Networking has been a characteristic of the work of the Centre for Rural Mission throughout its existence. For us it provides opportunity to serve others - both churches and mission agencies. There are sound reasons for encouraging networking.
The challenge to effectively evangelise the 10 million people of rural Britain is far greater than all the specialist organisations put together could achieve. Indeed we estimate that they could not achieve more than 2% of the task. So the work has to be done by the churches. But most rural churches find the task rather daunting. By encouraging networking between churches and mission agencies we increase the potential.
Rural communities have always varied in character but change in rural Britain is taking place rapidly. We all have much to learn about how to be effective in sharing the story of Jesus in this context. We need to learn from one another's experiences.
Rural church leaders often feel that those within their denominational networks do not fully appreciate the challenges and complexities of rural ministry. Similarly town-based Churches Together Networks usually have an urban culture and seem alien to those in rural ministry. Not only is rural ministry very demanding, it can often seem unproductive and the possibilities of discouragement are significant. Therefore the opportunity for fellowship with other rural church leaders and between rural churches is valuable.
The Director of the Centre for Rural Mission was a key factor in setting up the Rural Evangelism Network in 1982. For many years he led a popular rural forum he established in East Sussex. On moving to the East Midlands we established one network for South Leicestershire and North Northamptonshire based on Market Harborough, and later gave a lead to a rural group of churches around Rugby in East Warwickshire.