In 1926, Professor Harvey Hoover began teaching Rural Sociology in the Pastoral Theology department at Gettysburg Seminary. Subsequently, Bertha Paulssen, J. Russel Hale, Mary Walsh and Jack Rodgers taught courses in sociology and practices of churches in open country to towns of 10,000. Gettysburg Seminary formalized and advanced those efforts by forming the Town and Country Church Institute (TCCI) in 1981.

The Rev. B.B. Maurer, PhD, was an early visionary for TCCI who had been Professor of Rural Sociology and leader of the Appalachian Regional School for Church Leaders at West Virginia University. His name honors the faculty chair connected to TCCI, along with founding TCCI director J. Russel Hale, and Bertha Paulssen who taught them both. Hale assisted Dr. Mary Lee Daugherty when she founded the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center (AMERC).

Since rural life is embedded in land, environmental concerns emerged in courses by Dr. Hale in the 1970s. In 1994, TCCI Director John A. Rodgers and William O Avery started the first Gettysburg Seminary course fully dedicated to ecology and stewardship. TCCI today continues efforts in ecological stewardship in alliance with several partners. A Concentration in Town and Country Church Ministry also began in 1994.

In 2015, three ELCA seminaries with rural ministry programs initiated a new ELCA Rural Ministry Education Collaboration which opened cross-registration for rural immersions, collaborative research and other sharing in teaching & learning.