Essential Characteristics of Effective Replanters: Organizational Awareness

By Steve Hudson

Southern Baptist pastors who have successfully led a church to revitalization demonstrate one leadership characteristic more often than all others. Research indicates that trait is “organizational awareness.”

A replanter with organizational awareness is adept at understanding how power dynamics work within the church, anticipating how changes would be received, recognizing where change may produce friction, and showing an awareness of how current practice and changes affected their position within the community they served.

Simply put, organizational awareness is knowing your church inside and out. It is a personal and in-depth knowledge of the flock over which God has put you in leadership. Pastors with this characteristic know who the true influencers are in the church, anticipate responses to change, and see opportunities for the church. This requires knowing the history, culture, formal and informal power dynamics, written and unwritten rules, and individual relationships within the church.

Why is organizational awareness important? 

First, knowing the flock is a biblical priority for a faithful shepherd. Proverbs 27:23 advises “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.” When Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10, he says that “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them.” Paul exhorts the Ephesian elders to pay “careful attention” not only to themselves, but “to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28). The call to pastoral ministry requires relational knowledge not just of individuals within the congregation, but of the entire flock.

Second, the very nature of leading a replant necessitates organizational awareness. Revitalization requires a change of culture and practice within the church. And change requires leadership. Organizational awareness is one of the key characteristics of leaders in change situations in any context. Organizational awareness provides an understanding of how to approach change within a specific church.

Organizational awareness means understanding power dynamics, both formal and informal. Often the true decision makers are not the formal leaders. Pastors with organizational awareness understand this. They are able to study the culture of the church, recognize where the true power lies, and know how to leverage it for effective change.

Additionally, pastors with organizational awareness are able to anticipate how individuals and groups will be affected by changes and events. This allows the pastor to know what aspects of change are likely to elicit enthusiasm and where to expect pushback. The pastor can better care for the flock by anticipating when change will be difficult.

Finally, organizational awareness includes an understanding of how the church is positioned within the greater world. A pastor with organizational awareness knows how the church is perceived in the community. This allows the pastor to identify and act on opportunities and challenges to the mission and vision of the church.

How does a pastor grow in organizational awareness? 

Two characteristics support organizational awareness. The first and most crucial is information seeking. This is becoming a student of every aspect of the church. Pastors should seek to learn as much as possible about the history, culture, and people of the church.

The second related characteristic is relationship building. This entails actively developing and maintaining meaningful relationships, both inside and outside the church. Increasing knowledge and relationships will increase pastoral organizational awareness.

Organizational awareness is the most common leadership characteristic found in Southern Baptist pastors who have been able to take a church that was in plateau or decline and lead them to revitalization. This characteristic allows pastors to be more successful in implementing change that leads to church health and growth.

If you want to be a better leader in a revitalization context work on increasing your organizational awareness. Become a student of the church. Know the church, its history, and its people. Build relationships. The better you know the flock, the more able you are to lead, protect, and provide for God’s people and lead the church to greater faithfulness and fruitfulness.,

Published December 5, 2019

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Steve Hudson

Steve Hudson serves as professor of leadership for Piedmont International University and has served in church plants and revitalizations in Alabama, Kentucky, and Arkansas. He currently resides in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, with his wife, Robin, a pediatrician, and his two children, Ellie and Joseph. His research and writing focuses on church revitalization, ecclesial leadership development, and sometimes pirates and princesses for his kids. He is a two-time graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.