New Ministry to Benefit Rural Churches
Rural America Ministries (RAM) may not be a familiar name to most people yet, but ministers, ministries, and congregations located in the rural United States are soon going to have a new advocate and partner in ministry.
RAM was recently approved by the Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center (NLRC) after it was presented by Wes Bartel, the former Christian Education and Discipleship director and Senior Adult Ministries director at the NLRC. Bartel, who grew up on a cattle ranch in Montana, has always had a heart for the rural church, and he envisions RAM being nothing short of an empowering inspiration and blessing to the rural church pastor and congregation.
“RAM is just in its beginning stages, but we want people to be aware of it and ready to reap the benefits of the ministry as soon as we’re fully operational,” Bartel says. “The focus of RAM will be on networking rural ministries to the benefit of the rural church, being a source of counsel and encouragement, providing access to effective and affordable training for church leadership that they otherwise may not be able to afford, and, as RAM grows, we also want to provide forms of financial help, through scholarships and grants.”
Some of the rural ministries that RAM is partnering with include Rural Compassion, Church Multiplication Network, Lonesome Dove Ranch, Acts 2 Journey, along with other ministries and initiatives as they arise.
Bartel says that the needs of today’s rural church, which can range from a handful of members to multiple hundreds, have sometimes been overlooked, misunderstood, or simply gone unknown. However, with RAM as an advocate and partner, the rural church now will have representation and a reliable resource.
“I also want to partner with our Assemblies of God colleges to help them provide specific training to those preparing to enter the ministry,” Bartel says. “More than 50 percent of new ministers begin pastoring in a rural church, yet they leave college with little or no training that would assist them in understanding and ministering to the unique needs and the unique culture of a rural community.”
Bartel is passionate about RAM not only because of his personal experiences, but because the Assemblies of God is, in many ways, indebted to the rural church. Much of the foundation, formation, and ongoing advancement of the Assemblies of God in doing Kingdom work can be traced back to the rural church. Even today, with 48 percent of current Assemblies of God churches classified as rural, they have produced an estimated two-thirds of the missionary task force and a strong majority of national leadership.
“When Wes Bartel presented the idea of Rural America Ministries, there was an immediate confirmation in my spirit that this was the answer to a desperate need in our Fellowship,” says AG General Superintendent George O. Wood. “RAM will not only be a resource for the rural church body to turn to, it will be an ongoing voice, an advocate, and a place to network and connect with those who truly understand the challenges and victories only found in a rural community.”
Currently, the rural church is a growing demographic that has also become very diverse, especially in the areas of the country that are seeing a renewed boom in coal and oil and the influx of extraction services workers. This also presents new challenges to the local church.
“I believe the timing of RAM is part of God’s plan to help rural churches flourish and impact lives like never before,” Bartel says.
Bartel, who expresses deep appreciation for the strong support the Executive Leadership Team has given to RAM, says plans are moving forward as quickly as possible, but he wants to be sure that when RAM launches, it is of immediate benefit and of a quality that it will draw rural church pastors and leaders to it repeatedly.
“We plan to present RAM at General Council in August, with the full roll out being shortly afterwards,” Bartel says.