By Patrick Bowler
Valley Life Church (Lebanon, OR) 

Because the current population surge in small-town America is predominantly due to urban out-migration, rural America is experiencing a significant cultural shift. For the most part, rural America was ethnically and socially homogenous up until the “Rural Rebound.” Small towns are now experiencing a growing demographic diversity. Klassen and Koessler state, “A new word—‘rurban’—has been coined to refer to [those] people who have moved to a rural setting while holding on to their urban cultural mindset.”[1] Combine urban out-migration with the proximity to urban culture that the universality of the Internet affords and you have all the required ingredients for the social urbanization of small-town America. O’Dell writes, “Rural America is being impacted by the same information technology breakthroughs as the rest of the world. Cable news is reaching us. The cinemas are reaching us. We are getting PS3s and Xboxes, and playing Rock Band… Outsiders might be fooled by our… gravel roads, but we are moving along the same information highway as they are.”[2]

The aforementioned trends may not be true of every rural community, but with 80 percent of rural communities experiencing similar population growth, I believe the “rurban” description helpful.

[1] Ron Klassen and John Koessler, No Little Places: The Untapped Potential of the Small-Town Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), p. 59.

[2] Shannon O’Dell, Transforming Church in Rural America (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 2010), p. 171.