Monday, July 7, 2014

How groups are formed and change

At the leader's weekend just passed, I took my youth group leaders through a process I was shown this week, thinking about the nature and dynamics of any group they're involved with.

To begin, each group has a script which verbally and non-verbally, outlines what they are about and why they do what they do.

For example, a church might emphasise evangelism and inclusion, while a rugby club will focus in on rugby (der!) and binge drinking.

This script will be enforced by a number of Socialising Agents.

For example, this might include the coach and captain of a sports team, the minister, treasurer and church council/deacons within a church and the youth minister/leadership team at a youth group.

Now, as anyone who's thought about the dynamics of a group will be aware, Socializing Agents extend beyond those who have a corner office or are on the payroll. Often, there will be those who wield power and influence, usually deferred by years of inclusion or wisdom. For example, the "legends" of the golf club or the "gatekeepers" of the church, those who've been around forever and are the first people you contact if you need information or "really" want something to happen.

Then, if someone decides they want to join the group, they'll need to chance their behaviors and adjust some beliefs in order to fit into the agreed script of the group.

For example, if you join a netball team, you'll need to listen to the coach and attend training and matches. If you're leading a youth group, there should be explained expectations you need to meet such as showing a genuine interest in the life of the teens.

Within each group, according to how the script is followed, there will then be rewards and punishments, usually boiling down to inclusions and exclusions.

For example, the alpha-female of a friendship group may invite someone to a party or "accidently" forget to tell someone about it due to their "obedience" to the script. Elsewhere, the footy coach might deny a player a starting position due to their lackluster training or promote a player ahead of another due to their mid-week efforts.

In turn, participants within the group will accommodate or imitate the outcomes of a groups script in order to be a fully included member.

Over time, a teen will either learn to get involved in (or at least tolerate!) bible discussions and times of prayer, or else they'll decide they don't belong. 

If one does decide to plug into a group, an individual can then start to shape the wider group, having deserved the right to contribute.

Finally, these assimilated members will advance and enforce the script of the group, molding it if needed, even transitioning into fresh Socialising Agents themselves.

This explanation of how groups develop, people are integrated and evolve, is the best way I've heard for the reasons the youth/young adult drop out points emerge.

No comments: