Welcome to The Church Lobby: Conversations on Faith & Ministry! (Formerly, Can This Work in a Small Church?) Every two weeks Karl Vaters interviews a church leader about the topics that concern pastors, especially those who minister in a small church context.
We call it The Church Lobby because
Most of our real-life conversations about faith and ministry happen in church lobbies, both as a congregation and pastor-to-pastor. In The Church Lobby podcast, that’s what we do.
Check out the full episode list, below.
Do you have any ideas for guests you’d like to hear a conversation with? Let us know by filling out the Feedback Form, below.
Available bi-weekly on all major podcast platforms.
Click any drop-down for more info or to listen to the episode.
Karl Vaters interviews Dale Sellers of the 95 Network, about some of the important issues facing small churches as we come out of the pandemic and look ahead to 5-10 years of fallout, including:
Karl Vaters interviews Michael Clary about the dangers of what he calls Elitist Christianity.
This conversation was inspired by a Twitter thread Michael wrote in which he confessed to an arrogant attitude he had developed as a young, successful church planter. Michael found himself looking down on pastors and Christians who hadn’t had his training, even though they were the people whose shoulders he was standing on.
His vulnerability, confession, and repentance hold great lessons for all of us.
Karl Vaters interviews Ryan Lokkesmoe, a church-planter and the author of a new book, Paul and His Team: What the Early Church Can Teach Us About Leadership and Influence.
We talk about what we can learn from the way Paul worked with his ministry team, and how those lessons translate to ministry today. Including:
Karl Vaters interviews Sean Nemecek, author of The Weary Leader’s Guide to Burnout: A Journey from Exhaustion to Wholeness. In this episode we’re talking to pastors who are wondering if they might be dealing with burnout in ministry.
Sean walks us through the following steps:
Karl Vaters interviews Brad Roth, a Mennonite pastor in rural Kansas, blogger at DoxologyProject.com the author of God’s Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church.
Brad and I talk about four of the main emphases of his book, namely:
Karl Vaters interviews Craig T. Owens, a pastor, author, co-host of the podcast “The Craig and Greg Show”, and a blogger at CraigTOwens.com.
Craig and I talk about the subjects addressed in his recent book, Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics that Really Matter, including:
There’s also an important undercurrent throughout the episode about putting our servanthood into action first, knowing that only then will a servant’s heart follow.
Karl Vaters interviews Daniel Sih about three areas that are having a massive effect on our lives and ministries:
Daniel offers great Bible-based insights into how we can acknowledge these challenges, offer a far better alternative, and minister in ways that answer people’s deepest needs.
But first, we need to get and stay healthy, ourselves. Stop living by the world’s stories, and find ourselves immersed in the bigger, better story God is telling.
Karl Vaters interviews Gary L. McIntosh, president of the Church Growth Network, professor at Talbot School of Theology (Biola University), and prolific author.
We talk about the principles in his just-released book, The Solo Pastor: Understanding and Overcoming the Challenges of Leading a Church Alone, by narrowing in on five of the main streams running through his book:
Karl Vaters interviews Erik Reed, a pastor in Nashville TN, about a Twitter thread Erik wrote on excellence in smaller churches.
Erik and I talk about:
Karl Vaters interviews Dan White Jr. about why we need a complete rethinking of how we do church, from the current, popular ways of seeing it as an institution or a series of programs, to seeing it as the movement Jesus intended it to be.
Specifically, Dan builds the case for a new type of leadership he calls Polycentric Leadership. The church is not a place, it is a movement. A movement of God’s people. And the key to regaining it is discipleship.
Welcome to the introductory episode of The Church Lobby: Conversations on Faith & Ministry! (formerly, Can This Work in a Small Church?)
In this bonus episode I talk about some of the big news coming from this ministry over the next year or two, including the reasons for the podcast name change, such as:
Most of our real-life conversations about faith and ministry happen in church lobbies, both as a congregation and pastor-to-pastor.
