I have wrestled with that title since I arrived in Ruidoso, New Mexico. I serve as the pastor of First Baptist Church (FBC). The church is a classic, yet unusual FBC. The church is classic in that it is a typical SBC church in programing and culture. The church is unusual in that it is in a resort area in southern New Mexico. Ruidoso has a population of about 9000 in the off season and up to 30,000 in the peak season. I have been at the church for 5 years and have learned much from pastoring a resort area church. Here are a few things:
1. Transition. The church is in a transition zone. People come in and out often. The field here is not a place the average person can come and live. I have seen many people come in and out. The good thing is that it gives a small town a busy feel. The tough part is seeing people come in and out. Retirees get to a point where they must move for health reasons or just need to get back to family. Resort ministry is transitional ministry at some point. It is hard to build and expand a foundation.
2. Retirement. The challenge can be retirees. People come to a resort area to well, retire, rest, refresh, reorient, but not always for ministry. I’m thankful for those who do both. Some people use their retirement as a platform to serve. Retirees can also be SMOs. A SMO is a “Sunday Morning Only” person, but hey, is that not what most American Christians are? The benefit of having many retirees is they come with maturity for the most part. There are always a few people who think their new mission is to run everything. Some retirees want to still be in charge in negative ways. Most of them want to continue serving the Lord. Retirees are an asset. Then are willing to serve.
3. Renew. Ruidoso is a small, slow town. It’s sleepy in the winter. Yet from May to October the town starts hoping. It begins to rain in July. The mountains are simply wonderful in the summer. While it is in the 100s just an hour away, it is in the 70s in the mountains. The same thing happens spiritually. Things pick up in the Summer spiritually. The transition and retirement as 50 to 100 people in our church body for 5 months. Baptisms pick up. People from around the southwest come through our church. God always seems to send special encouragers throughout the summer. By the time Fall arrives, renewal sets in. Our geography looks a lot like “New England in New Mexico.”
Random thoughts on ministry. Serving in Ruidoso has its challenges. Most of them are related to the cold weather. The bottom line is assignment. God assigns us to serve. Our job is to be faithful to the assignment to the glory of God.