+ Why Rural?
Life in the countryside has many benefits; a beautiful environment, a strong sense of community and proportionally fewer instances of ill health to name but a few. Geographically 93% of the United Kingdom is defined as being ‘rural’, with close to 12 million people living here, a number which between 2001 & 2008 grew faster than the urban context.
Every rural community is different, and we understand this. The unique characteristics of these areas, with their low population densities and distance between residential and commercial centres, can bring additional challenges for those living, working and witnessing in the countryside. Isolation through lack of public transport, networks of people or available resources is often a common theme. This sense of isolation can exist in villages quite near larger towns, where it is common for all the attention to be focused on supporting initiatives in the town rather than surrounding villages.
Rhythms and seasons play an important part of country life, along with a strong sense of history and the importance of local place. Resources for rural churches are often stretched further, with core leaders having to cover a far broader patch than their urban cousins. Rural churches will generally have a conservative culture when it comes to change, and often need help to bring this about.
Rural Ministries recognises and understands these, and many other issues, not least the impact they have on church life. We are here to help you.
+ What We Do
We exist to provide support, guidance and renewed energy for churches and pioneers working in rural communities across the UK.
Our services include:
- Encourage, equip and enable rural churches in mission
- Networking practitioners, pioneers and rural churches together in similar situations
- Offering spiritual and practical support from our experienced staff
- Providing pump-priming resources for mission and church planting
- Teaching, training and raising the profile of rural mission and related issues
- Leadership development, specifically tailored to those working in the rural context
- Hosting Regional Conferences around the UK which are open to all, as a time of teaching, sharing, refreshment and encouragement
- Being the first point of contact for those looking to serve in a rural context
- Offering independent advice when problems arise
- Providing an evangelical voice into many of the main line denominations, on challenges faced by rural congregations
+ Our vision and values
We want to release the missional imagination of men and women of God in the countryside, and see kingdom growth through discipleship. Our vision is to see the countryside served by missional communities who are grace filled, God empowered and contextually relevant. In the same way that overseas mission agencies have developed effective strategies for their overseas work, we are convinced similar strategies are required to reach the estimated twelve million people living in rural situations in the UK.
At the heart of everything we do are our values; these are the elements that we have observed in churches and mission initiatives that are vibrant and growing. We stand by them being the set of behaviours that we expect all our partners to embrace to further our vision to see lost people led to Jesus.
Our values are:
We believe that Jesus needs to be at the heart of all we are and all we do.
We believe that the Bible is about God and God’s love for us. As we read about God, and about God’s people, the Bible speaks directly to us today.
We value diversity in the Church; one size does not fit all. We need different types of congregations and different styles of mission in order to make disciples, who in turn make disciples.
We are all about God’s mission, enabling people to journey towards Jesus.
We seek wherever possible to enable churches to be self-sustaining and productive, expectant of growth.
We actively encourage and resource mentoring, appraisals and on-going leadership development; leaders should be constantly learning, growing and accountable to others as disciples.
+ Meet the team
CEO, Revd Simon Mattholie has served in a number of rural
churches throughout his ministry, and regularly teaches on rural mission.
Pastoral Support Director (North), Alistair Birkett has a background in running church initatives in the Scottish Borders where he is a farmer.
Pastoral Support Director (South), Rev Alison Griffiths was the minister of a church in the Forest of Dean for seveal years and has also worked as a solicitor and a community mediator.
Nick Jones works for Rural Ministries as our administrator, and supervises the care of our properties. Nick also manages our conferences and events.
The work of our staff team is overseen by our Board of Trustees - see 'How we are run' below.
+ Where we work
Rural Ministries works across the UK with a number of Partners in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all of which are linked with the rural context.
+ Our Story
It all started in the early 1960's with a vision to provide housing and evangelise Britain's villages. At the time little did anyone know that God would take two seeds, planted at completely different times and bring them together into one plant. Out of the nurturing of those two seeds came Datchet Evangelical Fellowship and the joining together of the two-fold vision of Pastor Herbert Goddard.
Pastor Goddard had a burden for the rural church to remain open. He was saddened as he saw them closing. He was also concerned for the fate of the retired missionaries and their future accommodation. And so the work of Datchet Evangelical Fellowship (now Rural Ministries) commenced. Over the years we have continued to adapt and change the way we work but the overarching desire to see the unchanging Gospel kept alive in the countryside remains the same.
