With butterfly’s in my stomach I ran out of the tunnel from the locker room to our high school football stadium. It was the biggest game of the year – Leominster vs. Fitchburg – on Thanksgiving Day. So big in fact that this rivalry of neighboring towns has been played since 1894.
As we approached the sidelines I looked at a teammate and said, “Where is everyone?” I was naïve because this specific game broke 15,000 in attendance, but it looked empty in my eyes.
Growing up I couldn’t comprehend small or rural America. I didn’t even know such towns existed. I grew up 40 miles outside Boston (673,000). I eventually moved to Baton Rouge (227,000) and spent a short span of time in New York City (8.5 million).
Endless food options paired with a Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks on every corner was the norm to me. Fun activities and the general personality of a large city was always on display. There was never a dull moment to be found.
This past December, Kayla and I went on vacation to Los Angeles (3.9 million). At this point though, we lived in towns of 4,009 and 4,652 for the previous six years.
It was a Sunday and we were making our way to the Griffith Observatory in LA. The Observatory was only seven miles from our hotel. It took us 45 minutes to get to our destination. I looked at Kayla and screamed, “Bring me back to my town of 5,000 people!”
I never thought I’d live – or enjoy living – in a small town. Maybe that's because this isn’t the case for most people my age. Because of this it’s becoming more difficult for churches in rural locations to not only employ young leaders, but engage with millennials in their communities.