My great-great uncle was a Lutheran clergy who served only one church his entire life which was something like forty years. A large stone church built in the 19th century on the prairie he raised my grandmother when her mother died. An icon in that community he maintained a schedule throughout his ministry; he worked in his office every weekday morning for at least two hours. Then the rest of the day he got in his car and went visiting. He carried a pair of bib overalls in his trunk with boots. And when he got to a farm or saw someone on their tractor or doing gardening he slipped into his chore clothes and joined them, sitting on the fender of the tractor as he checked in to see how they were doing. From the first day that I served the church I was now at I adopted his model of ministry.
It worked! And it was fun.
Even when I knew that the people at whose farm I stopped went to another church or none at all I simply drove in, held out my hand, introduced myself and my car (people recognize you by your vehicle in rural areas), and simply said that if there was anything that I could ever do for them to let me know. I was just being a person among people. No expectations. No obligations. No impositions. It taught me how to build unity and cohesiveness in the community and I found rest for my soul.
The only people for whom it did not work were the few at the church who paid my salary and who were driven by doctrine and ideology. But there were far more people who were appreciative of my approach than the minority who were chronically disgruntled rationalists. And so for several years I learned the wisdom of Karl Barth’s insight when asked what was required to succeed in ministry and he replied, …the mind of a theologian, the heart of a child, and the hide of rhinoceros.