+ How we are run
As a registered charity, Rural Ministries is directed by a Board of Trustees, consisting of individuals from a number of denominations and church backgrounds who have a passion for mission and church growth.
Stephen Spurgeon (Chair)
Stephen leads our Board of Trustees who are instrumental in guiding and advising the work of Rural Ministries on both practical and spiritual issues.
After graduating, worked as an engineer in manufacturing and then in BP Exploration and Development in major project management and then in Resource Management. On leaving BP in 2002, formed Spurgeos Ltd, a business facilitation company. Chaired Ipswich Concern Counselling Trust 2005 - 2010. Served (and chaired for part of the time) on Lord Chancellors Advisory Committee (Suffolk) recommending people to become JP's (2001 - 2008). Qualified as a generalist adviser with CAB where he is a volunteer. Pastoral oversight of Elmswell Baptist Church since 2002.
Chris Hughes (Deputy Chair)
Chris qualified as a solicitor in 1979 and later as a Notary Public. Former Minister of Bishopstoke Evangelical Church - now a member of Above Bar Church in Southampton. Currently working for a firm of solicitors based in Camberley, Surrey and a member of Hampshire RE Advisory Body (SACRE) where he chairs their Monitoring Group.
Elaine worked in Local Government Administration; then Secondary Teaching and Lecturing in Business Studies; becoming Assistant Director of Sixth Form. Retired from teaching in 2005; now semi-retired and working part-time in Education Administration. Formerly a free evangelical church leader; joined Rural Ministries Board in 2009.
Paul is a director of Wettone Matthews Ltd - (Chartered Certified Accountants). He is also elder of the Butts Evangelical Church, Alton; Vice Chair of East Hampshire CAB Ltd; trustee of charity working in the Middle East specifically for the relief of hardship among refugees and children. Chair of Governors of local CofE Primary School.
Rev John Witts
John is Originally from Reading, now Pastor of Wychwood Baptist Church, Milton under Wychwood, since October 2010. Also, Governor of Wychwood Primary school. First pastorate since ministry training at Oak Hill Theological college. Previously worked as a Business Development Manager for a broadband solutions company serving the hospitality sector.
Mrs Hilary Taylor
Hilary is the Small Church Enabler for the London Baptist Association since 2007 and author of 'A Toolbox for Small Churches', blog writer and 35 years experience of working in a small church. She works with the Small Church Connexion, eight busy small church leaders, passionate about encouraging the 112 small Baptist churches across London. She leads worship, preaches, facilitates day conferences and organises regular events for small churches.
Rev Jenni Entrican
A former teacher, Jenni was ordained as a Baptist Minister in 2004. She has been an Associate Minister of a large Baptist Church, and a pioneer Church Planet of a new expression of church. She has been a Trustee of Bristol Baptist College since 2005 and is also their Chair of Education. From 2011-2015 she was Chair of Incarnate Church Planting Network. She was Baptist Union Great Britain President from 2015-16, and from 2015-2017 the Vice President of the European Baptist Federation (EBF). She became EBF President in 2017.
+ Our Basis of Faith
- The one true God who lives eternally in three distinct but equal persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
- The holiness, love, grace and sovereignty of God in creating, sustaining, ruling, redeeming and judging the world.
- The divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which in their entirety are the written Word of God fully trustworthy for faith and conduct.
- The dignity of all people made male and female in God's image to love, be holy and responsible stewards of creation, yet since our rebellion and fall, subject to sin and death.
- The incarnation of God's eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary, truly divine and truly human, yet without sin.
- The atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross: dying in our place, paying the price of sin and defeating evil, so reconciling us with God.
- The bodily resurrection of Christ, the first fruits of our resurrection; his ascension to the Father, and his reign as the only saviour and mediator of the world.
- The justification of sinners solely by the grace of God through faith alone in Christ.
- The ministry of God the Holy Spirit, who leads us to repentance, unites us with Christ through new birth, empowers our discipleship and enables our witness.
- The Church, the body of Christ both local and universal, the priesthood of all believers given life by the Spirit and endowed with the Spirit's gifts to worship God and make disciples who promote justice and love.
- The personal and visible return of Jesus Christ to fulfil the purposes of God, who will raise all people to judgement, bring eternal life to the redeemed and eternal condemnation to the lost, and establish a new heaven and new earth.