Editor’s note: Launched by the Presbyterian Mission Agency in fall 2009, For Such a Time as This was designed to renew and grow small churches and help them to become healthy, missional congregations. The program pairs small, underserved congregations in rural, small town, and urban settings with recent seminary graduates in a two-year pastoral-residency relationship, during which they are supported and guided by a cluster of pastor-mentors. Paul Snyder is one of six pastoral residents in the For Such a Time as This Class of 2012, serving Glencoe-Sloan Presbyterian Church, Bismarck, N.D., and First Presbyterian Church of Wilton, N.D. (Presbytery of the Northern Plains). — Presbyterian News Service

The needs of the Presbyterian Church of Wilton were quite specific, someone with a rural background, someone that had a firm understanding and background in the church, someone who could bring a musical leadership and someone who could strengthen on the already strong youth program.

When Pastor Paul Snyder read about the need, he saw that he was exactly what they were seeking. He was so sure that he didn’t even need to apply anywhere else.

The Wilton Church had been looking for someone to fill a full-time need for nearly 20 years, church member Stacey Leidy said. The Glencoe Church was looking for nearly 40 years for someone. Now that’s biblical proportions.

It didn’t take long for Snyder and the church families to agree that he would be the man for the job.

Snyder Grew up in Campbell, Minn., and Arvilla, N.D. He eventually started his secondary education at the University of Minnesota - Morris. He then transferred to the University of North Dakota where he studied music education, and focused on both instrumental and vocal aspects of music. He became a music teacher in LaMoure, ND for three years. He felt the pull to teach in the church and was the youth and education coordinator for a time at the University Lutheran Church in Grand Forks. He made a switch again, this time to farming. His family’s farm in Arvilla is where he learned about raising dogs and farming.

It was there that he said he fell in love with the rural church.

“I always knew I would be a part of a rural church,” Snyder said.

So it was back to school at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa. There he studied for his seminary degree. While there he accepted a position as a student pastor and served for three years. He graduated this May and was ordained at his home church in Arvilla in August. About a week later, he was on the job at the First Presbyterian Church in Wilton and Glencoe Sloan Memorial Church.

He was able to fill the need in the churches through the “For Such a Time as This” program. It’s a national program that places first call pastors in small churches. The program provides support for the church and pastor to start ministries there.

The program has already allowed for the church to see growth, relief of work to church members and the future is looking very bright. Without the program, the church would not have been able to afford a full-time pastor.

Wilton church board member Stacey Leidy said that it has been a huge blessing.

“We had a part-time person for a couple years, otherwise it’s just been fill,” Leidy said.

We were at a do or die,” Leidy continued.

They took a step in a direction to continue and to thrive in the community. While the Wilton church had some youth, the Glencoe church had next to none. Now, however, every Sunday the youth have been attending church at Glencoe.

Having a pastor excited about music has been a a big boost for the church, as he can appeal to the younger and older groups of church. For a time the church was using CD music in their worship service. More times than not, Snyder is now strumming his guitar for gospel.

Changes in the community prompted a need for change in the church. Leidy said that just looking around town makes it clear that the population is growing and changing. Adding numbers to the church is in reach.

“It’s doable,” Leidy said.

Snyder also says it’s doable. He is thrilled to be a part of these churches and looks forward to a prosperous future of sharing the gospel. The Wilton church has about 50 members and the Glencoe church has right around 30 members.

Snyder is also an avid hunter and fisherman and looks forward to getting out and about.

The Glencoe Sloan Memorial Church service starts at 8:45 a.m. and the First Presbyterian Church in Wilton service is at 11 a.m.

Snyder also encourages the community to check out the church’s new Web site http://www.wiltonglencoepresbyterian.com/.

This article was originally published in the Leader-News, a BHG News Inc. newspaper in Washburn, N.D.