40th Annual Rural Ministry Conference

Engaging and Ministry with Cultural Traditionalists


We live in a deeply divided society with divisions along political, social, cultural, urban/rural lines.  This conference will be helpful for pastors who see these divisions in their communities and congregations and are looking for ways to minister to all people.

Our keynote Speaker Tex Sample will explore this division by looking at a key demographic, cultural traditionalists.  Cultural traditionalists are the largest demographic in rural America and one of the largest in the country. This demographic is not limited by age, gender, or denomination –who knows- you may be a cultural traditionalist.

The presentations of Tex Sample will provide a description of this important group and offer suggestions for working with cultural traditionalists.  These presentations are valuable not only for small town and rural congregations but will provide a greater understanding of this demographic found in many, if not most, congregations.

The Rev. Dr. Tex Sample brings years of ministry experience, teaching and research to this topic.  His most recent books include A Christian Justice for the Common Good, and Working Class Rage: A Field Guide to White Anger and Pain.  Tex Sample has participated throughout his career in both the church and the community, with a focus on social, racial, gender, and economic justice issues, community organizing, and interfaith movements.  He has been one of the best received presenters at the Rural Ministry Conference. See his tab for more information.

The 40th Rural Ministry Conference was held via Zoom on Monday, March 8, 2021. View the schedule tab below to see video recordings of the sessions.

Leaders and Speakers

Keynote Speaker: The Rev. Dr. Tex Sample became pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri in July 2018. He previously served this congregation on an interim basis in 2014. Sample is the Robert B. And Kathleen Rogers Professor Emeritus of Church and Society at The Saint Paul School of Theology where he taught for 32 years. He holds a B.A. degree from Millsaps College, an M.Div. from the Boston University School of Theology, a Ph.D. from the Boston University Graduate School. and a D.D. from Coe College. Sample is a freelance lecturer and speaker in North America and overseas. He has published 14 books. His book, Blue Collar Ministry: Facing Economic and Social Realities of Working People, was named a “Judson Classic” by the Judson Press, and his book U.S. Lifestyles and Mainline Churches was the bestseller for Westminster/John Knox Press for over two years. His most recent books A Christian Justice for the Common Good and Working Class Rage: A Field Guide to White Anger and Pain, are both available from Abingdon Press. Sample has participated throughout his career in both the church and the community, with a focus on social, racial, and economic justice issues, community organizing, and interfaith movements. In 2016, he received the Invictus Award for Social Justice from the Liberty, Missouri, Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee at its celebration of MLK Day; later that year, he was given The Equality and Justice Award by The Greater Metropolitan the world meeting of his denomination.

Sample was born and grew up in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and as a young man drove a cab, worked in construction, and was a roustabout in the oilfield. Sample is married to Peggy Jo Sanford Sample, who is a water- media artist and a musician. They have three children, one of whom is deceased. “Tex” is his real name, not a nickname. His father named him after Texanna Gillham, an African American woman who lived near Shelbyville, Texas.

Bible Study Leader: Rev. Dr. Richard J. Shaffer Jr., is the Senior Pastor and Head of Staff of the Oswego Presbyterian Church in Oswego, Illinois, a diverse, hybrid congregation with parallel ministries in the western suburbs of Chicago and the rural landscape of north-central Illinois. He has also served rural congregations in Iowa and Minnesota. His blog, Ruralpastors.org, provides resources and guidance for church leaders who are interested in transforming the work and mission of their rural congregations in the midst of a time of intense transition in the church.

Prior to returning to the pastorate in 2017, Skip served for twelve years as Associate Dean and Assistant Professor of Ministry at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, where he had the opportunity to share his experience with men and women who were learning to become leaders in the church. He has taught classes in rural ministry, Reformed worship, clergy ethics, Presbyterian polity, and ministry and money, as well as a number of other ministry related subjects. His responsibilities at the seminary also included serving as Director of Distance Education, Director of the D.Min. program, Director of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning, and Director of Seminary Programs. He has been a part of the seminary’s successful lay pastor education program and continues to teach classes online each year.

Skip’s wife, Jaimie, serves as Circulation Supervisor at the University of Dubuque Library. They have two adult children, a twelve year old granddaughter who runs the household, thirteen chickens, and a lively golden retriever named Brinkley.

Workshop Leader: Jennifer Prinz is Portico Benefit Services’ regional representative covering the ELCA Region 5  (Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Upper Peninsula of Michigan). The five Portico regional representatives focus on establishing and maintaining excellent member and sponsor relationships in their assigned territories. Some of this is done by facilitating workshops at synod assemblies, meeting with senior seminary students, first call Pastors, and Jennifer also meets annually with all of the 12 synods’ Bishop and their staff in her region.

