06 Group Dynamics

Introduction to Groups

by Stephanie Dohner and Joy McConnell

Why Groups?

Congregations are groups of groups. If the most important association for a new member is within a small group, it would be appropriate to learn how such groups operate. It is important to understand how groups and communities form and function.

There are certain patterns that appear again and again in organizational process literature — stages that groups cycle and recycle during their existence, whether it be a weekend retreat, a committee, or a fellowship group that has been going for many years. One of the most well-known is the pattern of Forming, Norming, Storming, Transforming. In the Centerquest curriculum this pattern is called the “Unit Movement” consisting of entry, anxiety, hope, despair, and transformation. In Scott Peck’s version of this typical process with community described in detail in his book, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, it is called Pseudo-community, Chaos, Emptiness, Community (by which he means authentic community). If we understand that all groups go through these cycles again and again, we can more readily recognize the tensions and stages that our groups are going through. We can even stimulate them to move to the next, necessary stage when they get stuck, when they need to process differences, and get beyond them to more profound understandings and more effective functioning.


The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace by M. Scott Peck, M.D. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987) describes the journey from pseudo-community to authentic community through several stages. Very inspiring.


In order to work effectively in groups, everyone should know:

  • The normal cycles that all groups go through if they are to be authentic and functional.
  • How people’s personality types and management styles will affect the way they interact in groups.
  • What their roles are in their societies and what power levels they have.
  • The difference between problems (finite) and polarities (eternal).
  • The difference between conflict that is energizing and conflict that is destructive

A version to print and read:


After Great Expectations: