Wednesday, November 17, 2010

133. Thawing out the "organic freeze."

I know when we first transitioned into meeting in homes it was a bit awkward. We all had the weird feel going on because all of us were used to doing church the conventional way. One of things that developed over time was what I call the "organic freeze." This is when no one wants to take the initiative in the group for fear of being "the leader" or imposing their agenda on the group. That was a phase we all sort of unknowingly went through. In other words, we did not know we were going through it at the time, and it only is apparent in hind sight.

I have run a cross what I consider a goldmine of a book on group dynamics called Paradoxes of Group Life. This is just one of the jewels in the book as it relates to power in groups. "One develops power as one empowers others. Taking the power that is available and using it often creates a vacuum, because it is experienced as depriving others of a sacred commodity. As a result, power taking is resisted. Individuals often refuse to accept or exercise the power that is available to them in a group simply to avoid the accusation of having stolen it form someone else or having gained it at others expense. Yet the very avoidance of taking and using the available power makes individuals in a group, and ultimately the group as a whole, feel powerless. The feelings of powerlessness create an even greater wish for power, making it even harder for anyone to seize it, because the feeling of deprivation is correspondingly larger, and the resistance grows. On the other hand, if one takes the available power and uses it to empower others, the total amount of group and individual power increases. Taking power when it is dangerous to do so and then acting to empower others defuses the terror and breaks the cycle…So the work of those who have or create power is to create the conditions in which others can move toward their own empowerment." This is so valuable to people who are "frozen" in the organic mode of "no leadership equals no hierarchy." Power is a deep topic, but I think these guys shed some important light on the nature of group dynamics, leadership and taking the initiative. I have found that in groups where people have experienced spiritual abuse, heavy handed, authoritarian leadership styles, that going through a period of totally egalitarian interactions where no one has an agenda for the group and no one dares to impose any kind of structure can be a good thing. But staying in that mode is way too detrimental to the life of the group. If you are not careful, your time together as a group will end up looking like a Quaker meeting. Everyone being silent, looking at each other until someone is supposedly "prompted" by something or someone."

I healthy scripture to move a group in this phase is I Peter 4:10-11. 
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

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