Thursday, January 26, 2006

How small groups are "transformed"

The process of group dynamics is important to understand in the context of this current series of Herescope posts, which has focused on the evangelical post-modern paradigm shift envisioned and orchestrated by Leadership Network. Leadership Network focused much of their attention and energy on small group dynamics -- a setting which psychologists and social scientists discovered was ideal to mold and manipulate human beliefs and behaviors. The New Apostolic Reformation (Rick Warren's 2nd Reformation) also heavily utilizes small group dynamics (e.g., cell structures) to change people's beliefs and behaviors in order to propel forward this global church transformation.

In May 1996, The Christian Conscience magazine ran a sidebar to an article about education reform which was entitled “The Delphi Technique: How to achieve a workable consensus within time limits.” The original authors of this piece were Peg Luksik of Pennsylvania and Sandy Vanderberg of Washington State." The subsequent CC sidebar was then "tweaked" by Lynn M. Stuter. Stuter's website, which details much valuable information about the processes and philosophies of group transformation, can be found at

This brief sidebar below will be of some assistance to explain how the group process of paradigm shifting works to create "transformation." This method of changing a person's opinions, beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors is best done in a small group setting where peer pressure can be brought to bear on the participants to reinforce the process. Small group or cell structures have a built-in accountability structure that puts pressure on individuals to transform.

In leadership training circles, this group paradigm-shifting activity is performed on pastors or Christian leaders who attend focus groups, support groups, forums, conferences, training events, partnerships, collaborations, etc. Most of this training, but not all, is generated by parachurch organizations. To ensure transformation's effectiveness over the long-term, the group must have on-going contact or follow-up afterwards to ensure that the new philosophies become deeply embedded in everyone's new actions and activities. Routine monitoring and assessing of the pastors ensures that they are following the new doctrines and engaging in the new paradigm activities.

Not all group methods of transformation are as strong-armed as this example below. There are many more sophisticated, gentle, and subtle techniques that also produce results in changed thinking and behavior. Often the group facilitator role is accompanied by another change agent, who is deeply hidden and embedded in the structure of the group itself. In cell structures, group leaders have to report to higher-ups, and there may be great pressure placed on them to attain group conformity and transformation. In modern business language, they have to reach measurable goals for group performance and will be evaluated on that criteria.

Keep in mind that those who oppose the new doctrine, idea or practice will be marked as "resistors," "late adaptors" or "laggards, " or "Jezebels." Heavy pressure could be brought to bear on any individual who opposes change. Or, possibly, the individual will simply be "dumped" by the wayside as the rest of the group forges on towards the paradigm shift. An interesting article series that exemplifies this process can be found at, "How to transition an established church" by Chuck McAlister at Rick Warren's website

Manipulated group processes are effectually stymied when one person or more refuses to "play the game." Sometimes a person can courageously expose the transformation process as it is going on. But this takes someone who is willing to endure open ridicule, belittling, name-calling and even hostility -- not only in the group session itself, but as a "marked" person afterwards. The only reasons to stay in such a group setting would be to be led by God to: 1) speak the truth, 2) expose the error, 3) expose the group manipulation mechanism, or 4) warn others to flee. The best advice, biblically speaking, is to never attend a group where one suspects this training method for transformation will be utilized (See Nehemiah 6). Believers are warned to flee temptation, not to engage in dialogues (Genesis 3:1 "Yea, hath God said. . . ").

How to achieve a workable consensus within time limits

The Delphi Technique was originally conceived as a way to obtain the opinion of experts without necessarily bringing them together face to face. In Educating for the New World Order by B. K. Eakman (Halcyon, 1991), the reader finds reference upon reference for the need to preserve the illusion that there is “Lay, or community, participation [in the decision-making process], while lay citizens are, in fact, being squeezed out.

A specialized use of this technique was developed for teachers, the “Minsky Method” (Ibid, p. 123). The setting or group is, however, immaterial; the point is that people in groups tend to share a certain knowledge base and display certain identifiable characteristics (known as group dynamics). This allows for a special application of a basic technique.

The “change agent” or “facilitator” goes through the motions of acting as an organizer, getting each person in the target group to elicit expression of their concerns about a program, project, or policy in question. The facilitator listens attentively, forms “task forces,” “urges everyone to make lists,” and so on. While s/he is doing this, the facilitator learns something about each member of the target group. S/He identifies the “leaders,” the “loud mouths,” as well as those who frequently turn sides during the argument – the “weak or non-committal.”

Suddenly the amiable facilitator becomes “devil’s advocate.” S/He dons the professional agitator bat. Using the “divide and conquer” technique, s/he manipulates one group opinion against the other. This is accomplished by manipulating those who are out of step to appear “ridiculous, unknowledgeable, inarticulate, or dogmatic.” S/He wants certain members of the group to become angry, thereby forcing tensions to accelerate. The facilitator is well trained in psychological manipulation. S/He is able to predict the reactions of each group member. Individuals in opposition to the policy or program will be shut out of the group.

The method works. It is very effective with parents, teachers, school children, and any community group. The “targets” rarely, if ever, know they are being manipulated. Or, if they suspect this is happening, do not know how to end the process.

The desired result is for group polarization, and for the facilitator to become accepted as a member of the group and group process. S/He will then throw the desired idea on the table and ask for opinions during discussion. Very soon his/her associates from the divided group begin to adopt the idea as if it were their own, and pressure the entire group to accept the proposition.

This technique is a very unethical method of achieving consensus on a controversial topic in group settings. It requires well-trained professionals who deliberately escalate tension among group members, pitting one faction against the other, so as to make one viewpoint appear ridiculous so the other becomes “sensible” whether such is warranted or not.

The Truth:

"Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth and is confident." (Proverbs 14: 7, 16)

Tomorrow: The Leadership Network process of innovation used to create the Emergent Church . . .