November 2021 Resource

Reclaiming Rural: Building Thriving Rural Congregations
Reclaiming Rural: Building Thriving Rural Congregations


Allen T. Stanton


Rowman & Littlefield, New York, NY

Book Review By:

Melvin Amerson

Premise of the book:
Rural congregations can thrive by creating a narrative unique to their location, which includes theology, vitality, and community development as evangelism to reach, engage, partner, and empower all for the good of the broader community.

What this book does:
Reclaiming Rural is an outstanding resource and guide for denominational leaders, clergy, and laity to use to empower and revitalize rural churches. Stanton takes a position of allowing rural congregations to write and define their reality and metrics of vitality. He recognizes rural communities and congregational contexts are different and must not be approached with blanket assumptions. The author views community development as evangelism; embracing practices of Asset Based Community Development, which engages gifts and partnerships from the community. Ministry models and thoughts on the future of rural church leadership are shared. Each chapter represents important tenants for building effective faith communities.


Chapter 1 Reclaiming the Narrative
Chapter 2 Reclaiming Vitality
Chapter 3 Reclaiming Evangelism
Chapter 4 Reclaiming Our Theological Goals
Chapter 5 Reclaiming Practice
Chapter 6 Reclaiming a Future

What are some important insights:

This resource offers an excellent framework for strengthening and empowering rural congregations. Indicators for thriving rural congregations: clear theological identity; commitment to community; and practices good stewardship. “Good stewardship means that churches are utilizing all of their resources to live out their vocation as a congregation. Grounded in their theological identity and commitment to community, they can name their assets, cultivate partnerships, and deploy their resources to help the wider community recognize the reality of the Kingdom of God.” (p. 41)

Possibilities as a resource for churches:
This is a must-read resource for denominational leaders, clergy, and laity who want to see rural congregations thrive into the future.

Melvin Amerson

The Rev. Melvin Amerson is a member of the Texas Annual Conference and serves as a Resource Specialist and Area Representative at TMF. His experience and passion lie in encouraging and developing generous, faithful leaders and congregations.

Amerson is the author of Celebrating the Offering, Fruit for Celebrating the Offering, and Stewardship in African American Churches: A New Paradigm, as well as several articles covering topics from generosity, leadership, and visioning. He served as a board member of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center until it was dissolved in 2021 and is currently serving on the Texas Annual Conference Church Leadership Team. He is a nationally recognized generosity consultant known for his engaging presentations. Beyond strengthening congregational leaders, one of his favorite ways to use his skills is to empower Wesley Foundation staff to effectively fund their college ministries.

Melvin obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, an M.Div degree concentrating in Christian education from Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia, an Executive Leadership certificate from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and a certificate in Professional Fundraising from Boston University. Recently, he completed a fundraising certificate with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.