more widespread than building a church in rural Arkansas.
Disclosure of Material Connection: This book was given to me from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. All opinions in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."