More than 170 pastors and lay leaders gathered Nov. 8–10 at the Hilton Kansas City Airport in Kansas City, Mo., for the 2018 National Rural & Small Town Mission Conference. The Rev. Dr. Keith Schweitzer, a dual-parish pastor in Iowa who also serves as a bi-vocational pastor via substitute teach¬ing, attended with his wife, Susan. This was the fifth time he has attended the RSTM Conference.
Schweitzer said, “This conference is a joy, primarily for the reason that there previously wasn’t anything in the Synod like this for ru¬ral and small-town [areas]. You can come here and receive a program full of resources that are specifically suited for our context and spend time with others in similar situations and share experiences. Plus, it’s a little bit of a vacation!”
Congregational leaders from coast to coast and everywhere in between were in attendance. Over the course of three days, the attendees were impacted by inspira¬tional plenary speakers, practical sectionals, time together in worship and study of the Scriptures and time for attendees to encourage and support each other.
In keeping with the theme of “Have No Fear,” those in attendance considered things such as Christ’s presence in rural and small-town areas, the pastor and congregation’s role together and within the community and carrying our ministry with patient perseverance in an impatient world. The Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray led the daily Bible study for the conference, speaking about the eternal gifts of Word and Sacrament for serving in any setting into which God places us. The Rev. Timothy Koch meditated on the blessings of ministry in rural and small-town ministry in the opening plenary. The Rev. Dr. Robert Bennett discussed spiritual warfare and how we must always be on our guard, as we are warned in 1 Peter 5:8. The Rev. Tom Schlund and congregation members talked about the many possibilities that are opened up when congregations partner together for the sake of the Gospel. Finally, Chaplain Craig Muehler encouraged congregations to reach out and engage their military mem¬bers and their families with encouragement and the Gospel in action.
On the heels of this wonderful conference, plans are now in the works for the 2019 National Rural & Small Town Mission Conference, to be held in Minneapolis, Minn., near the Mall of America. Its theme will be “Running with Endurance: Eyes Fixed on Jesus,” based on Hebrews 12:1b–2a. Make plans to join us and bring your family!
Rev. Todd Kollbaum, director, LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission
Contributed through the LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission monthly newsletter by the Rev. Todd Kollbaum, director, LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission