I love talking with pastors and other church leaders! Whether online or in person (or a combination of the two) there’s always so much to gain when we get together.

Scroll down this page to find a quick overview of the kinds of talks that are available. Feel free to mix-and-match them to suit your needs. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Let us know and we’ll try to work something out that suits the needs of your group. 

Wondering about my availability for specific dates? Click here for my Speaking Calendar to see what’s already filled up.

Interested? Just click here to fill out Contact Form and we’ll get back to you soon.

Karl Vaters


De-sizing The Church

We have an unhealthy relationship with bigness in the church. Especially in the American church. And it’s killing us. The rate of church closures, departing members, and pastoral burnout is growing exponentially.

In this session, I will talk about how we became so obsessed with bigness in the church, why it’s dangerous, and what we can do to change course, including addressing the following questions:

  1. What is de-sizing?
  2. Why do we need to de-size?
  3. Where did our obsession with bigness come from?
  4. What are the dangers of pursuing bigness?
  5. How do we fix this?

Based on my newest book (coming April 2, 2024), De-Sizing the Church: How Church Growth Became a Science, Then an Obsession, and What’s Next.


Leading the Smaller Church Without Settling for Less

(This is a suggested title. Feel free to use any title that suits your group.)

In this session Karl walks through his story as a discouraged small church pastor who discovered the importance of defining success in ministry without numbers attached to it. This lays the groundwork for all the following sessions by encouraging small church leaders that they can lead a small church well without settling for less.

Big churches and small churches are different. Not in their mission, but in how they’re led. In this session we talk about those differences so we can lead small churches better. We also have some fun answering the important question that all small church leaders have asked at some point: “Why Is My Church So Weird?”

Every church does something well. Or it can. In this session we see some examples of small churches who discovered and refined their calling, then we walk through the step-by-step biblical principles that can help any church discover their gifts and use them well.

This is a call for pastors to fulfill our prime mandate to “equip God’s people” (Eph 4:11-12). It includes proven methods to find and train volunteers and turn them into leaders, starting at the all-important baseline of biblical servanthood.

Options for a Fifth Session

In this session, which updates as events change, Karl walks through the principles for ministry in a post-COVID world, including:

  • How to help people coming out of trauma
  • Keys to recovery for healthy churches
  • Four differences between churches that are surviving/thriving, or struggling/collapsing

(45-75 minutes)

Small churches don’t cast vision from the top down. In this session, we’ll talk about how to cast vision differently in a smaller congregation, while still honoring the current leadership and utilizing your pastoral gifts.

We’re all discovering that attendance can no longer be our metric for success in ministry. In larger churches they’re realizing the need to help people become more engaged in the life of the congregation. Meanwhile, in smaller churches, engagement is not as big an issue as is the question of “how can we become a better influence on the community around us?”

This talk is based on the outline of Karl’s book of the same name. It will outline a path through four essential steps:

  • Step 1: Assess Your Situation
  • Step 2: Select a Target
  • Step 3: Train the Team
  • Step 4: Implement the Plan


Leading The Post-Pandemic Church

This session outlines several principles that are based on hundreds of conversations with church leaders and small-church pastors through the pandemic lockdowns.

In it, we’ll see:

  • Two keys to recovery
  • Three ways small churches can respond to the current need
  • Four differences between churches that have survived/thrived through the pandemic, and those that have struggled/collapsed

(30-45 minutes)

Because of the pandemic and its lockdowns, the entire world has shared a traumatic experience for the first time since World War 2. Thankfully, God gave us a way to recover and heal from it.

In this session, Karl Vaters looks at trauma from the standpoints of faith and brain-science. These principles can help us recover and find health, not just as churches, but as leaders.
(30-45 minutes)

Making predictions is always dangerous. But there are trends that can help us anticipate and prepare for the coming years of recovery.

This session outlines these challenges through 4 different lenses, as taken from conversations with over 100 small-church pastors throughout the COVID lockdowns and recovery:

  • What is coming
  • What’s probably coming
  • What probably isn’t coming
  • What we can do about it

(45-60 minutes)


If your church’s history feels like it’s dragging you down instead of lifting you up, this is for you. In it, we look at the importance of Relationships, Culture & History in a smaller church, including how to

  • Recruit volunteers in today’s and  tomorrow’s church
  • Discover and use what your church does well

(30-45 minutes)

Yes, it’s possible to reach the next generation, and even to turn an aging church around. But it’s not easy. In this talk, I walk through the three-level strategy that helped our church go from an old church to a very young church using this three-level strategy:

Level 1: Commitment
Level 2: Recruitment
Level 3: Retention

(35-45 minutes)


We can work within your conference’s schedule, but if you want to set up a one-time event, this is what has worked best for most small-church pastors/leaders’ calendars:


  • 7pm: Session 1


  • 9am: Session 2
  • 10:15am: Session 3
  • 11:30am: Lunch
  • 12:30pm: Session 4
  • 1:15pm: Session 5
  • 2pm: Close

(The Friday session is the longest one, with each session after it getting slightly shorter and more practical. There will be a 5-10 minute break between the two morning and afternoon sessions.)

Interested? Let's talk.

(Wall photo by George Sam Beaver. Stage photos by Shelley Vaters. Calendar photo by Mockaroon.)