Book Review: Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O’Dell


I have worked in 2 rural churches and anyone who has experienced this unique ministry setting will agree that there are challenges that come with a rural setting. In some ways, working in a rural church can be easier, but Shannon O’Dell would argue that is simply if you do not want to make changes. He begins the book by stating a few of the “unwritten” rules about church life in rural America – all of them focused on the negatives of rural churches and the positives of non-rural churches. O’Dell himself had felt these rules to be true, until he moved to a rural town and experienced uncommon church growth as a senior minister.

Because I am a youth minister at a church in rural America, I was looking forward to learning from the pages of O’Dell’s book. Unfortunately for me, this book turned out to be too long and not as practical as I had hoped. There were many pages that I felt were repetitive or unnecessary to sharing the strategies he used to change a rural congregation. Throughout the book, I felt O’Dell was stretching to make acronyms fit or adding pictures within the chapters that did not fit with the content of the chapter.

I was able to come away with a few things to think about, but I guess I was hoping for more. Though I do not believe in a “one size fits all” style of ministry, I read on the back cover that this was going to be a blueprint for transformation. Though you may not find a blueprint for your ministry, this book can still be helpful for those ministering in rural America thanks to nuggets of information throughout. Plus, just reading the story of Brand New Church can bring you encouragement and hope – your congregation does not have to stay stagnant.

*this book was reviewed as part of the BookSneeze book review program*

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