Resourcing and Reviving Rural Ministers
Wes R. Bartel started Rural America Ministries (RAM) Network a couple of years ago as an Assemblies of God entity that invests in rural congregations and pastors.
“Around 50 percent of our churches are rural,” Bartel says. “We want to make sure rural pastors know they are important.”
Bartel notes that many bucolic pastors are bivocational due to financial necessity. Many rural ministers also lack meaningful interpersonal relationships, in part because they have little free time to develop them.
RAM Network isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Bartel notes that the organization promotes and assists existing ministries such as Rural Compassion, Acts 2 Journey, Church Multiplication Network, U.S. Mission America Placement Service, and Lonesome Dove Ranch.
“RAM Network tries to plug gaps that have been unaddressed,” says Bartel, 71. Those efforts include marriage retreats for busy and stressed pastors plus their spouses.
Bartel, a Montana native, is based at the AG National Office in Springfield, Missouri, as RAM Network director. An ordained AG minister for 49 years, Bartel earlier served rural churches in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. He and his wife, Dianne, have been married for 51 years.
U.S. missionaries Rich S. Greenwald and his wife, Kim, partner with RAM Network. The Greenwalds, who are with Missionary Church Planters & Developers, live in Helena, Montana, and have pastored in rural Wyoming.
“Our mission is to reach, to resource, to revive, and to reach out to pastors and to be a support,” says Greenwald, 54. “We come alongside church planters and encourage them.”
Part of that support is providing connections with other groups such as the Water Tower Leadership Network founded by Bryan Jarrett, lead pastor of Northplace Church, an AG congregation in Sachse, Texas. According to Greenwald, such networking enables pastors to get to know each other and provides the framework to discuss topics such as legal advice on church matters.
“Some rural pastors are wondering if they should still be in ministry,” says Greenwald an ordained AG minister for 29 years. “Some are at the end of their rope. They think, If no one else cares, why should I?”
RAM Network also is assisting in the rural ministry programs operating at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, North Dakota, and Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas. With the median age of AG ministers gradually but steadily increasing (56 years old now compared to 45 three decades ago), RAM Network hopes to recruit on campuses for pastoral vacancies.
“We want AG college students to see rural places as a mission field,” says Kim Greenwald, 53.
In addition, RAM Network has aided churches in Montana and Wyoming with matching grants on building projects. The ministry’s overall funding comes from individual churches, districts and networks, and AGTrust via its U.S. Missions work account.
“These pastors need to receive support in a timely manner,” says Kim Greenwald, married to Rich for 30 years. “If we don’t strengthen rural folks, we will lose touch with our grass roots.”
RAM Network also partners with U.S. missionary associate couples Jim L. and Michele Brown of Litchfield, Illinois, and Albert and April Lautenschlager of Keene, North Dakota.
Lead Photo: Wes Bartel (left) and Rich Greenwald are resourcing rural pastors.
Bottom Photo: Kim and Rich Greenwald at a RAM Network ministry retreat in Alabama in October.