Zhoukou City is in a poor agricultural area with 11.4 million people in 12 counties and surrounding areas. Their wheat production is one seventh of the amount produced in all of China. There are a total of 1,340 churches in the Zhoukou area with close to 700,000 Christians. There are only seven ordained ministers and 41 elders -- far too few to minister adequately to so many believers. Each pastor has to minister to 28 churches and most lay leaders are volunteers with limited time.
Over 90 percent of the Christians in Zhoukou come from rural villages and have little education and few opportunities. Under such circumstances, there is a need for pastors to be better equipped in order to provide necessary pastoral care. In reality, however, pastors in Zhoukou face many hardships themselves as well and have little opportunity for the training they need. Some pastors have to leave the province so they can earn a living for themselves and their families. The number of pastors is dropping, making the shortage of pastors even more acute.
The scarcity of pastors is a serious problem with sometimes only three pastors available to lead the 700,000 believers in Zhoukou City. The church conducts lay leader training all year round. All lay leaders receive one-week of training once a year. There are normally 600-700 lay leaders in attendance for a week in the training class. While they are receiving the training, they also get advanced agriculture technology classes. They are encouraged to become preachers for the local churches and to provide pastoral care, as well as functioning as an agriculture development technician. Growing wheat is necessary for food, but does not provide family revenue, since farmers must spend a lot of money on fertilizer and pesticide.
In 2010, Global Ministries supported the Zhoukou Church in publishing an advanced agriculture technology textbook, printing 120,000 copies. The Zhoukou Church also has started a tree project. This sustainable agriculture project aims to educate seminary students, lay leaders, and villagers about the techniques of multi-storied agriculture, and also helps the church to be financially sustainable. Of the revenue generated, half is used to sustain the church financially, and the other half is used to fund the training of pastors.
Connections with the People’s University of China in Beijing have been facilitated in order establish a local university research base at the Zhoukou Church, which is a good example for all of China in carrying on the three-self principle (Self-Governing, Self-Propagating, and Self-Support) to run the church well. This endeavor can be a model for all churches in China, as it brings resources to the church.
In recent years, Global Ministries has been supporting the Zhoukou Church Tree project in order for them to be able to demonstrate the advanced agricultural classes for all lay leaders in training. Global Ministries also welcomes gifts to be used directly in the educational efforts of the Zhoukou Church. It costs approximately $10,000 to support 1,000 lay leaders to attend this training for a week.