In The Church Lobby podcast, that’s what we’ll continue to do, always keeping the emphasis on the small-church perspective.
In this special bonus episode, I have no guests. Instead, I talk about . . .
Karl Vaters interviews Darrell Stetler, a small-church pastor, father of seven, and creator of NewStart discipleship curriculum – written with the needs and strengths of small churches in mind.
Darrell and I talk about the importance of discipleship in the life of the church – and as a central role in our calling as pastors.
Some key topics include:
• The importance of helping people create discipleship habits, not just filling their heads with information
• Making sure to see discipleship as a whole, not broken into individualized pieces
• The essential role that mentoring plays in discipleship – especially in the early days of someone’s walk with Christ
Plus, Darrell’s way of describing new believers as infants in Christ provides a fresh insight that is especially fresh and helpful from a pastoral perspective.
Karl Vaters interviews David Zahl, author of Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It.
It’s a wide-ranging conversation about how the religious landscape has changed in our culture, but not in the ways you may have thought. According to David, we haven’t become less religious, but the objects of our worship and the rituals and rules around that worship have changed from vertical to horizontal.
If you are a church leader, this will help you get a handle on some of the confusing shifts in attitude and behavior that may be frustrating you as you attempt to lead a congregation.
Specifically, we narrow in on the subjects of:
and how each of them may be playing themselves out in disruptive but subconscious ways in our lives and congregations.
Karl Vaters interviews Alan Briggs, a pastor, the author of Staying is the New Going, the host of the Right Side Up Leadership podcast and StayForth.com.
Alan and I talk about why geography matters in church leadership. Especially in an increasingly-mobile and increasingly-electronic world, staying planted where God put you is more important than ever for effective, incarnational ministry.
Staying in a church long-term may have its challenges, but they are far outweighed by their advantages – for the church, the pastors, the pastor’s family, and the community they’re called to serve.
Some important topics we cover include:
Karl Vaters interviews Aron Utecht, a pastor and the host of the Good Ideas for Churches podcast. We talked about some of the positive trends Aron is seeing in the church and among pastors, including refocusing on mission rather than obsessing over methods.
We also talked about the value of podcasting for pastors and churches, including what questions we must answer before we’re ready to ask “should I start a podcast?” (Hint: sometimes the answer is “no”.) In a lot of situations the best use of our limited time and energy may be to invest ourselves even deeper into the church and the surrounding community with low-tech, hands-on touches.
Aron encourages us not to get enamored with the tools and toys. Know what God has called you to do, then do it in the best way you know. If that’s a high-tech answer, fine. But if it’s old-school pastoring – which it will be for most of us – stay faithful in that.
Karl Vaters interviews
Rick Hiemstra, a former small church pastor, now serving as the Director of Research at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
Rick and I talk about a wide variety of subjects, including the Church Growth Movement, technology and how it has affected the way we approach pastoring.
Some helpful insights include:
And much more.
Karl Vaters interviews Ron Klassen of the Rural Home Missionary Association (RHMA) about seeing the unique nature of the small church, not as a problem to be solved, but as a strength to leverage, and even to exploit.
Here are a few highlights:
If you know a small town or rural church leader who could use this encouragement and these ideas, pass this episode along to them. And pick up Ron’s book, Maximize! Leveraging the Strengths of Your Small Church.
Karl Vaters interviews Matt Whitman, host of the Ten Minute Bible Hour podcast and YouTube channel.
Matt is a passionate Bible teacher who takes scripture very seriously, while keeping a light-hearted and light-handed approach to it.
We talk about the intersection of Bible teaching/preaching and pastoral care, including why everything Matt does in his ministry is to point people towards the Bible, Jesus, and the local church.
This conversation also covers:
Karl Vaters interviews Matt Steen, a former pastor and church planter, now with Chemistry Staffing, a ministry that helps churches find great staff members (and helps staff members find great churches).
