Building Rural Churches

In rural North Carolina, churches may play an important role in serving communities where resources are sparse. To support United Methodist congregations that are striving to meet unmet community needs through the use of church facilities, The Duke Endowment provides technical advice and sometimes grants to help churches renovate or build facilities for outreach.

Each year, Faith and Form, a magazine published by the Inter-Faith Forum on Religious Art and Architecture, invites architects and artists to submit their best work for an international contest. Categories include construction, renovation, landscape architecture, liturgical art and liturgical furnishings. The 2019 judges were (from left) the Rev. Gilbert Ostdiek, Annie Dixon, Kathleen Lane, Scott Parsons and James Theimer.

James B. Duke's family had strong ties to the Methodist church. His father, Washington Duke, attended a Methodist Sunday school near his North Carolina home and he joined the church as a young boy during a revival service. He attended Trinity Methodist near Durham with his sons.

Our founder grew up knowing the significance that churches held in communities. In his 1924 Indenture of Trust, he included support for the building and maintenance of United Methodist churches in rural North Carolina — "where the people are not able to do this properly for themselves."

Over the ninety years since, The Duke Endowment has helped to build hundreds of church structures that now are centers of worship and outreach in the rural parts of the state. Today, the need is not for new buildings to serve the internal needs of a congregation. The Endowment’s strategy instead is to encourage congregations to serve their communities in new ways.


Church Central to Rural Life

In North Carolina, over 2 million people live in rural areas. While worship facilities are prevalent, church buildings often are not used as centers of outreach. At the same time, rates of hunger, inadequate housing and illiteracy remain stubbornly high.

The church can play a pivotal role in addressing these issues. Church buildings can be homes for important community service programs; clergy can mobilize community volunteers from the pews.

As one United Methodist leader says, "Churches can and should see themselves as mission stations regardless of size."  


To strengthen the role that congregations play in serving communities in rural North Carolina, The Duke Endowment will consult with congregations regarding their plans and projects. If a grant proposal is warranted for the renovation or building of church facilities to serve congregational outreach needs, the Endowment will invite an application.

Recent grants have included:

  • $150,000 to build an outreach ministry center in the Blue Ridge District of the Western North Carolina Conference
  • $150,000 to construct a fellowship hall addition to expand community meal service and an after-school program at Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Townsville.

Building Churches Sustainably

The Rural Church program area encourages churches to incorporate green building practices into their construction and renovation projects as an act of stewardship. To help churches in this endeavor, the Endowment commissioned Guidelines for Environmentally Friendly Structures - A Checklist for Rural Churches & Related Buildings (June 2006) (pdf) for churches that want to "build green."


Area of Work

  • Rural church development

Program Area

  • Rural Church

Grantmaking Status

We are accepting inquiries related to building for outreach ministries.

Areas of Work

  • Prevention and early intervention for at-risk children

    To equip children and families with skills to ensure that children reach developmental milestones to lead successful lives.

  • Out-of-home care for youth

    To drive child welfare systems toward greater accountability for child well-being.

  • Quality and safety of health care

    Improving the quality and safety of health care delivery

  • Access to health care

    Improving health by increasing access to comprehensive care

  • Prevention

    Expanding programs to promote health and prevent disease

  • Academic excellence

    Enhancing academic excellence through program and campus development

  • Educational access and success

    Increasing educational access and supporting a learning environment that promotes achievement

  • Campus and community engagement

    Promoting a culture of service, collaboration and engagement among schools and communities

  • Rural church development

    Building the infrastructure and capacity of United Methodist churches to enhance ministry and mission

  • Clergy leadership

    Strengthening United Methodist churches by improving the quality and effectiveness of church leadership

  • Congregational outreach

    Engaging United Methodist congregations in programs that serve their communities