One of the key characteristics of effective replanters that we have identified is Organizational Awareness (OA). In a previous post on this blog, Steve Hudson defined OA as, “Simply put, organizational awareness is knowing your church inside and out.”
Now, on the surface, this seems obvious. A pastor should know his church. But OA goes deeper than simply knowing the people you pastor. It means knowing how your church operates in both formal and informal ways. It means knowing the written and unwritten rules that govern your church.
1. Know your church’s polity
The most important document for knowing your church’s structure and polity is the Constitution and Bylaws. What decisions require a full-church vote? How are day-to-day financial decisions made? Which committee can approve replacing the toilet in the middle stall of the upstairs women’s bathroom?
In many churches in need of revitalization or replanting, it’s likely those documents have not been updated in years (or, in some cases, decades). Often, it’s impossible for a church that averages 50 people in worship to operate the same way they did when they averaged 250. In the event that your Constitution and Bylaws no longer reflects the reality of your church, you should update them as quickly as possible. Your local association or state convention may have resources to help you through this process.
As pastor, you should know those documents inside and out. You never want to be caught in a situation where you don’t know how what your governing documents say on an issue. Knowing your governing documents also is important because they define how the church legally must operate. Churches that do not operate in a manner consistent with their documents can find themselves in legal hot water. Familiarizing yourself with your church’s governing documents will be a huge boost to your OA and your overall leadership.
But, beyond the official governing documents of a church, other structures at play as well. What is your ministry structure? What programs are indispensable to your ministry? Which ones are relics of a bygone era that serve no real purpose? Who are the key influencers in the church, without whom nothing gets done? What power struggles exist in the church? How does the body make even informal decisions that don’t require a full church vote? These and more are important aspects of OA and, as a revitalizing or replanting pastor, you must be aware of the organizational structure in order to lead effectively.
2. Know your church’s past
Another of the essential characteristics we’ve identified is Respect for a Church’s Legacy. Unless you are the founding pastor, your church existed for years, decades or even centuries before you ever walked through the door. That history plays into the church’s organization. Having a strong OA requires that you are aware of the church’s history. Ask long-time church members about high points and low points in the life of the church. Ask about those years when everything seemed to go right, and those years when everything went wrong. This will greatly inform your leadership. Was there a major split over finances? Did a previous pastor leave the church and ministry because of a moral failure? What about that revival in the ‘70s that saw dozens of people baptized? Ask about that business meeting everyone still talks about. These instances can create memories that will still be fresh decades later. I’ve seen pastors unintentionally step on ministry landmines because they weren’t aware of the church’s history.
3. Know your church’s people
Ultimately, churches aren’t buildings. If you want to really know the OA – the personality – of your church, that requires getting to know the people. Spend time in homes. Drink coffee with them. Eat lunch with them. Hear their stories about seeing children and grandchildren baptized and married. Listen as they talk about the funeral of their spouses, parents or even child. As you do, you’ll get to know the people well who fill the pews, study in Sunday School and vote in business meetings.
The work of replanting is difficult work. There is no getting around that. However, if you will take the time to know your church’s polity, past and people, you can make the work less difficult. God bless you as you lead!
Published May 18, 2021