Many rural churches seem to be holding their own, even growing. A study tracking the growth of rural churches in 99 rural Missouri townships for the past 50 years unearths some surprising results. John Bennett, the director of the Missouri School of Religion which has worked with the MU Rural Sociology Department on the study since 1952, has found shared characteristics among vital rural congregations. They include an openness to new people, visionary leadership and a shift from full-time to bi-vocational ministers.