Exploring Rural/Non-Rural Differences Among United Methodist Churches and Clergy in North Carolina
Despite the fact that nearly one-third of churches in the United States are located in predominately rural areas, researchers have paid little attention to rural churches and the experiences of their clergy. What little empirical literature does exist typically examines rural churches without providing comparative data to churches in other locations.
This study uses church records and a survey of 1,726 actively serving United Methodist Church (UMC) clergy in North Carolina to examine rural/non-rural differences. Analyses were restricted to clergy serving in churches (N = 1,505), and those with non-missing data for each outcome. Three unique ordination statuses exist within the UMC: elder, local pastor and pastors recalled from retirement (retired pastors). Churches were coded as rural based on clergy descriptions of the areas surrounding their primary congregations (e.g., “rural or open country”). Church size was measured as number of members.
We hypothesized that...