What to Do When Your Hands are Tied?

Recently, I wrote a post about the need to fire staff and volunteers who may be hurting your church. This seems to be a big issue in many small town churches, but as one pastor reminded me, it’s often out of their control. In many churches, the pastor has very little power to do anything more than teach and preach God’s word. Everything else is handled either by a congregational vote or by a committee who may have a vision for the church that’s very different from the pastor’s.

So, what do you do?

A couple of ideas come to mind.

  1. Find another church to pastor that will allow you to lead.
  2. Plant your own church. Remember, it’s easier to give birth than raise the dead.

But, what if you don’t want to leave? You may really love the church and community you’re serving, you may feel God has called you there for a reason, or you may just need the salary they’re paying you.

What do you do then? Here are some thoughts.

Learn to be patient. A church that has been doing things the same way for years won’t suddenly decide to change just because you showed up. Realize this is going to take some time. Sometimes the best strategy may be to try to outlive those who are currently there.

Build relationships. Even with the people who oppose you. This is difficult, and sometimes not beneficial, but occasionally, you will win someone over if you take the time to care about him or her. Before you try to get a church to change, prove to them that they can trust you and you’re in it long-term.

Change what you can. It’s easy to get caught up in what you don’t have the power to change. Instead, focus on the things you can change. These may be very small things like church décor or even landscaping. It could be what curriculum you use for children’s ministry or Sunday school. Get out the church’s constitution and bylaws and figure out what you can change.

Focus on your family. The most important ministry you have is in your home. Spend time loving your spouse and kids. They should never feel like the church comes before them. Sometimes we think being a pastor means we’re always on the clock. That doesn’t need to be the case. The church can easily replace you. Your family cannot.

Pray. I still believe in the power of prayer. Prayer can sometimes move someone out of a position that doesn’t need to be there, and prayer sometimes moves you out of a church that’s unhealthy for you. Either way, prayer keeps your eyes focused on Jesus.

Having trouble transitioning a church and need someone to talk to? Visit my contact page and send me an email. I’d love to help or just be there as someone you can vent to. I’ve been in that position before, and sometimes it helps just to talk to someone who’s been through it.

4 Reasons Your Goals Never Get Accomplished

Just over a year ago, my wife and I set out on a journey to build a house. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. To make a long story short, my parents had given me a little spot of land, but because of all the rules and regulations our county has in place, we’ve still yet to even get our deed. Without a deed you can’t build a house, and at this point, housing costs have risen so much, we couldn’t afford to build the house we want anyways. Which means, we’re stuck where we are. Not a great place to be, but a place many churches find themselves in as well.

There’s a story Jesus tells about a man who sets off to build a tower, which has come to my mind more than a few times during this whole situation. I’m left to wonder whether I’m this man who forgot to consider the cost.

Some of you pastors may feel the same way. There’s a cost to ministry, and often that cost is failure.

But I believe failure can be avoided, at least in most circumstances. We just need to avoid making some of these simple mistakes.

  1. Lack of preparation. When you’re passionate about seeing your church grow, it’s easy to skip over some of the prep work that needs to take place before you get started. It would be like trying to plant seeds before you till the ground. No matter what kind of goal you have, there’s always prep work that needs to happen first.
  2. Trying to do it by yourself. Every pastor needs a team of people around him or her who are working together to accomplish the same thing. You can’t do it by yourself, and even if you could, you shouldn’t. Ministry is meant to be done together. If you feel like you don’t have anyone on your team, you need to spend more time prepping those relationships.
  3. Trying to go too fast. Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. There are going to be times when you need to push hard, and there are going to be times when you need to rest. Try to change too much too quickly, and you may find yourself looking for a new church to pastor. Remember to pace yourself.
  1. Forgetting to celebrate along the way. It’s easy to be so focused on accomplishing the goals that we forget to celebrate the wins that lead up to that goal. In the church I serve, we haven’t come close to reaching our goal for small groups this year. But we just saw three people give their lives to Christ because of the influence of a small group they were attending. I would be crazy not to celebrate that. Celebrating along the way gives you the momentum to accomplish your ultimate goal.

I’m sure I’ve left some things out. What would you add to this list? What are some of the mistakes you’ve made when it comes to accomplishing goals? Leave a comment and let us know. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

The Art of Leading Change in the Rural Church

Guest Post: Dr. Kiley Callaway

As a rural church pastor, it is top priority to develop a system to chart the church’s course to a dynamic, kingdom-advancing future. The direction from the Holy Spirit for the future is powerful, but you need a tool you can use to help your church grow and to help you develop your church into a high impact ministry accomplishing its life changing mission. I call this tool The Art of Leading Change.

