In recent posts we have highlighted articles that identify some of the key issues facing the urban churches in China. This article, from the Christian Times, highlights some of the issues facing the rural churches, which have been and are feeling the effects of urbanization.
Compared to the urban churches, Chinese rural churches lack all kinds of resources. In addition to the lack of finances and preachers, we cannot ignore management issues. Recently, the Executive Secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council, Chen Jianguang, wrote an article in the Chinese Coordination Centre of World Evangelism's "Pastoral Sharing" periodical in which he pointed out that the most difficult problem that Chinese rural churches currently face is in the area of management, not finances.
Chinese rural churches have always had pastoral problems. In addition to the lack of money and a shortage of pastors, the issue of church management is increasingly becoming a big problem. Sometimes a church has money but doesnt know how to effectively use it because it don't have a long-term vision or plan. As a result, the church wastes its resources and doesnt receive anything in return.
Chen Jianguang thinks that the problem for rural churches is not only lack of financial resources. He thinks that the rural churches should have full-time workers to look after the needs of the elderly, children, and women. There should also be full-time workers to care for the people who have moved from the countryside to the city and workers to transform the pastoral conceptions of the rural churches. Accomplishing these things is not simply an issue of money, but how to allocate money to use it well.
In recent years, many new churches have been built in rural areas. This is because the number of rural Christians has been increasing, but space has been limited. In a village that has 100+ believers, the cost for building a church was split between the believers, with each person giving nearly 10,000 RMB. If they had spent a little less money, they could use 100,000 to 200,000 RMB to employ two or three full-time church workers for more than ten years. There are many peasant laborers in the cities. If 20 people, each one earning around 1000 RMB/month gave 5%, that would be 50 RMB/person, enough to support one full-time pastor. If there were 100 laborers, and each person gave 1% of their salary, 10 RMB/person, they could support a pastor. If these 100 people gave another 1%, they could employ another full-time pastor to care for the elderly, women, and children left behind in the countryside.
The current problem is that in some larger villages, 100 believers have spent more than 1 million RMB building a church, even building training centers; unfortunately, these are usually left empty! Peasants who have gone elsewhere to find work may even spend 20 RMB for one meal in a restaurant. Chen Jianguang suggests that rural believers need to know how to allocate money and use it well."
Ten years ago, 60-70% of China's population was rural. In recent years, however, China's rapid economic development has led to rapid urbanization, so that, at the beginning of this year, the urban population of China outnumbered the rural population. In the past 10 years, nearly 300 million people from rural areas have chosen the cities and an urban standard of living. 150 million peasants have gone to the cities to seek their fortune. The rural population has been greatly reduced, so rural churches often face one of the following three problems. I hope everyone will pray for them," Chen Jianguang said.
1. The church lacks "early middle-aged" people
Early middle-aged people who have left the rural areas in order to support themselves usually only go home once a year for Chinese New Year. Rural churches are usually full of the elderly, women, and children.
2. Early middle-aged peasant believers don't receive pastoral care while away from home
Because of the combination of having a different accent and a different social class from those in the cities, along with having work hours that conflict with church activities, those who go to the cities for work seldom attend church. If they feel spiritually empty for an extended period of time, they eventually give up a normal devotional life.
3. Due to the trend of urbanization, the rural population will likely continue to decrease
The countryside lifestyle is gradually becoming urbanized; lifestyle habits and work hours have changed. Previously, their lives were rather static, getting up at sunrise and going to bed at sundown. But now, pursuing consumerism and travel, the number of people who go to church continues to decrease.
These three issues roughly summarize the state of China's rural church. In order to increase the quality of the rural church, we need to search for a new pastoral management model.
Original article: 守望中国农村教会：管理问题胜过资金缺乏
Image credit: by J, via Flickr
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