You’ve Got to Know the 8 Power Groups in Your Church

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.

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Thom Rainer
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.