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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Top Ten Most Powerful People in Your Church

Broom_1 Steve Case shares "The Ten Most Powerful People in Your Church" in an article he wrote over at Youth Specialties.  See if any of this holds true in your church...

1. The Church Secretary
Easily the most powerful person in the building. Meetings can disappear. Set-ups can get lost. As in war, the one who controls the information controls the public opinion.

2. The Senior Pastor
The perception is more important than the reality. If there's a problem with anything in the church (other than the senior pastor) the senior pastor is where people go to complain. The SP is perceived (and often justly so) as the one who can do something about the problem.

3. The Custodian
(Knowledge is power.) People talk about church business and church politics in front of the custodian as if he or she was a piece of the furniture. The custodian is there when the place opens and when the place closes. The custodian gets to empty all of the wastebaskets. While there's no perception of power, the custodian usually knows more about what's going on than the rest of the staff combined.

4. The Associate Pastor
Second billing has its privileges. All the respect and only about half the responsibility. The AP gets the complaints about the senior pastor. Also the one most trusted by the Senior Pastor. The AP can be on both sides of the battle lines. Properly played, this position can yield great results while keeping your head inside the foxhole.

5. The Kitchen Lady
There's one woman in every church (and yes; unfortunately, it's almost always a woman) who has made it her mission to take care of the kitchen. The church is her second homeā€”and we're all very particular about who we let in our homes. The Kitchen Lady has ultimate authority over a very small but very valuable piece of territory. Cross her, and your stuff in the refrigerator will mysteriously vanish.

6. Choir Master/Education Director
This one is a tie depending on the church. Education directors are given power by those who have kids but not by many others. Choirmasters are given power by those who attend worship but aren't involved elsewhere. Often a toss-up as to which has priority; but either way, they both have schedules that take priority over yours.

7. The Highest Giving Donor
We may pay lip service to the idea that "all giving is kept confidential," but you only need to read whose last name is on the majority of memorial plaques around the church. If that last name still exists in the congregation, this is the person you need to suck up to.

8. The Previous Youth Minister
No matter how bad the previous people in our jobs were, the longer they're gone the better they've become. If you have twenty kids at a meeting, the previous person had forty. As long as you're there, the person before you will still have more clout.

9. The Guy Who Got Lost and Stopped in to Ask Directions
People will fall all over themselves trying to display the love of Jesus for a lost soul and potential member. Meanwhile, try to get a volunteer to help unload the volleyball net from your car.

10. You
That whole "First shall be last and last shall be first" thing? When it came to the youth minister, I'm sure Jesus was kidding. In fact, since there was a tie in this list, technically you didn't even make the top ten.

Hmmm... can anybody relate?!  Is there someone you would add or delete from this list?  What's your experience?

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May 31, 2006 in Church Conflict, Leadership Issues, Top Ten Lists | Permalink

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I can attest to the validity of #3.

When I was 20, I was hired by my home fellowship as a grounds keeper/do it all grunt. It was there that I began to see all of the political posturing that goes on behind the scenes of most religious organizations today.

It made me despise what has become known as "church," and began a life-long passion of seeing the Church return to its simple purity of the First Century.

Posted by: Ricky | Jun 28, 2005 5:46:54 PM

RE: If that last name still exists in the congregation, this is the person you need to suck up to.

WOW - God does not need that person's money and neither does the church IF THAT PERSON REQUIRES THE PASTOR "SUCK UP" TO HIM/HER.

Seriously - was that line in jest?

Posted by: Shane Montgomery | Jun 28, 2005 9:00:50 PM

Yeah, I would add to the list, as #1. Jesus.

Hmmm. May have just been an oversight???

Posted by: BeHim | Jun 29, 2005 12:10:10 AM


My guess would be that Jesus was not on the list because this was a list of 'people' in your church.

Again, let's try not nit pick apart everything posted here... (For those of you here, this is what I'm talking about when I say I want the blog to be positive). This post was about PEOPLE in your church. Please don't assume because it didn't list Jesus that Jesus isn't important. Come on.


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jun 29, 2005 8:58:06 AM

One person left off the list is the gossip king/queen. He/she can create the most damage that is not recoverable and hide in the shadows while doing it. I am presently leaving a ministry because of the damage that a retired minmister and his wife di through gossip, as well as soem of their cronies, along with a couple of deacons and their wives. When God showed up at the church, they faught to keep the status quo as well as to keep the same ungodly figure heads in power so that they could dictate to the church instead of the church being led by the spirit. Unfortunately, these people should have been listed at the top of your list because every pastor going to a new ministry needs to beware of them and not fall to their schemes and plots.

We have been blessed with an exciting new ministry in the fall out. God is still on the throne!

Posted by: Pastor Ernie | Jun 29, 2005 11:32:00 AM

Potential Power Person: He (or She) who leads the largest or fastest growing Sunday School class. This person can have the influence or at least the "ear" of the largest block of like minded and/or "like spirited" people in the congregation. If it's the fastest growing group, chances are it's the strongest potential growth area (people wise) in your church. If this group also has the greatest level of spiritual growth, it can be a tremendous leadership pool or spiritual catalist for new ministry opportunities. Or, it can be the makings of a powerful "splinter cell" that can create one of those tail-wagging- the-dog situations.
Depending upon the situation (spiritual and otherwise) this person can be force for good or not-so-good.
Ben E

Posted by: Ben E | Jun 30, 2005 12:01:50 AM

The first person I would have add on the list is JESUS! Whereas I like your creative writing in which we can laugh at ourselves, we also should be careful to examine the comments we write. It goes to the heart of the matter--state of the church and our collective effectiveness in today's world. May we not only read and reflect but consider our ways. God bless!

Posted by: PJ | Jul 11, 2005 9:59:20 AM

Sometimes I appreciate practical articles like this that help us to be "Shrewd as serpents..." but without a bigger context I think its just too easy to fall into the politics of a human organization. Yes, all church's have politics going on. They are organizations run by human--I will readily admit that. But an article that only speaks to that and doesn't try to equip us in how to spiritually address these politics does us very little good as it just reinforces our fleshly desire to work a sitiuation for our own good. For example why else would I "suck up to someone?" (I really, really hope that was only a turn of a phrase but without another context how am I to know?)

What we need is the completed article. The one that resources us to deal with power brokers to get them to use their power like Christ did--to serve, to build his kingdom, (a kingdom with an upside down power structure!).

That would be an article worth emailing my peers in ministry.

Posted by: Mike | Jul 11, 2005 10:07:05 AM


I think I dealt with this "Jesus" issue earlier in the comments section:

I wrote,

My guess would be that Jesus was not on the list because this was a list of 'people' in your church.

Again, let's try not nit pick apart everything posted here... (For those of you here, this is what I'm talking about when I say I want the blog to be positive). This post was about PEOPLE in your church. Please don't assume because it didn't list Jesus that Jesus isn't important. Come on.


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jul 11, 2005 10:15:43 AM

Fair enough Todd, the post was about PEOPLE in our church, but the post was only about people with power the article assumes by its writing that you have to somehow "work" or "suck up to" or some other manipulation to get them to do...what? How is that ultimately helpful at all. So they have power. So what. A better article, a more helpful one, would be an article that could help us move our churches towards being brides of Christ rather than just better run political organizations. It would have spoken to the unique way to disciple these power brokers. The church is a unique organization with unique values and unique power structures. For an article on this web site to be truly helpful it must reflect that reality.

Posted by: Mike | Jul 11, 2005 10:48:13 AM

O.K. I went and read the Steve Case article. If you haven't read it yet then you need to. You can skip the reprint of the list but do not miss the last paragraph. Todd, what are you doing by not including that? Isn't that the whole point of church? Who cares who has the "power" in an organizational structure when we are fighting for the hearts and souls of suffering, lonely, sometimes lost people. Why did you leave that paragraph out of post? It is the point of the article! Todd, you got to equip us with context to truly resource us. We don't need hype to engage us, just give us a taste for the eternal like Steve did in the end of his article. Ouch Todd.

Posted by: Mike | Jul 11, 2005 11:06:22 AM

Rebuke accepted.

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jul 11, 2005 11:53:47 AM

You forgot about the Worship Pastor.. Who controls the biggest part of Christian Churches.. If you tick off the Worship Pastor you could be headed for serious problems else where if the person is political enough to understand the game (which they usualy are).. Service lives or dies with the powers of the Worship Team... Talk about politics in that group alone is enough to be comparable to Washington... Take a look from the inside of the forest sometime and tell what you see!!

Posted by: Anonymous | Jul 11, 2005 1:22:54 PM

Dear Todd,
You hit the nail on the head.. Politics and Money do control the end result church wise.. Whether people agree or not usually means that they are part of the problem and not the solution.. Any deciding issue to a church problem should be through Christ,,,, But then will we have enough funds to pay the bills at the end of the month is the reality of the world... NewerChurches with younger Pastors fall into this trap just as we all have when we were young... And yes those with the biggest donations (tithes) have serious political pull with the direction of any churches plannning.... Welcome to the world we know.