The episode is filled with practical advice, including
Of special help will be how Matt describes the difference between “close-fisted” and “open-handed” theological issues, as well as the importance of giving churches time to get used to a pastoral departure, and to get ready for a new pastor.
Karl Vaters interviews John C. Nugent about the important question, has the church been called to separate ourselves from the world, to change the world, to fix the world, or something else entirely?
John is the author of several books including Endangered Gospel: How Fixing the World Is Killing the Church. He is a professor of Old Testament studies at Great Lakes Christian College, and co-host of the After Class Podcast.
John’s approach helps us understand where common misunderstandings about these issues come from so we can address them lovingly and biblically. He also frames these issues according to the entire story-arc of scripture, rather than just proof-texting.
Karl Vaters interviews Cory Hartman, co-author of Future Church: Seven Laws of Real Church Growth about what happened when church growth answers didn’t work for him or the church he served.
His background and experiences will sound familiar to most small church leaders. And this conversation will be very encouraging.
In this conversation, Cory and Karl talk about
Karl Vaters interviews Dr. Sandie Morgan, co-author of the new book, Ending Human Trafficking.
We talk about how healthy churches are uniquely positioned to help prevent human trafficking, including:
And so much more, including a take on the biblical story of Elisha and the widow (2 Kings 4) that any pastor can preach from to help your congregation understand the importance of this issue and how to prevent it.
Dr. Morgan is also the host of the Ending Human Trafficking podcast, and the director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University. She also served by presidential appointment on the Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking.
Karl Vaters interviews Dr. Gary McIntosh about Donald McGavran’s role as the pioneer of the Church Growth Movement (CGM).
But don’t let the term “Church Growth Movement” stop you from listening. As the author of the superbly-written biography, Donald A. McGavran: A Biography of the Twentieth Century’s Premier Missiologist, Dr. McIntosh helps us to see that the origins of CGM are far different than what most of us have been taught.
Some of the misunderstandings he clears up include:
Karl Vaters interviews Austin Savage about a subject that many of us have seen only through a negative lens. Namely, marketing.
Austin helps us see that when it’s done right, marketing is simply making sure your message gets put into the marketplace (that is, out to the general public) effectively.
You may know Austin from the work he did with 95Network.com, including several years co-hosting the 95Podcast with Dale Sellers. Recently, he established Austin Savage & Co. to help churches with creating content and using media in the church.
In this conversation, Austin and Karl talk about
So, your church has a Facebook page? In a small church, that should be enough of an online presence, right? Wrong.
It finally happened! The answer to the question, “Can This Work In A Small Church?” isn’t “yes”! (Well, not entirely, anyway.) Find out why as Karl interviews Josh Givens about why having a Facebook page isn’t enough, no matter what size your church may be.
Josh is the Communications Director for 614Ministries.org and for Northside Bible Church, a healthy small congregation in the outskirts of Mobile Alabama.
Have you ever considered the parallels between fighting fires and pastoring a church? Of course you have – metaphorically.
Jon is the founder of SmallTownBigChurch.com, co-host of the EntrePastors podcast, and author of Rural Church RESCUE: A Call to Restore Healthy Churches to Rural North America.
The conversation covers the principles Jon learned as a firefighter to help churches better understand how to do ministry that matters.
An interview Dr. Vincent E. Gil, the author of A Christian’s Guide Through the Gender Revolution: Gender, Cisgender, Transgender, and Intersex.
Dr. Gil taught human sexuality and counseled at a conservative Christian college for 38 years. He has been a consultant on sexual issues for church leaders and denominations, and is himself a licensed minister.
This is a sensitive subject that often causes division, or gets ignored due to some of the complexity and concerns. In this conversation Dr. Gil and I talk about how to understand the current “gender moment” and negotiate a better way than taking sides on issues.
Our conversation addresses issues of concern to pastors and provides a dialogue on how to approach varied sex/gender concerns in congregants and beyond.
