Three Chairs for Tribal Chiefs
Pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about how you, as a pastor, can best utilize long-term, influential members of your church.
Well, some of them have been chairman of the church board three times or more, or held three chairs or titles at once way back. So hopefully we can honor them and work together with them as teammates.
If they will have it to be so.
This month we tackle the subject of those long-time veterans of the church, people very influential in the church crowd. They are sometimes called tribal chiefs with a frown, for good reason. Some have sabotaged.
But most, especially when honored and respected, have contributed to the good of the church and our mission.
How shall we help that be so? Let’s see….
Three cheers for our sincere and valiant efforts!
Glad to be in this ministry with you,
Knute, for Jeff and Jim
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Are they inherently bad news?
- Tribal chief and influential veterans can be good news or bad news based upon their motives and their hearts. If their motives are to control, and their hearts are prideful, then they are bad news, sometimes miserable news! However, if their motives are to help and their hearts are those of servants, they can become some of your best allies!
- They can be your greatest allies if you show them that you genuinely care about them.
- They offer a wealth of information concerning the church’s history.
- They are your brothers or sisters in Christ, so treat them like they are.
- The reason the question is even asked is because “He is a tribal chief” usually implies pain—that the person is pulling another way than leadership hopes. So yes, because of usage; but no, because of our hopes.
- These people often have love and served and given money, often large amounts, because they follow Christ and believe in the cause of the church right there. We can honor that and keep their positive influence, hopefully.
How do we help them influence in good ways?
- One of the best ways is by giving them prior and privileged information.
Taking the time to process decisions with them is huge. It is very likely they know the congregation very well, and their ownership level is extremely high. Therefore, when we take time to talk with them, process with them, and get their feedback, they feel included in the decision-making. Often they have great insight and historical perspective. Allow them to bring that to the decision paradigm.
- Invite them into your life and see if there are redeemable ways in them that can help you lead the church.
- Let them see your heart by gathering in non-church functions where you can see them differently.
- Share that you love them and long to see their church flourish and thank them for the ways they have helped to advance the kingdom of Jesus Christ!
- Give them chances to lead your cause with others.
- Acknowledge their commitment to the local church.
- Share honestly that you have been praying and you want them on your team if they are for the vision you have on your heart. But that it would break your heart if they couldn’t join you in that vision.
- Don’t let your pride get in the way by refusing to love them because you feel threatened by them.
- Pray that God moves in their hearts to join you in the new mission. The Holy Spirit can do more with their help than you can ever do on your own.
- Serve them as you would any long-standing member of the church—with love and prayers and positive leadership for the church.
- Thank them and/or seek their advice with at least brief visits over coffee or breakfast, every now and then. My practice was to meet with such people at least once a year even when they were out of influential positions, to keep them informed or ask their perspective.
- Never surprise them with a new surge campaign, building program, or church emphasis. See above.
- Pray for them, and for all the strong influencers and givers in the church. Even if you do not know how much they influence or give.
- Share with new and other staff what strong leaders and givers have done in the past, for many enter the church in new chapters. This is for appreciation at least—many heroes of yesterday get forgotten today and tomorrow.
- When possible, link them with new people who can possibly strengthen the church the same way they did, asking that they show them how.
- Include some of them in the “huddles” of the church or the “business advisors” meetings called for communication of vision and good news of the church. It is good to have these brief touches with people twice a year even when there is not a major campaign or new emphasis, so that they are in the know.
What do we owe them?
- We owe them prior and privileged information.
- We owe them credibility for their longevity.
It is not unusual that an influential leader has been the most consistent force in the church. They have often outlived several pastors. Recognizing that and taking the time to honor it is something worth doing!
- If they are territorial and using their influence for all the wrong reasons:
For the sake of the body, we may need to stand up to them or square off with them, in a loving and respectful manner, in private. When they are leading for prideful reasons, you will often find that people are not really following them, but rather are simply intimidated by them. When this happens, we need to help them find a positive direction in which to invest their time and loyalty. Often they are positioned as the protectors, or the glue that holds the church together, but as senior pastors we need to become that person.
We also need to help them find a new role, in which they do the same types of things, but in a manner that is beneficial to the new vision. The time it takes to help that to happen is worth the investment!
- Whenever you can honor them in public and verbally from the stage.
- Don’t let your insecurity keep you from thanking them for the way they have helped to build the church.
- Pray over them and ask for God’s richest blessing and favor on their life!
- You however do not need to hand over your vision so that they can keep their agenda rolling. You must stand in the power of Jesus and stick with what he is leading you to do even if does not line up with what they want.
- After you have thanked them you must be willing to press forward and be willing to implement the changes regardless if they move on.
- All of the above, in the second major question above.
- Love and appreciation.
- One-on-one loving confrontation if they are using their influence and “power” to hurt the unity of the church. Some can be naïve about how they are influencing division, but a few like the power for their opinions, or the attraction a dissenter gets. See NT verses. See politics.
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The three experienced pastors in these videos are Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.