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"We don't want to build a castle. We want to build a kingdom."

"We don't want to build a castle. We want to build a kingdom."

For every church with a large staff and many members, there are dozens of smaller churches where the pastor wears many hats. Those churches rely on volunteers for everything from maintenance to planning worship services.

Finding and developing leaders is perhaps the biggest challenge facing those pastors. Janet Earls, the Director of Church Vitality and Leadership Development for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, picks up the story here.

"I was listening to a podcast one day about leadership, and I just started thinking about how the small churches do that," she said. "So, I typed 'small church leadership podcast' into my computer, and those guys came up."

Those guys—Brian Burgess, Kolbi Shartzer, and Joey Hartman—are friends and pastors of small churches in Portsmouth, Va., They are not affiliated with the United Methodist Church, but, as they note, they believe that we're all in this together.

To that end, the trio launched the Small Church Leadership Podcast. It's a mix of information, entertainment, inspiration, and it's all about collaboration.

(l-r) Joey Hartman, Brian Burgess, Kolbi Shartzer

"A lot of times when I listen to podcasts about leadership, they're from people from big churches saying stuff that we can't do because we don't have the resources," Burgess said. "I mean, I love Rick Warren—don't get me wrong—but he's not in our situation.

"I can't give my wife birthing advice because I haven't been there. But as pastors of small churches, we can share our stories and maybe find ways to help each other."

They began talking about this venture in 2018.

"What would it be like if we started a podcast because we have all the answers," Burgess said with a laugh.

It took two more years and a lot of yapping sessions, generally over meals—their motto, if we're meetin', we're eatin'—to make it happen, though.

Want to start your podcast?

"The best advice is to get started. We talked about starting the podcast for about two years before ever doing it. I had tons of excuses why we couldn't do it. One day we all made up our minds to try it and see what happened, and here we are.

"Don't let fear or lack of knowledge of technical-know-how stop you from getting in a room and pressing record. The thing I keep telling myself is that done is better than perfect." – Pastor Brian Burgess

"We were sitting around, griping about the life of the pastor," Shartzer said. "We needed to share that with other pastors."

Hartman gave it the final push.

"I said, we need to do this or shut up," he said.

And so, the decidedly low-tech podcast began.

"We keep it super simple technologically. We use microphones we already have at Kolbi's church and a small portable sound system," Burgess said.

"They are recorded into my laptop where I then use a program called Studio One to add the intro and outro music and add any filters to take out the noise."

They upload the finished product to Anchor's podcast platform, which sends it to Apple, Google Play, and Spotify. They also send it to their Small Church Leadership Facebook page.

They've recorded more than 50 episodes, and their reach is expanding. They have listeners as far away as New Zealand.

"We just show up and start talking," Shartzer said.

The format—well, that might be a little formal to describe the essence of the podcast—is a mix of humor and camaraderie that makes the listener feel like they're sitting at the table with them. But behind the banter is a serious purpose.

"I'm a big fan of believing that we may not have all the answers, but the big thing is that the listeners know someone is in there with them," Burgess said. "Pastoring is hard, especially now. Pastors need hope. What I'm seeing is that they're burned out and feel alone. They need to know they're not going through this by themselves."

These three friends want their fellow pastors to know they're in the boat with them. To get that message out to more people, the trio plans to up their game on social media, particularly Facebook, and spread the word to wherever it will go.

Meanwhile, they'll keep meeting, talking, laughing, and—oh yeah—eating. They're not out to become rock stars or build a megachurch. They do have fun. But they also keep in mind that it's all for the highest purpose.

"We don't want to build a castle," Burgess said. "We want to build a kingdom."

Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for