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Running head: GROUP DYNAMICS PAPER

Group Dynamics Paper


Patricia Lett
Psych/ 570
January 10, 2011
Robert Litchman

GROUP DYNAMICS PAPER

2
Group Dynamics Paper

A group can be defined as several individuals who come together to accomplish a


particular task or goal. Group dynamics refers to the attitudinal and behavioral
characteristics of a group. (Blair, 2010) This paper will include a description of a specific
named group, including the purpose of the group, the groups goals, and the demographic
factors of the group, including gender, family, education level, and other factors. The
stages of development that the group has experienced will be described. The structure of
the selected group and the effect that this structure has on the effectiveness of the group
will be analyzed. The dynamics of the group behavior within the group will be explained.
Last, I will analyze the effect the group has had on me concerning the following
concepts: group polarization, conformity, and groupthink.
Purpose, Goals, and Demographics of the Church
The group that I have selected to describe is my Church. I belong to a Baptist
church that has 75 to 150 members. Women and children attend the church most
faithfully. There are about 20 men. The group includes adults who are single, married,
divorced, separated, remarried, and widowed. The ages of the group range from six
months to 80 years. The adult group members have a variety of levels of education, from
high school dropouts to people with graduate degrees.
The purpose of our local congregation is to preach Christ, share the Gospel, teach
children about the Lord, and lead adults into living the Christian faith. Our group also is
designed to give us a sense of belonging, and of being involved with other believers. It
can give us a spiritual anchor, so that we are not blown around by strange ideas. (Eph.
4:13-15) The congregation also is set up to nurture one another, to befriend one another,

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and to support each other during tough times by dividing our sorrow, and during good
times by doubling our joy. The church group can teach us things we would never learn on
our own. The congregation can help train our children, help us work together for more
effective ministry, and give us opportunities to serve others in Christ's name, which helps
us grow in ways we did not expect. In general, the value that you get out of a local
congregation is in proportion to the amount of involvement we give it. Three major
purposes of the church as a whole are worship, teaching, and ministry.
Stages of Development
There are five stages of development are forming, storming, norming, performing,
and adjourning. Forming is the stage when the group first comes together. Everybody is
very polite and careful. Conflict is seldom voiced directly. Since the grouping is new, the
individuals are more guarded in his or her opinions and generally reserved. This is
particularly true for the members who are generally more shy, more anxious or feel as if
they are somehow not wholly members; they fear a response from which they will never
recover emotionally.
Storming is the next stage, when everything breaks loose and the leaders are
attacked. Factions form, personalities clash, no one concedes a single point without first
fighting tooth and nail. Most importantly, very little communication occurs since no one
is listening and some are still unwilling to talk openly. True, this battleground may seem
extreme for the church-- but if you look beneath the veil of civility there is often a level
of seething sarcasm, invective poison and catty gossiping innuendo.
Norming is the next stage. At this stage the sub-groups begin to recognize the
merits of working together and the in-fighting subsides. Since a new spirit of cooperation

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is evident, each member begins to feel secure in expressing his or her point of view and
these are discussed openly with the entire group. The most significant improvement is
people start to listen to each other. Work methods become established and recognized by
the church as a whole. (Jex & Britt, 2008)
The next stage is performing. This is the culmination, when the group has settled
on a system which allows free and frank exchange of views and a high degree of support
by the group for each other and its own decisions. In terms of performance, the group
starts at a level slightly below the sum of the individuals' abilities and then drops abruptly
to its low-mark until it climbs during Norming to a new level of Performing which is
(hopefully) well above the start. It is this elevated level of performance which is the main
justification for using the group process rather than a simple group or staff. The last stage,
adjourning, is when the group members reflect on their experiences in the group. (Jex &
Britt, 2008) Unfortunately, my church is so poor at communication that it has not
completed any of these stages. The church is still in stage one, forming.
Structure and Its Effect on the Church Group
The church that I am discussing has a structure, but it is not followed all the time.
There have been many problems in the church in the past and a new preacher just started
in 2008. He is trying to do things the way the Bible teaches, not just following Baptist
church codes. The church is part of a Baptist Association and the structure is supposed to
be congregational. In a congregational structure, each church is self-governing and selfsupporting, made up of members, each with a role to play. The Baptist churches
encourage those attending to become church members through baptism. This entitles
them to vote at the church meeting where all decisions are made. Final authority rests not

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with the minister or deacons, but with church members at the meetings. Members appoint
ministers, elders, deacons, and others who take leadership roles, agree on financial policy
and determine mission strategy. (Religions, 2009) This structure has caused many
problems in my church, because there are so many people who take advantage of the
power they have and use it to promote their own personal agenda rather than looking out
for the good of others, or of the entire church. Our new preacher is following teachings of
the Bible in establishing roles and responsibilities within the church, which is enabling
our group to coalesce better and is allowing communication to begin.
Dynamics of Group Behavior
Some of the most recognizable group behavior in my church is the appeal to
emotions, belonging and identification. Oneofthemostpowerfulgroupdynamicsisthe
appealtotheemotions.Ifapersoncanbeenticedtoparticipateinanexperienceinwhich
theemotionsareinvolved,hecaneasilymovefromonebeliefsystemtoanother.For
example,someoneisinvitedtoattendameetinginwhichemotionalexperiencesare
promotedandpracticed.Heorshehasgreatdoubts,butgoesbecauseafriendhasinvited
himorher.Duringthemeetingheorshehearsemotionalappealsandseesothers
participatinginvariousactivities.Inthemidstofallthehype,heorsheendsup
becomingemotionallyandexperientiallyinvolved.Assoonasheorshecrossestheline
fromhesitationtoparticipation,heorshebecomesensnaredintheemotionsand
experiences.Nomoredoubts,nomorehesitation.Heorsheusuallybecomesbotha
participantandapromoter.Iftheinitialmeetingisfollowedbymoremeetings,thenew
beliefwillbecomeevenmoreestablished,especiallyifemotionsandemotionalismare
predominant.Thishappenedinmychurchwithsomenewcomers.Thedeaconswere