I once stated to a Pastor (Several times) that what would Jesus do in this situation... Lets look at that shall we... Where did Jesus Preach mostly??? Was it in a beautiful Building??? I can tell I have just ticked off a few people already... Who did Jesus go out of his way to talk too or spend the most time with???? What else did Jesus do - - feed people, cure people--- did he ever send anyone away who was not dressed properly or who looked like they would not fit in to his click/// or who said these things like I am saying now (which back then would have been due to the Pharisees. Not that I am comparing some Pastors today to them.. I can hear the grumblings... If you disagree with any of this comment then you better take a good look up to him and ask him for guidance...... Church today as in history is about Money and Politics with a few out there who hold to a stronger faith - but I bet those who hold the truth are not in a big fancy church either.. Some things need to be said and after all thank God for America or I would be crucified right now... Bless you all...

Posted by: One who cares | Jul 11, 2005 1:42:09 PM

Bless you Pastor Ernie,,
On a positive note.... When the turmoil hits your church or congregation... Bless it and pray for Christ to renew.. You will know it when it happens... God has a plan and if God is with your church - God will change the heirarchy or keep it dependent on what bigger plan God has in store.. May be your congregation is supposed to go elsewhere??? I have seen it happen many, many times... Please do not attack Todd for bringing up food for thought.. The answers you seek are already with you.. You know what is good or bad --- Forget about political correctness.. Was Jesus Politically correct?? Todd is just the messenger.. Please dont shoot the messenger because the answers you seek have been in front of you the whole time... LOL

Posted by: One who cares | Jul 11, 2005 2:08:56 PM

I actually had the misfortune of working at a church where the senior pastor posted this line in the newsletter after two snow-out Sundays.

"The recent snowfall has created a financial shortfall! Please send money - God."

I'm not sure if I am still angry at that pastor, or if pity has replaced that anger.

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 12, 2005 12:08:32 AM

You left out some important people:

The person who invited you...

The usher who greeted you.

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | Oct 27, 2005 4:22:03 PM

Am I the only one who thought the article was funny?

Posted by: bishopdave | Dec 2, 2005 6:18:13 PM

I thought it was hilarious. The negative responses are ridiculous. It's just a joke! Lighten up and have some fun. Don't forget that when the party was about to die Jesus gave us a whole new batch of the best wine. "Keep the party going". Amen Jesus. Amen.

Posted by: YoungLife | Dec 5, 2005 1:00:01 PM

Anonymous writes

"You forgot about the Worship Pastor.."

I'm a worship pastor... I have NO power... So I was encouraged to see that Steve didn't bother putting me on the list!

hee hee.

Thanks, Todd, for TRYING to keep it light.

Posted by: Peter Hamm | May 31, 2006 9:41:58 AM

Hey Todd,

I personally think that the article is pretty right on.

I've said many times that the hardest thing about the kingdom of God is that it's made up of PEOPLE!

The fact of the matter is that no matter how we try to "spiritualize" things, these people exist and work as described, and we have to deal with it.

It's not always pretty, that's for sure, and you would think that in the Church, these wouldn't be issues, but they are.

For the rest of the gang, lighten up a bit. I appreciate all Todd does to bring us useful info (and yes, this IS useful) and help to equip us for more effective ministry.


Posted by: Brian La Croix | May 31, 2006 10:21:23 AM

I can attest to #3... With this being my line of work for the past 20 years and working for the Kentucky State Government for 5 years You see everything, You hear everything, but you learn to keep your mouth shut. Well... Some people do... We had two older women who worked for us at the State Capital here in Frankfort,KY. And we always had a joke not only about them but a janitor in whole... There are three types of Tele in Frankfort, Ky....

Tell a Janitor....

Posted by: Jeff Ruble | May 31, 2006 7:31:16 PM

Steve is funny and his blog is trhoades@mondaymorninginsight.com in case you want to visit. And as is often the case, something is funny because it contains truth.

Posted by: Len | May 31, 2006 8:59:58 PM

http://talkin2jah.blogspot.com/ my bad. sent Todd an e-mail and that got pasted instead.

Posted by: Len | May 31, 2006 9:09:31 PM

I unfortunately recognized and could relate to every single point in the list! After growing up in traditional church and leaving my current church of over 17 years due to a split caused by those powerful, money donor congregants-I am ready to go back to the purity of the First Century church as well. Church as it has always been defined is not going to cut it anymore for me. have been reading Organic Church by Neil Cole and really really love the concepts presented there. God is doing great things in the life of my family and myself, but none of these things have anything to do with the Church.....Sorry this was such a serious post, I know this list was tongue in cheek-unfortunately it was oh so true!!!

Posted by: leanne | Sep 20, 2006 10:00:17 PM

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