Approximately 84 percent of Finns are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Most of the Church’s 562 congregations are located in rural areas. In local communities Church congregations typically play a significant role, providing job opportunities, offering various services and promoting social and mental welfare. This paper examines the role that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and its congregations have in rural development. The activities of the rural congregations are examined, firstly, from the point of view of rural development on the whole. What is the potential of the congregations in rural development? Secondly, the role of congregations in rural development is examined by taking into consideration the religious motivations and justifications that the Church and congregations give for their social action.