The value of understanding The Art of Leading Change can’t be overstated; yet, most pastors have little training in the skills required to bring about effective change. Leading the change process is especially important to you as a pastor because any changes in the church environment can have a significant impact on the lives of many people, both inside and outside your church. Churches that make a difference don’t just happen. It takes more than a strategic plan to make a difference. It requires leaders who possess an ability to bring about the necessary changes that will empower their people to overcome barriers and seize opportunities.

Leading the change process is especially important to you as a pastor because any changes in the church environment can have a significant impact on the lives of many people, both inside and outside your church. The Art of Leading Change allows you to accomplish the future God has for you.

Leading Change includes: determining where you are now, determining where God wants you to go and determining how you’re going lead people to get them there. Let’s address one of the five main areas of The Art of Leading Change.

Implementing Change in the Church:

Most churches do not seek so much to create a preferred future as they do to perpetuate a manageable past.

The emotional, spiritual and mental effort that goes into pursuing an intentional game plan is significant. Of course, no matter how well you plan, it does little good until it is implemented. If your plan requires change to the ministries and ministry systems within your church, then putting the plan into action will require effective leading.

The following are some basic points for implementing your strategic change plan from a leadership perspective.

  1. Identify Influencers

You do not lead in a vacuum. Regardless of the size of your church, a small percentage of people affect the overall major decisions. The best place to start is to see who needs to be included. Making a list of the most influential people within your church is critical for successful change. Influencers are people who establish presence, who have a network of friends and family, people who are missed when they are absent and looked to in meetings for advice.

Do not assume that if people are in a certain position that they have influence, and do not assume that they do not have influence if they are not in an official role.

If you do not have a natural feel for who the influencers are, then ask your elder board or key leaders to brainstorm on some of the people who have influence in your congregation. Certain names will rise to the list quickly. Occasionally a person is listed who is not so much influential, but is well-liked, is outgoing and/or active in ministry. It is better to be more inclusive than exclusive. The purpose in determining this list is not to develop a caste system, but to identify individuals with natural and spiritual gifts for leading.

  1. Gather a Change Team

To gather a team, you will need to know about four groups of people: innovators, progressives, adopters, and late adopters. You will want to know how to identify innovators and progressives so they can serve on the Change Team or you might refer to as the Dream Team. This group will be very helpful in brainstorming with you about what the plan will be for the church, and how it will be implemented with the fewest barriers.

By working through the plan with the team, they will get an idea of your vision and passions which should influence the direction of the brainstorming sessions. By gathering the team to brainstorm, you broaden the likelihood of the plan being implemented.

  1. Prepare the Church for Change

Jesus told the parable of the soils. The soil which was watered and weed-free provided a welcome, fertile base, resulting in fruitfulness. The Change Team is to help prepare the spiritual soil of the church to receive the seed for change.

Many pastors and leaders walk away frustrated from limited fruit-bearing. They overlook their need to prepare the church to receive the vision. The more significant the change, the more time and the greater teaching is needed to nurture the dream.

  1. Change Celebration

When changes have been employed and result in fruitfulness—even in small quantities—celebration is in order. By reinforcing what you want to see happen, the “weeds” will die from passive neglect.

Change does not come easy for many churches, but the more you talk it up and affirm the plan, the more trust you will build among those who are less comfortable with change.

For more information and steps on The Art of Change email Dr. Kiley Callaway at pastor@northfieldag.com


Kiley Callaway is the Lead Pastor of Northfield Church in Gering, Nebraska.  The church has seen over 250 people give their lives to Christ since 2013 and people are being transformed by the power of His presence.

Kiley is a gifted preacher, convicted about speaking the truth as passionately and plainly as possible.  God has given him a vision and a passion for helping people love God, love people and love the world.  Pastor Kiley is also working on a membership website to help rural church pastors. Rural Church Academy should be up and running by the end of the year.

Kiley, his wife Kerry and their children, Kayden, Keyan live in Gering, Nebraska while their oldest daughter lives in Georgia with her grandmother.  Kiley holds the Master of Theology and Doctoral Degree in Christian Counseling.  He is also the author of the book “Who Am I“.