Thriving as a New Resident in a Small Rural Town

Photo by and ©2008 Dustin M. Ramsey under 
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. 

It is tough to connect and make friends with the towners when you move into a small town. Towners, like myself, have grown up here and been friends with one another since birth. We went to school with one another or went to school with a brother, sister, child, or parent of another towner. The connections that are shared go back years.

Unfortunately, many of these circles of friends are closed. They aren’t letting anyone new in. They will allow another superficial friendship but not an endearing one that will be there when you need it.

Towners and new residents are somewhat like Romeo and Juliet’s Montagues and Capulets with the new residents being the Capulets and the towners being the Montagues. They just don’t mingle well.

So what is a solution?

Church is a solution. I understand the purpose of Church is far greater than just making friends. But a church is not the Church unless the people in the church are friends. You may be wondering why the capital “C” and the lower case “c” in “Church” and “church.” Well, the lower case “c” stands for the local church. Local churches can be out of whack, misguided, and distracted. That’s why we have developed a vocabulary to distinguish a local church from the Church universal. The Church universal is the Church that God intended and consists of people who are totally surrendered to God who reside in all churches. Hopefully, the local church reflects the Church universal, but we all know that is not always the case. We will not reach perfection this side of the grave, but that does not mean that we should not strive for it.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” [John 13:34-35 (ESV)].

In the Church, people connect with one another in real, meaningful ways. A healthy church doesn’t care if you are well connected to people in the church or have lived in town forever; a healthy church cares whether you are connected to God through Jesus our Savior and King. That is the connection that matters. Whether you are a new resident to town or a long-time towner does not matter; all that matters is Jesus.

So if you’re struggling to connect with people as a new or even as a long-time resident in a small town, I encourage you to get involved in a church. But look for a church where the relationships within it reflect the love of Jesus.

Churches are not immune to acting like the Montagues and Capulets, Christians and non-Christians. Unfortunately, they are pretty prone to that dysfunctional fallacy. A healthy church is not one who views society as us versus them, Christians versus non-Christians. The paradigm in a healthy church is us loving them, Christians loving our neighbors, enemies and everyone around us. Christians are not better than anyone else. Neither are towners. The healthy church is to be known by its love, not by its elite status as being part of the “in crowd.” A healthy town should be the same.

May we all strive to be more loving to people we know and people we don’t, so that we can reflect the love of Jesus in this world.