One of the myriad ways in which a local church can stifle the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the midst of their congregation and in their community is to engage in groupthink. As Satterlee points out, the more that symptoms of groupthink are manifested within an organization, the worse the quality of the decisions will be that are made (2009, p. 154).
How does groupthink occur in churches? Following Satterlee (p. 154-155), here are eight ways that groupthink can manifest in your local assembly:
1. The church has an illusion of invulnerability based upon religious traditions and norms. The motto is, “This is how we have ‘always’ done it. We will continue to do it this way. We will not change.”
2. There is an unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent righteousness. Group members doggedly believe in the “rightness” of their particular norm of ministry philosophy and ignore any other philosophies, even ones that are clearly supported by Scripture.
3. There is a collective effort to restrain alternative norms and philosophies of ministry. No one dares introduce information that may go against the group’s rationalizing efforts because they may be ostracized as a result.
4. The church collectively stereotypes the “opposition.” Church members, following the leadership, may look down upon those outside of the preferred group because they are providing information contrary to the beliefs held by the group.
5. Self-censorship is alive and well within the group. Church members may offer mere opinions rather than make strong recommendations for change.
6. There is a shared illusion of unanimity. Silence within the congregation on a given topic is interpreted to mean agreement.
7. The application of direct pressure on any member who expresses strong disagreement. It is believed that dissent would never come from a loyal group member.
8. Self-appointed mind-guards are hard at work. These people are the ones who work to prevent anyone within the group from hearing information that may disrupt the group’s complacency and statisticity.
Church leaders and members must be vigilant to ensure that symptoms of groupthink are quickly identified and addressed before they solidify and become harmful. If this occurs, not only will the spiritual growth of the local congregation suffer, but the mission of God that He has given to the church to go and make disciples will suffer as well.
Does your local church suffer from groupthink? If so, gently work to clear away some of the spiritual congestion that is hampering the fullness of the Holy Spirit from manifesting in your midst.
See also “Groupthink and Functional Conflict.”
Satterlee, A. (2009). Organizational Management and Leadership: A Christian Perspective. Roanoake, VA: Synergistics.