JAYBER CROW BY WENDELL BERRY
We’ve got to include at least one Wendell Berry book here! Berry’s many works of fiction and non-fiction explore themes of community, identity, memory, and the land. Berry cherishes an affection for small places that resists sentimentalism and recognizes the ever-present challenges.
THE LEFT BEHIND: DECLINE AND RAGE IN RURAL AMERICA BY ROBERT WUTHNOW
Wuthnow details many contemporary threats to rural communities today including the sense that the small-town way of life is being threatened. Read Stephen Witmer’s TGC review of this book: Two (Book) Attempts to Understand Rural America
THE FORGOTTEN CHURCH BY GLENN DAMAN
Reflecting careful research and a life-time of commitment to rural ministry, and written with clarity and passion, Glenn Daman’s The Forgotten Church occupies an important place in the recent literature on small-town and rural ministry. It provides an informative and inspiring call to remember what has been largely forgotten.
CHURCH AND COUNTRYSIDE: INSIGHTS FROM RURAL THEOLOGY BY TIM GIBSON
Perhaps the most relentlessly theological book on rural ministry we’ve read (that’s a compliment!). It’s written by an Englishman, and therefore focuses mainly on the English countryside. Gibson discusses the centrality of community in a rural context and focuses on the ways in which Christians can live from their shared experience of the Eucharist in order to deepen and bless their communities. There’s lots to learn here, even though we don’t agree with everything.
THE COUNTRY PARSON, HIS CHARACTER, AND RULE OF HOLY LIFE BY GEORGE HERBERT
The famous poet left behind prestigious careers at Cambridge University and in Parliament to become a country pastor. In this 17th-century work, he encouraged and exhorted other rural pastors. What comes through most clearly is Herbert’s conviction of the importance and value of this work, and his love for country people.
HILLBILLY ELEGY BY J.D. VANCE
This book became a run-away New York Times bestseller, and with good reason. J.D. Vance explores the crisis of poor, white America by telling his own story of growing up in the Rust Belt of Ohio and an Appalachian town in Kentucky.
LOVE BIG, BE WELL: LETTERS TO A SMALL-TOWN CHURCH BY WINN COLLIER
This work of fiction consists of letters from a pastor to his small-town Virginia congregation. Together, the letters provide a thought-provoking reflection on the nature of love, community, friendship, and small-town pastoral ministry. Read Stephen Witmer’s TGC review of this book: ‘A Fictional Pastor Teaches Us to Love Big in Small Places.’
A beautifully-written, sharply-observed, nuanced, and theologically informed book on rural/small-town ministry. Roth focuses on the various disciplines required for effective rural ministry and makes the case that the Church needs the rural church in order to truly be the Church.
WHO WERE THE FIRST CHRISTIANS? DISMANTLING THE URBAN THESIS BY THOMAS A. ROBINSON
A major work of historical and biblical scholarship that makes for challenging and riveting reading. Robinson tackles (and effectively critiques) the prevailing scholarly consensus that early Christianity was an almost exclusively urban religion for the first three hundred years. This monograph is demanding, but very important.
MEMOIRS OF AN ORDINARY PASTOR BY DON CARSON
A moving account of the life of Tom Carson, a little-known Canadian pastor who labored for years in the Eastern Township region of Quebec. Written by Tom’s well-known son, Don Carson, this is the account of an ordinary pastor greatly used by God.
HOLLOWING OUT THE MIDDLE: THE RURAL BRAIN DRAIN AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR AMERICA BY PATRICK J. CARR AND MARIA J. KEFALAS
Two sociologists who moved to Iowa in order to understand the brain drain of young people away from rural areas offer an illuminating account of a major problem for rural America.