“Is Vineyard committed to planting churches in small town America?” Five years later, I still can’t believe I asked the question. It was directed to Michael Gatlin, national coordinator of Multiply Vineyard, Vineyard’s church planting arm. The occasion was the Q&A session at our first Small Town USA conference. We had only met once before this conference. I braced for his answer and he answered in classic Gatlin style: “I thought we were supposed to go where the humans are. If there are humans in small towns, then they need churches. And if there are humans in metro areas, then we need to plant there.”
Go where the humans are. That answer has propelled us these past five years. So what have we learned?
Planters are hungry for someone to talk about small town planting.
Over the past five years, the Small Town USA team has written scores of blog articles, produced 4-6 webinars annually, and led seminars in places as diverse as Mechanic Falls, Maine; Tomahawk, Wisconsin; and San Luis Obispo, California. We’ve hosted two national conferences. While attendance has been modest (75-100), we’ve been amazed that people flew from places like Colorado and drove from places like Minnesota and Missouri just to attend a conference in Ohio dedicated to planting in small towns. We’ve had at least 11 states represented at these events.
The conversation around small town planting took off enough in our movement that one concerned leader asked if Vineyard still cared about planting in large cities. Of course we do! Remember we “go where the humans are.” But so much of the church multiplication discussion has been from the large church and large city perspective (we’re talking to you, Atlanta, NYC, Chicago, and San Diego) that our small town planters have been left out.