Modern Circuit Rider Uses Pickup Truck, Palm Pilot
Jan. 31, 2005
A UMC.org Feature
By Tamie Ross*
The Rev. Randy Beeler sometimes feels like a throwback to the preacher on horseback with a Bible in his saddlebag.
when he jumps into his aging Toyota Tacoma pickup and drives 25 miles
or so to preach for an audience of 50 at Wesley United Methodist Church
in Bryan, Texas — then gets back in the truck to drive eight miles to
preach to 38 worshipers awaiting him at his second church, Alexander
in small, underserved rural communities still minister to more than one
congregation, often traveling miles to preach at different churches.
Those churches don’t garner the same level of attention as their
large-membership counterparts in the city, Beeler says.
the United Methodist presence in these small communities is vital,” he
says. “I like to tell people to think of Bethlehem, where Jesus was
born. It was sort of a backwater place, don’t you think?”
has served what is known as a multipoint charge for the Texas Annual
(regional) Conference since 1999. His wife, the Rev. Pam Rose-Beeler,
leads the Cooks Point United Methodist near Caldwell, Texas. The
couple’s three children hear their mother preach most Sundays and tell
their father about her sermon at dinnertime.
were called to this — not just to ministry, but to a rural setting,”
Pam Rose-Beeler says of the family’s work in Texas. “It’s an important
place to be.”
Randy Beeler essentially has three offices — one at each church, plus
one at home — he says his single-cab, bronze-colored pickup is his
points to a charging cell phone, a briefcase and supply of snacks as
evidence. On the floor, Beeler’s iPod, laptop computer case and a Palm
Pilot stand ready for use between in-home appointments, nursing home
visits and hospital stops.
cowboy preacher really could have used those, Beeler jokes, noting that
he recently downloaded the Johnny Cash song, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” to
serenade him on his long drives through east Texas towns.
churches just eight miles apart may seem like one too many to some.
While a merger may sound attractive from a business standpoint, it isn’t
always an option, Beeler says.
churches are eight miles apart geographically speaking, but they’re
many more miles apart otherwise,” he says. “Every now and then they’ll
share events, and they support each other’s endeavors, but they’re proud
of their autonomy and their own personalities.
Beth Morrison says that sense of pride is important to small, rural
congregations. As the lead consultant in charge of congregational
vitalization in central Pennsylvania, Morrison works with multicharge
pastors and their churches.
goals and creating a vision for their work is her main objective. But
her main directive for the pastors who lead these congregations is to
develop trust with the membership.
a very important thing to rural churchgoers,” Morrison says. “If you
can build trust and relationships in a rural charge, you can do
phenomenal ministry in this type setting.”
says she constantly battles misperceptions — mostly in heavily
populated areas with several large congregations — that a church isn’t a
church if it only has 40 members.
course, financial viability is an issue, but the idea of building
partnerships among these churches has been a good one for us,” she says.
those willing to serve a multipoint charge long term — not just as a
stepping stone to a larger congregation — is also a priority. Julia
Wallace, director of ministries with small-membership churches for the
United Methodist Board of Discipleship, says candidates come from both
seminaries and the License for Pastoral Ministry Program.
annual conference confers the license to probationary members seeking
ordination as elders and local pastors appointed to perform the duties
of a pastor in a church.
and Rose-Beeler say the drive to adequately staff and appreciate
churches like theirs will continue to be an issue, as more young
retirees — 55 and up — leave the work force and the city. The pastors’
primary area is around the Brazos River, an attractive locale for those
interested in recreational living.
course, there are unique challenges to our work, but there are also
unique rewards,” Pam Rose-Beeler says. “Imagine going into a church and
everyone knowing your name, and that’s not only true of the pastor but
all the membership.”
*Ross is a freelance journalist based in Dallas.
News media contact: Matt Carlisle, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5153 or email@example.com.