When a pastor steps into a new church, many questions can be on his mind. What should be the focus of the sermons for the first few months? What needs to be improved with facilities? How can we do more in evangelism or missions?
One set of questions that is crucial to your ministry should be asked early in your ministry, perhaps even before you accept the call to a church. How are decisions made? Who are the real leaders? Who are the power brokers in a church?
There is a good chance that you may not know who those individuals are. Sometimes they are the most vocal, and other times they work behind the scenes. They have been the leader of an influential family, or they may give a lot of money to the church. It could be someone who holds a recognized position in the community, or it might be a widow. Regardless of how they operate or how they obtained their power, it is crucial that you identify the real leaders in your church.
While this can be difficult, there are a couple of possible indicators.
Who do those with positions go to for advice?
The person with power may not have an official position in the church. They may not be a deacon or a search committee member, but they always have a voice. Those who have been at the church for a long time and hold a position will always be sure to get this power broker’s opinion or approval before making.
If you pay attention, you will hear this person’s name in meetings. They will be referenced, and their opinions will be shared.
Who Has Been at the Church the Longest?
Often, the power broker has been at the church for an extended period of time. They have seen pastors come, and they have seen pastors go. One of these individuals approached me once and said, “I was here before you, and I will be here after you.” These individuals know the history of the church. They have built relationships with other long-time members. This longevity, historical knowledge, and relationships are the foundation of their power.
Building relationships with these power brokers and seeking to help them understand your vision is an integral part of a revitalization effort. There will be times when you will win them over, and they will be your biggest supporter, and there will be times when it is a battle. Regardless, trying to learn who the real leaders are will benefit you and pursue church health.