Mel Boyle is a member of our Flowers Board of Reference.
Where did you grow up? How did where you grew up contribute to preparing you for life in small-town pastoral ministry?
I grew up on a farm outside of Grand Forks, ND, so I grew up in a rural context. I was in a 4-H club for nine years, participated in rural county fairs, and went to a one-room school through eighth grade. I went to a rural church about two miles from our farm.
Where have you served in ministry? Can you describe the particular culture in those areas and how that affected your ministry there?
We did a church plant in central Illinois in a town of 16,000; we did another church plant in northern North Dakota, 16 miles from the Canadian border in a town of 2,000. These were two different cultures, yet similar in a smaller town context. The second ministry was much more isolated, with the closest town 30 miles away, but the closest Walmart or McDonalds was 70 miles away. I had to be intentional to reach out to another Christian pastor’s wife for fellowship and friendship and I did that. Three of us met for Bible Study with our toddler kids playing around us while we talked and prayed. We drove the 30 miles to connect every other week.
How did God bring you to a place of serving in small-town/rural ministry? Did you have any sort of “calling” in this? If so, describe the circumstances.
We were intentional about checking into a church planting opportunity right out of seminary. We led three evangelistic Bible Studies to see where God was working and one became very obvious by the end of four months in December. From that point the study became focused on what a church looked like and planning to launch a church by June.
How did God bring you and your husband together to serve in this way?
While my husband was in seminary, God seemed to be leading in the church planting direction.
Did you have any particular areas of ministry in which you served in your church and community and what led you to those decisions?
Before planting a church, in seminary, I was involved in children’s ministry and hospitality. My college degree was in Elementary Ed and I always enjoyed teaching. Hospitality was modeled for me in the church I attended just after becoming a Christian during college. When we got married, we wanted hospitality to be part of our life together whether we went into full time ministry or not. But as God led us into ministry, we were even more committed to practice hospitality in our home. In our first church plant, we invited the visitors over for a meal or dessert the first week. Often, they would tell us they had never been in a pastor’s home before. In our second church plant, we invited two widows over for soup and salad one day. They both were in their 70s and they both said they had never been in a pastor’s home before and thanked us repeatedly for having them over.
What has been one of your greatest challenges in this ministry context and how did you persevere in it? What did God teach you through it?
In the second church plant, we faced a lot of spiritual persecution…rumors being spread about us that were not true. I knew God’s sovereignty was greater than anything people could do to us, but it required trust and prayer that stretched me! In our second church plant, we were not paid regularly and I was stretched to modify my grocery buying, meal planning, and gave up some “luxury” items such as name brand items, and boneless chicken, etc.! I found numerous ways to extend our food and discovered new recipes! God was faithful to provide.
What has been one of your greatest blessings in this ministry context and how has that affected your perspective of small-town and rural ministry?
I saw God do so many miracles in people’s lives! Several in our youth ministry trusted Christ for their salvation. And I was able to make lifelong friends. During the second church plant, I was able to have a Bible Study with women at a small air force site (considered a remote site). They were only stationed there for two years. I am still friends with several of those women and their families. In fact, two of them attended several of our kids’ weddings! They live all over the US today but we can pick up where we left off when we get together.
If you could give a piece of advice to other rural and small-town pastors’ wives, what would it be and why?
Be friendly! Learn about them…their heritage, their spiritual walk! Explore the area and enjoy what is there that is probably like nowhere else that you will live! For example, there were 22 tea houses between where we lived in ND and Winnipeg, Manitoba. We went to one of the tea houses for lunch each time we finished a women’s Bible Study. Several of the women had never even been to Canada, even though it was just a few miles away. They remarked that it took someone not from there to introduce them to someplace new! I asked what they could teach me (crocheting, making bread, canning, etc). Use your gifts, but don’t do everything in the church, allowing God to tap them to use their gifts and talents. Learn contentment…do not remind them of what you left behind, or gave up to serve in this church ministry with them.
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