This topic will cause some discomfort for many of you. The very thought of the presence of power groups seems contrary to the spirit and grace of the gospel. But power groups are very real in churches.
Perhaps our comfort level can increase a bit by calling the groups “influencers” rather than power groups. Choose your label. The fact of the matter is that most churches have a clearly known group that carries the most influence in the church. And it is not unusual for that group to have a clearly known leader.
It is common to assume that power groups are inherently bad. That is not necessarily the case. Some of them can be a part of the formal structure of the church; church polity requires them. But even some informal groups can be healthy for the church. Don’t assume a power group per se is negative. Here are eight types of groups. While a church may have more than one kind of group, only one of the groups will be the dominant power in the church.
1. Family owned and operated. Thousands of churches are dominated by a family and its extensions. I once served in a church where half of the deacons had the same last name. It is not unusual that the church was founded by a member of the family. And the family tends to stick together when they want things to go their way.
2. Work-around warriors. This group forms when there is a power or ministry void. Its formation is typically an indication of lack of confidence in the current leadership. They align themselves to get a job done they feel is not taking place otherwise. But the group rarely disbands after the perceived need or task is accomplished. They become an ongoing power group.
3. Benevolent dictators. These individuals or groups garner their power in the church from a variety of possibilities. But they really don’t want the power for themselves. Their desire is to use their influence for the good of the church as they can best discern.
4. Formal alliances. Often the power group in the church is the group that has formal authority in the church. They may be elders, members of the finance committee, deacons or some other body of authority in the church.
5. Money managers. Because they have a position related to money in the church, this group sometimes uses their financial power to gain greater power in the church. The group may be called a finance committee, a stewardship committee or a budget committee. But their authority to call the financial shots can result in significant other sources of power in the church.
6. Past-is-present protectors. The goal of this group is clear: Fiercely defend the status quo. The group typically has a clear leader and numbers of eager followers. I recently heard one pastor talk about the problems he encountered when he changed the time of the worship service from 10:55 to 11:00. This group’s motto is “Don’t mess with the way we’ve always done it.”
7. Ministry militia. This power group is known for its fierce devotion to a particular ministry in the church. Anything done to diminish the value of that ministry or to bring change that will impact that ministry will be met with stiff opposition.
8. Network systems. There are one or more people in the church that have uncanny networking skills. They intentionally connect to many people in the church. So when the leadership of the church wants to make a change, this group is critical for success because they are connected to so many other members.
What types of power groups would you add? What groups have you experienced in your church?
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomranier.com.
Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Help Charisma stay strong for years to come as we report on life in the Spirit. Become an integral part of Charisma’s work by joining Charisma Media Partners. Click here to keep us strong!
Dr. Mark Rutland's
National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)
The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. Enroll in the FREE Mini-Course to experience Dr. Rutland's training for yourself and then enroll for the full training that will change your life and ministry.
FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.
NICL Training offered in FL, TX and GA - Learn everything you wish someone had taught you about business and ministry before you finished seminary. Gain the knowledge that will help propel your life and ministry to the next level as you implement practical lessons from Dr. Rutland's training. Training Dates and Details.
The NICL Online is a brand new option for those church and ministry leaders who cannot attend the in-person training. Now, you can receive all 60-hours of Dr. Rutland's training from the comfort of your home or ministry for a full year. Learn more about NICL Online.