Meet Dale Sellers, the newest consultant for The Unstuck Group. Dale has had many years of ministry experience, directing a Christian music group, coordinating a Christian radio station and serving as a small church pastor for 12 years. Currently serving as the executive pastor for The Mill Church in Pickens, South Carolina, Dale is excited to use his experience and skills with the Unstuck Group to help small church pastors best lead their church.
I caught up with Dale to learn more about his passion to implement leadership that brings lasting change.
DALE: It started for me 35 years ago. My wife, Gina, and I spent the first ten years of our marriage traveling on the road with two different music ministries. We had more than 1100 engagements throughout the country in churches of various sizes and denominations. We began to notice a common theme emerging as we went from church to church. Many of the pastors were discouraged and exhausted. The lack of passion in these leaders really perplexed me as a young minister. In my naivety, I would often wonder, what could have happened to a pastor that would cause him to lose his passion? However, my eyes were clearly opened once we came off of the road and I started to work in the local church.
This new revelation set me on a path that helped me understand the value of leadership in the local church. In my opinion, it is an honor to be called to lead a church. However, our divine calling to serve the local church is not automatically accompanied by the ability to lead. Many pastors struggle with how to implement structure, develop a staff, clearly define vision or bring together our congregation in a unified effort to reach their community. The driving passion behind The Unstuck Group is to help the church get “unstuck” and moving in a healthy direction. So for me, being a part of The Unstuck team has provided an awesome opportunity to help solve these problems.
Caroline: How did you discover your passion for helping small churches?
DALE: I discovered my passion for helping the small church while pastoring a small church. I had the privilege of leading a small church for twelve years. We grew from 25 to 250 in our first seven years. It was exciting to break the 200 barrier and experience the momentum that comes with it. However, after seven years of steady growth and unity, we experienced a devastating split. As hard as it is to admit, my inability to lead and follow through with some hard decisions is what ultimately led to this event. It was on me as the leader.
This setback caused me to began to question my calling. I wondered if God could ever use me again. I did not mind starting small because I knew you had to start somewhere. But staying small as the years continued to go by had a powerful effect on me. It was very discouraging and lonely. In 2014, I wrote an article about this called “I Thought I’d Be There By Now: Confessions Of A Leader Who Hasn’t Arrived Yet”
The internal issues that pastors face and the challenges to bring about lasting change are the driving forces behind my desire to help the small church. I’ve been there and done that. My hope today is that we can provide a place of renewal and hope for small church leaders by serving and loving them.
Caroline: What do you feel are the biggest challenges small churches are facing today in today’s culture?
DALE: I believe several common themes are affecting the small church today.
The physical and marital health of our small church pastors.
So many small church leaders forfeit caring for themselves and their spouses due to the high demands placed on their time. The pastor of the small church is often expected to do everything.
There is not a proper leadership structure in place.
Many small churches are led by committees and boards with different agendas and directions. This leads to power struggles, politics and constant infighting.
The risk of change in a small church can be overwhelming.
The mentality is often more about holding on to the past instead of focusing on the future.
The tendency to look inward instead of outward.
Small churches can often become exclusive and unwelcoming to newcomers.
Research has shown us that over 95% of the churches in America today would fall into the small church category. They are in every segment of the population. I can’t help but imagine the possibilities for lasting impact and Kingdom advancement if our small churches will embrace their calling and invade their communities in the power and purpose of Jesus.