An interview with Jeff Hamilton, founder of Dad Academy. We talk about the importance of helping men become the dad they want to be by becoming at least as intentional in their parenting as they are in their job.
A special bonus episode of Can This Work In A Small Church? in which I introduce you to our next podcast project, a limited series that’s not just for church leaders, but for church members.
It’s called the Bible-Reading Coach, and it’s designed to help anyone read through the Bible in a year. We want to help you as you lead your church members to become more biblically literate, and reading the Bible for themselves in an essential step.
In this introductory episode I walk you through how this new podcast will work, including:
Peyton Jones is a church planter and church planting specialist. He’s written several books, most recently, Church Plantology: The Art and Science of Planting Churches, which is the basis for this conversation.
Peyton and I talk about a lot of issues regarding church planting, but mostly about how most of our common perceptions of church planting are built on a faulty foundation. Not a church planter? Don’t let that stop you from listening. There’s a lot in this for every church leader.
Peyton has such a passion for the church, but I love that he has his priorities on order. That it’s about biblical principles before business ideas, listening to where God is leading you, not trying to copy what others are doing, and making disciples before planting churches. If we do this, a lot of churches who didn’t think they could plant, actually can, and a lot of existing churches can actually learn something about their own church situation by applying “so old they’re new” church planting principles from scripture.
Jason is the founder of the Both/And seminars which helps churches of all sizes create a better worship experience for both the online audience and the in-person congregation.
In this conversation, Karl Vaters talks to Jason about how a church of any size can use online and in-person church to make each a better experience for worshipers. If you’re having a hard time with your online experience, or even if you’re doubtful about its value listen to Jason’s heart, his experience and his ideas, including…
Karl and Matt talk about some of the biggest recent issues in these important areas – you know, the things we hate to deal with, but need to take care of. Thankfully, Matt knows how to talk about them in compelling, clear and applicable ways.
This conversation will help you know that you and your church are not alone if you’re facing these issues, where you can go to get help, and how to be proactive instead of waiting for something bad to happen.
Bob has a heart for Jesus, for the Gospel, for all kinds of people, and for the role of the small congregation in fulfilling God’s mission.
In this podcast, we have a free-wheeling conversation that touches on many subjects, all of which can help every church and every church leader.
Some of Bob’s encouragement for small churches includes this helpful advice:
Gary Garcia and I have another conversation. This time, we talk about Pastoral Transition from a unique persective.
I was Gary’s lead pastor for 25 years, then we transitioned to Gary being the lead pastor, while I stayed on the pastoral staff with him.
In this episode Gary and I talk about
Some key points about making a successful pastoral transition will include:
Gary Garcia and I have a unique relationship. We’ve worked together at the same church for 29 years. For the first 25 years I was his lead pastor. For the last 4 years he’s been my lead pastor. Yes, at the same church.
Because there’s so much ground to cover, we’re taking two episodes to do it. In this episode we talk about
Tom Harris is the co-author of Soaring Between Pastors: 8 Actions to Thrive During a Pastoral Transition. He also serves as the president of IPM (Interim Pastor Ministries).
He and I talk about the importance of interim pastorates, including how an intentional interim can help prepare a church to hit the ground running when they call a new pastor.
This is a hugely important subject. I encourage you to send this podcast to:
Rich Brown is the author of Extended Stays: A Closer Look at Longer Pastorates. He has served for decades as a pastor and in Christian higher education. Currently he serves with IPM (Interim Pastor Ministries).
In this conversation, we talk about why long-term pastorates are good for the church, the pastor, the pastor’s family, and for the community we’re called to reach.
In addition to being a small church pastor and authoring/co-authoring several books, Matt Henslee has recently been appointed to leadership in his denomination (Southern Baptist Conference) on both a regional and national level.
We talk about how this happened and how important it is for all church groups, including denominations, to make a place for small church pastors in leadership.