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tryingtogetmorepeopleandtheyusedameetingasatimetogainthosepeople.They
putonaniceshowbyshowinghowthehelppeoplethatisnotalwaystrueandthepeople
feelforit.
Personalinvitationswithpersonaltestimoniesofspiritualgrowth,healing,anda
greatersenseofGodspresenceandpowerareprimarymeansofdrawingChristiansinto
particulargroups.Theseareordinarilymeansofencouragingparticipationinanygroup
activity,includingchurchandotherorganizations.Therefore,thiscommonmethodcan
beusedforgoodaswellasforevil.Thedesiretobelongisoftenencouragedthrough
spectaculartestimonies.Manyofthechurchmembersstrugglewithtryingtofitinwith
thegroup.Mychurchdemonstratesacceptanceandlovewhichmakesapersonfeel
welcome.Thisiscommontoallgroupsthatdesiretoexpandtheirmembership,from
churchestosecularorganizations.
However,whengroupspracticetransparencytheysharecertainsecretsabout
themselves.Thisdrawsthenewparticipantsintofeelingacceptedlikeclosefriends.A
measureoftrustisestablishedasdifferentmembersofthegroupopenup.Thus,potential
andnewmembersofagrouparenotonlymadetofeelwelcome;theyaregiven
acceptanceatthispointofintimateconnection.Transparencyleadstofeelingsof
intimacy,especiallywhenthesharingmajorsonpersonalstruggleswithtemptationsand
behaviorstheBiblewouldlabelsin.(PsychoHeresyAwarenessMinistries,2011)Such
exposurecanbeveryenticingwithitsfocusonself.Itislikeabigstorytellingsession
aboutme,myself,andIandeveryoneelseinvolvedwithme.Experiencingandsharing

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biasedstoriesbecomesabasisforemotionalinvolvementinourchurch.Insomegroups,
includethechurchpersonalsinbecomesabadgeofmembership.
Group Polarization, Conformity, and Groupthink
Group polarization is when people are placed into a group and then have to deal with
some situation; the group as a whole typically has some overriding attitude toward the situation.
Over time and with group discussion, the group's attitude toward that situation may change.
When it changes in such a way that the group attitude is enhanced and strengthened, then group
polarization has occurred. (Psychology Glossary, 2010) Conformity is a type of social influence
involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group. (Crutchfield, 1955)
Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when a group
makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of mental efficiency,
reality testing, and moral judgment (p. 9). Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives
and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups. A group is especially
vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is
insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.
Since joining my church, I have had to rethink how I relate to others and how their
reactions affect me and my family. Because many of the church have been members for decades,
there is a sense of stagnation in their thinking and way of doing things. There is a common
reaction that says, But we've never done it that way before.
Group polarization rarely happens but many experience groupthink and conformity.
Because our church is in a small rural community where many families have lived for
generations, we are very susceptible to groupthink: insulation, similarity, unclear rules. These
unhealthy dynamics are very powerful in my church and have caused me to re-evaluate what

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church is about. I have had to refocus my thoughts on my faith and prayer life, focus on the
pastor's teachings, ignore gossip and unkindness, and remember my responsibility to raising my
children in the way they should go. (Proverbs 22:6)
Conclusion
This paper focused on group dynamics by examining the key group of which I am
a member: my church. The group dynamics of my church was described and analyzed.
The Church has many different purposes and has many goals to achieve. True unity can
be found only as we draw closer to Christ, preach his gospel, and live as he teaches and
enables us to through the power of his spirit. Our goal is to promote him, not ourselves.
The existence of different denominations has a side benefit, however: Through diverse
approaches, more people are reached with the message of Christ in a way they
understand. This paper has included the purpose of the group, goals, and demographic
nature of the group. The stages of development were described. The structure and the
effect it has on the effectiveness of the group were analyzed. The dynamics of group
behavior were explained. Lastly, I analyzed the effect that the Church has on me
concerning group polarization, conformity, and groupthink.

GROUP DYNAMICS PAPER

References:
Blair, G. (2010). Groups that Work. Retrieved from,
http://managementhelp.org/grp_skll/theory/theory.htm
Crutchfield, R. (1955). Conformity Experiments. Retrieved from,
http://www.simplypsychology.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/crutchfield-conformity.html
Janis, Irving L. (1972). Victims of Groupthink. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Jex, S. & Britt, T. (2008). Organizational Psychology: A Scientific- Practitioner
Approach. (2nd Ed). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons
Morrison, M. (2010). What is the Church? Retrieved from, http://www.gci.org/disc/22church
Psychology Glossary. (2010). Group Polarization. Retrieved from,
http://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.cfm?term=group%20polarization
PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries. (2011). Manipulating Christians through Group
Dynamics. Retrieved from, http://www.psychoheresyaware.org/manipulating1_145.html
Religions. (2009 June 25). Baptist Church. Retrieved from,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/subdivisions/baptist_1.shtml