Jennifer has more than 25 years of communications and relationship-building experience, in both faith-based and health care organizations. She previously worked as a gift planner for the ELCA Foundation, serving the state of Illinois. Prior to that, she was Director of Professional Development at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  She resides in Waverly, Iowa, where her husband is an ELCA Pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church & School.

Portico Benefit Services provides health, flexible spending, retirement, disability, and survivor plans to rostered and lay leaders. Through benefits designed for ministry, Portico empowers members to live well — physically, financially, and emotionally. By living well as whole people of God, we can better enhance the lives of others.


Click the session title to watch its recording.

8:30-9:00 – Introduction and Devotions

9:00-10:25 – Keynote, Tex Sample “Cultural Traditionalists in Rural America”

10:30-11:30 – Worship and “coffee hour” with the Wartburg community

11:30-12:30 – Keynote 2 “Ministry with Cultural Traditionalists”

12:30-1:00 – Lunch, offline

1:00-2:00 – Workshops, Round 1

2:05-3:05 – Workshops, Round 2 (workshops options are the same for each session, including the Bible study)

3:10-3:30 – Closing Devotions and announcements about a joint Rural Ministry Conference in 2022 with the International Rural Churches Association

Workshop Options


Rev. Dr. Tex Sample

This workshop will focus on cultural traditionalist practices and specific practices for working with them in ministry.


Rev. Dr. Richard “Skip” Schaffer

Building a sense of community and hospitality when food and drink don’t work.


Facilitated by Members of the RMC Planning Committee

This is meant to be a time to celebrate and share congregations’ faithfulness to God’s mission in chaotic times and the gifts and possibilities that were discovered. Topics might include: how to return to regular worship after the pandemic, pastoral care and funerals; best worship, Bible study and Vacation Bible school practices, and maintaining congregational cohesion and community. Come share what you have learned.


Facilitated by Members of the RMC Planning Committee

This is meant to be a time of celebrating and share creative and innovate ways of addressing technology issues in smaller, less resourced congregations. Topics might include: how to minister to those without internet; how to preserve a vacant building until we return fully;  best practice in cyberspace worship—do’s and don’ts; review of best equipment (cameras, sound systems, etc.) for online worship; when the plate isn’t passed, but the budget is; tips for ZOOMing Bible Study—do’s and don’ts. Come share what you have learned.


Jennifer Prinz

Church leaders have unique jobs full of unexpected surprises. Being a church leader can be isolating because you have few people to call on for support, especially during a long pandemic. In this workshop, join Portico Regional Representative, Jennifer Prinz, where you’ll hear from ministry leaders—like you—who are navigating these challenges and how they’re taking the lessons they’ve learned to become stronger leaders for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Registration Details

Registration for the one-day event is $25.00. Online registrations require payment by credit card. If you would prefer to pay by check, mail your check with “Rural Ministry Conference” in the memo line to: Wartburg Theological Seminary, Attn: Ann Fritschel, 333 Wartburg Pl, Dubuque, IA 52003. Please include a note with your contact information including an email address and phone number so we can contact you with details for accessing the conference.

A few days prior to the event, you will receive information via email to access the event.

Questions? Contact Ann Fritschel at afritschel@wartburgseminary.edu or 563-589-0308.

2022 Rural Ministry Conference

The 2022 Rural Ministry Conference will be held in conjunction with the quadrennial meeting of the International Rural Church Association, of which Wartburg’s Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen is the president. The theme is Leading and Ministering in a Time of Climate Change. This is a marvelous opportunity to meet with rural pastors and community leaders from across the globe.

The 2022 Rural Ministry Conference will be held April 24-26, 2022 at the Grand River Center in Dubuque, IA. The International Rural Church Association will run from April 21-27. You are invited to participate in both if you have the time. We will have global speakers and global worship each morning.

Consider Becoming a Host Family for International Guests

We are expecting up to 100 participants from around the world during the weekend of April 22-24. Part of the experience is to visit rural areas in the host country to see and discuss similarities in rural life and ministry. This requires host families to share hospitality and offer educational sightseeing events to local farms and industries. Congregations may wish to see if they could provide more than one host family so there could be shared activities. Even if you do not attend the conference please feel free to host a family. If you know of others who may be interested in hosting a family, please send them this information.

Host family responsibilities:

  • Picking up their guest(s) from Dubuque IA by 11 am on Saturday April 23
  • Returning them to Dubuque by 3 pm on Sunday April 24
  • Provide five meals: Saturday and Sunday lunch, Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast.
  • Provide opportunities for sightseeing to local farms, agritourism spots and local attractions as well a meeting and visiting with farmers, church members and local pastors.
  • Provide housing for one night.
  • Take guest(s) to weekend worship.

Questions about serving as a host family? Contact Ann Fritschel at afritschel@wartburgseminary.edu.