While Matt never sought out these positions, he did do some things that put him into a place where he was recognized for his contributions. His advice for those who may be called to similar positions from a small church includes
Jean Morgan, a small church pastor who wrote a Masters thesis about the correlation between a pastor’s personality and the size of the church they serve.
In this conversation, Jean and I talk about
What we discover is that our effectiveness in small church ministry is less about our personality type and far more about
Karl interviews Lori Andrews, Ed.D. about trauma, its effect on the brain, and how to use this information as we lead through challenging times.
Links From This Episode
Karl interviews Drew Dyck about Writing for Ministry, including
Drew has spent decades as a writer and editor for major church publishersand is the author of several books, most recently, Your Future Self Will Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible and Brain Science (A Guide for Sinners, Quitters, and Procrastinators).
Links from this episode:
Greg Atkinson is one the world’s leading voices in First Impressions for churches. He also wrote “Secrets of a Secret Shopper: Reaching and Keeping Church Guests” as a guide for small churches.
In this conversation, Karl Vaters interviews Greg about
The second of a two-part series in which I share lessons from hundreds of small church pastors about responding, recovering and thriving through a challenging season.
In this episode I cover the four essential principles that have made the differences between
There’s a lot of talk lately about recovering from the very difficult series of events we’ve all experienced over the past two years. And understandably so. It will take years for us to get a grip on what has happened, what’s still happening and how it’s still changing everything.
In this two-part series, Karl Vaters shares several lessons about responding, recovering and thriving through a challenging season. This information comes from hundreds of conversations he’s had with small church pastors, denominational leaders and others over the last 18+ months.
In this episode (Part 1) Karl covers:
Craig Forrest has spent decades shooting and editing film and video for ministries and network TV. He’s passionate about helping people communicate the message of Jesus in a compelling way. In this interview I talk with him about video ideas and tips that can be used in any size of church on a limited or nonexistent budget.
I especially love Craig’s ideas about getting out of the church building to shoot video that catches people’s attention in a crowded media landscape.
A free-flowing conversation about the importance of Small Church Conferences. Ironically, it’s our biggest podcast in several ways:
The conversation covers:
This is a great conversation about the important subject of Decision Fatigue. You know, that exhaustion you feel when there are Just. Too. Many. Decisions. To. Be. Made. And. No. One. Else. To. Make. Them!
Because of Ira’s ministry experience, we were also able to compare and contrast the different challenges faced by small church leaders in urban, suburban and rural contexts.
And be sure to listen through to the Lightning Round at the end. Ira’s comments about how older and newer generations deal with authority figures is leadership gold!
A church’s culture is “the unwritten set of rules that governs everything a church does.”
In a big church, the pastor and staff set the culture, but in a small church it’s set by the long-time regular members and attenders – even if they don’t know they’re doing it.
In this episode Karl Vaters talks about the three steps that will help a small church pastor lead a church through a culture shift.
An interview with Doug Bursch about his new book, Posting Peace. It’s all about how social media is impacting us so much that it even changes how we see ourselves and relate to each other. But Doug also offers hope for how we can be peacemakers and reconcilers in our online behavior.
As the first interview episode of this podcast, I introduce the Lightning Round questions, with questions and answers that are both profound and a little bit of fun.
Yes, small churches can be strong, healthy and effective. In this opening episode, I look at the three main issues that must be in place in order for that to happen.
Why would someone create a podcast called “Can This Work In A Small Church?” Because small churches are different. A lot of what we learn from our big church friends needs to be tweaked for the small church environment. And sometimes they need to be done completely different.
In this episode your host, Karl Vaters, introduces you to what this podcast is about.
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Veronica Beaver | Veronica@KarlVaters.com
Composed/performed by Jack Wilkins | JackWilkinsMusic.com
Created by Solomon Joy
Shelley Vaters | Shelley@KarlVaters.com