Conformed TO Conflict or Conformed BY Conflict? - Part 2

by Dale E. Redman

(Last month Brother Redman pointed out that conflict, while inevitable, is also a vital part of group dynamics, and without it roles and goals are poorly defined and progress questionable.)

The study of organizational behavior has become an integral part of the core course of study in the area of modern management. Organizational behavior (OB) focuses primarily upon two major areas. First, OB looks at individual behavior. This section of study includes attitudes, personality, perception, learning and motivation. Second, OB is concerned with group behavior, which includes norms, roles, team building, and conflict. The goal of OB is to explain and predict individual behavior in group dynamics in organizational settings.

Research on group behavior shows that all groups pass through a standard sequence of five developmental stages. Once you hear them, they are very easy to remember, for they rhyme. These five stages are: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Since the last pertains mostly to temporary groups, we will consider only the first four stages.

FORMING: The first stage in group development during which people join the group and define the group's purpose, structure, and leadership. This stage is characterized by uncertainty.

STORMING: The second stage of group development during which a "pecking order" is established. When this stage is complete, there will be a relatively clear leadership hierarchy within the group and a general sense of agreement on the group's direction. This stage is characterized by intra-group conflict.

NORMING: The third stage of group development is one in which close relationships develop and the group begins to demonstrate cohesiveness. There is a strong sense of identity and camaraderie. This stage is characterized by bonding and a shift toward establishing expectations.

PERFORMING: The fourth stage in group development occurs when the group becomes fully functional and accepted. Group energy now moves from getting to know and understand each other to accomplishing the task at hand. This stage is characterized by its performance.*

I'm sure that most of us in the church world would much prefer to jump straight to the perform stage of group dynamics rather than labor through the forming stage and wallow in the midst of the storm. After all, we're all saved and sanctified! ‘Storming' at church meetings just doesn't sound very spiritual. However, research has shown that without the storm stage, boundaries are not clearly defined, goals are not established, responsibilities cannot be delineated and true leadership does not emerge. While the storm stage is certainly not a license for carnality at church meetings, it is a necessary process through which each group must pass if it is to become a successful, functional, performing church body.

Furthermore, these first four stages are so clearly defined that time intervals have been ascribed to them. For example, depending upon the prior history and circumstances surrounding the formation of the subject group, the storm stage is normally entered approximately six months to one year after the initial formation of any new group. Then, depending on how well the storm is managed, how willing the group members are to cooperate, and how amenably the group begins to shift its attention from the "storm" to the group cohesiveness which is indicative of a group entering the "norm," the storm could last another six months to one year, or even beyond.

I distinctly recall one pastor telling me that it has been his practice to do everything that he possibly can during his first year of a new pastorate, because, after that, "the honeymoon is over." What a graphic example of a pastor who unwittingly described a group entering the storm! Think with me and recall the vast number of pastors you know who have resigned under less-than-desirable circumstances during the storming stage of organizational behavior. Although it may have been done innocently, each of these pastors has done a huge disservice to his or her successor by laying the foundation for heightened storming by the successor group. Each pastor who resigns, or each congregation who "runs a pastor off" during the storming stage, has transformed their successor group's storm into a tempest; for it is often via this aborted storm stage, of what would otherwise be a normal part of the group's organizational development, that abusive church congregations and/or tyrant pastors emerge.

(to be concluded)

Dale E. Redman is presently serving as pastor of the Wesleyan Covenant Bible Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is also vice president-director of engineering services for LSB Industries of Oklahoma City. A former bi-vocational missionary in Latin American and the Slovak Republic, Mr. Redman is also founder and chairman of the Heartland Holiness Association.

*Stephen P. Robbins and Mary Coulter, Management-Fifth Edition, Prentice Hall, 1996.