Tom Shefchunas

When Influence Matters More Than Position

by on in Leadership.

When I was going for my degree in education… do you know what I learned from my Methods class?

Make sure the custodian, the lunch ladies, and the principal’s assistant love you.

These people may not have been very high on the Organizational Chart, but because of what they did, I learned pretty quickly that it was important to know them. And, if you wanted to get things done, it was even more important to be on good terms with them.

And, for the record, I think this was totally wrong and manipulative. But it has some important truth in it. Some truth we can’t ignore.

When it comes to making decisions or getting things done, we all, I’m sure, know the power of our church’s Organizational Chart: who reports to who, who outranks who… But sometimes that’s not what really matters. Have you ever thought about your church’s “Influence Chart?” They’re both important.

Think about it.

Who are the people who control the space and time of the folks higher up on the Organizational Chart?

Who are the people who have the ear of the higher-ups?

Who are the people your events and weekly environments are dependent upon? (The media team? The custodial team? The food service team?)

Got the names? Now, what’s your relationship like with those people? How have you treated them recently?

Before I go on, let me make a statement. Because, as I’ve already said, I’m not a fan of manipulating people. 

I know who these people are in my organization and I have excellent relationships with them. However, I don’t have great relationships with them because I need things from them – I do because they are great people. I consider this to be one of the greatest strengths of my current organization: the character of these key people and their willingness to wield their influence appropriately. (Now, when key people in an organization do not wield their influence or power appropriately, this can be one of the biggest roadblocks to an organization’s growth and health… but that’s a post for another day.)

So what do you do about all of this?

Here’s my advice.

1. TREAT EVERYONE WITH LOVE AND RESPECT. No matter where they fall on the organization chart.

2. IDENTIFY YOUR KEY INFLUENCERS. Who are the people you need to build better relationships and partnerships with?



What do you think? Who are the people we Middle School Pastors need to do a better job of respecting, building relationships, or partnering with?

  • Jake Houf

    Great post. I think this topic is so important not only in the church world, but just in general. As a former production guy, it was amazing the demands you would face without anyone actually getting to know you. In my experience this led to a feeling of resentment and even anger from time to time, which isn’t healthy for any ministry. The events we would enjoy the most, and would be most willing to sacrifice extra time for were those being put on by anyone who took the time to thank us and get to know us.

    Being on the youth side of things now, I think trying to have great relationships with anyone in the “service” industry (facilities, food service, production, the mail carrier, etc.) is a great idea, not as a means of manipulation, but just as a means of loving well. Especially because a lot of these positions are “thankless jobs” for the most part, and usually those jobs come with a lot of demands but very little thanks or appreciation.

    I think we should really strive to have great relationships with everyone we work with, but I think intentionality in loving on and getting to know those who are considered “behind the scenes” goes a long way, not only for us, but for them.