“It takes a conscious effort to put people and their needs before programs,” says Bud Olszewski, pastor of Rittman Grace Brethren Church, a Charis Fellowship congregation in Rittman, Ohio. Bud has been pastoring his congregation for 36 years and values the impact of long-term ministry in the local church.
The city of Rittman, Ohio, is self-described as “a small town with a big heart,” and has a population of 6,000 residents. The community has put its trust in Rittman Grace as a longstanding and reliable congregation. A former pastor at nearby Wooster, Ohio Grace Church and Bud’s mentor, Ken Ashman, set the tone for being the ‘community pastor,’ a role which Bud has actively taken on. Bud’s involvement in the community of Rittman has not only existed within the walls of the church but also by having a constant presence in the school system. As Bud’s children were growing up, he was right there with them, coaching sports and building trust between the schools and the church.
Since Rittman Grace planted its roots in 1913, the congregation has been led by 12 different pastors, Bud Olszewski being the pastor with the longest ministry term to date. Early in his ministry, Bud committed to keeping people the priority. A reliable tool he uses is a spreadsheet on his computer that keeps track of the needs of the people in the congregation and a visiting log.
“One of the best things you can do is be available,” says Bud.
While the benefits of long-term ministry outweigh the hardships, Bud admits that pastoring a congregation for an extended amount of time can bring heartache.
“I’ve dealt with things over the years that they didn’t cover in seminary,” says Bud, “However, facing difficult things gives an opportunity for ministry.”
Going through difficult times like seeing some congregants go through illness or being destroyed by sin has not steered Bud away from continuing the work the Lord has given to him. He offers words of wisdom to those who are just starting on their ministry journeys, “What we face in culture today was not on our radar with what we learned in seminary. Never underestimate the groundwork of training. Take time to schedule discipleship and mentorship and spend time with those who build you up,” he says.
As culture seems to be changing every day, the congregation of Rittman Grace continues to be a trustworthy staple in Rittman, Ohio. They are hard at work to disciple the next generation, sending more than 40 people into full-time ministry over the last 106 years with more in the wings to be released to help build the Kingdom.
Rittman Grace’s weekly attendance currently averages out at around 120 congregants. The church is bringing in young families who are hungry for mission opportunities.
“Our impact on the community will always be greater than the numbers,” says Bud, “and we have a good situation to build on.”
[Connect:] Send Bud an encouraging note here.