Rural Church Planting in Western Canada

By Joell Haugan

Doing church in rural areas ain’t what it used to be. Churches dotted the landscape across the entire populated areas of the Canada….usually all within a few miles of each other. Amazingly, folks could get on their horse and buggy and be at their burgeoning local church within an hour or maybe two at the most.  Which, by the way, account for the normal service time of 11am that churches today still mostly use. And, once you got there, there was no leaving after only an hour to head home. Church in the country was often an all afternoon thing.

Fast forward to 2017. Most country church buildings are actually gone. Some demolished. Some moved to the city for someone’s quaint restaurant. The remaining ones are sitting out in the country, often in disrepair and subject to teenager’s drunken whims.

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Except this one. Bingham Baptist Church in Droxford, Saskatchewan, is a memorial to a time not so long ago.

The congregation stopped meeting here sometime around 2000. The building is pretty much untouched since then with community folks still stopping in to check on it on occasion. This church resides on a depopulated area of Saskatchewan  Thirty-ish years ago this area was full of farms and farm families in their homes usually a few miles apart. Everyone had neighbours that could be walked to if necessary. Now, mega-farms are often 10 miles apart and people commute to work on the farm from area towns and cities.

But, people are still out there. The Rural Municipality that this building resides in (think of a 40 by 40 kms area – this one happens to be exactly 802 sq kms) has a whopping 140 people living in it.  The nearest town has 229.

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Nowadays, folks get in their cars, drive 45 minutes to get to their city church and, if they live in a rural area, may pass by six or seven places where countryside churches used to be. They also may pass many folks and families that still reside on farms and who are no longer connected to a local church family.  Every day they drive to the big town/city for school/work/appointments and doing so on yet another day is beyond the effort. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could gather together with folks from their neighbourhood (read: 10 mile radius) and become a body of believers without the massive overhead that comes from needing a church building to pay for?

What does church planting look like in rural areas of Western Canada?  Can we do “local” in such sparsely populated areas?  I believe we can. I also believe we should. But local might end up looking different and might end up needing the support of a nearby city/town church.

Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a functioning church, regardless if there is a building, every 10 miles throughout the Canadian countryside like there was in the old days. Well, not really like the old days.

BTW, the answer is “yes”!

Joell

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