Inside The Future of Prevailing Rural(ish) Churches with Joel Southerland & Daniel Currie

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We have a fascinating conversation with Executive Pastor Daniel Currie and Lead Pastor Joel Southerland from Peavine Baptist Church in Rock Spring, Georgia.

The first thing you’d notice when pulling up to Peavine is that it’s in the middle of nowhere and you wouldn’t know that it’s only 20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. There are about 500,000 people in Peavine’s ministry area and though the church seems to be off the beaten path in a rural farm area, inside it’s a dynamic worship experience. Joel and Daniel are with us today to talk about changing the expectations of rural churches.

  • Be intentional to be outside the walls. // The main campus in Rock Spring is still a rural church, despite the success of the church and the campuses. But they’ve been able to leverage both their location and the reach of their people to create a regional approach to their ministry. In other words, rather than live with the idea that they are rural and will always be rural or only focus on what is immediately around them, they use their congregation’s day-to-day lives to reach people throughout the regional area and share the gospel with others they encounter. Deciding to go outside of their four walls and outside of the agricultural land around them was very intentional, and Peavine wouldn’t be experiencing their current growth if they had not made the choice to be that intentional.
  • Developing Peavine City. // During a staff retreat in 2016, Joel had the idea to put a dot on the map where the church was and draw a radius around the church and call it “Peavine City.” Peavine City is a fictitious place which would be adopted as their local ministry area and all of their resources would be focused on reaching the people within it with the gospel. They decided on a 20 mile radius around the church and developed a regional mentality to grow their church not by building a huge building but by planting regional campuses so they could minister to the people of Peavine City.
  • #PeavineCity. // In December 2016, Joel put together a 40 day devotional on the book of Acts for the church to read and pray through. In the opening cover he soft pitched the idea of Peavine City with the radius around the church to show the area. He then mentioned it in his sermons at the beginning of January. People took to it and began using the hashtag #PeavineCity. The church decided to strategically attack social media to spread the buzz about Peavine City. When people asked what Peavine City was or where it was, people could tell them to come on Sunday morning to church and find out more about it.
  • Rural communities today are not like rural communities of the past. // The people in rural communities are much more technologically savvy and aware of the world around them. There are those who grew up in cities, but live in a rural area by choice because they can do their jobs remotely. Pastors and staff of rural churches need to remember this and be aware of what their congregation wants for their church and how they want to reach people.
  • Success with a bi-vocational pastor in a growing church. // As a bi-vocational pastor, Joel doesn’t do office work during the day at the church or have any weekday responsibilities. His main responsibilities are to speak on Sunday mornings, lead the staff, and cast vision. Daniel manages the office staff and deals with other day-to-day things. Not having a lead pastor right down the hall changes some things, such as the speed of decisions, but there also has to be a high level of trust between the lead pastor and executive pastor for this situation to succeed, like there is between Daniel and Joel. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all recipe for this type of situation, but it can be done through patience and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

You can learn more about Peavine Baptist Church at https://www.peavine.org/.

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Lightning Round

Helpful Tech Tools // XPastor, JamesClear.com

Influential Book // The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath; The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, Jim Huling

What you do for fun // Joel – travel, spend time with family, play PS4; Daniel – Family hikes, play PS4, read

Contact // https://www.peavine.org/

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.