The Art of Leading Change in the Rural Church

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


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“.

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