How to Build and Maintain a Dysfunctional Group: “I know..but we need” (You can’t take enough vitamins to make poison good for you.)

How many times have you known someone in a congregation (elder, preacher, deacon, Bible teacher, man, woman) who is toxic in the group? They’re a pain in the church and will run off more people than you can invite.

Some habits, personality traits they practice:

  • Gossip
  • Harsh attitude
  • Lack of listening to others
  • Always right
  • Anyone who disagrees with them on any minute matter is a false teacher
  • So open minded they believe in no absolutes
  • Constantly criticizing
  • Irresponsible in completing tasks
  • Irregular in attendance at regular church activities because other things are more important
  • Acting as an independent individual when they belong to a group that is to act as a unit
  • Freely sharing confidential information
  • Makes decisions or does the work of someone who has the responsibility without being asked and without consulting the designated servant
  • Habitually late or incomplete on promised and agreed projects

…and yet they stay in their position of leadership or function with no coaching, correction, rebuke, or removal.

…because they do something else really well, give more money than most, or have relatives or friends we don’t want to upset.

Some things cannot be tolerated and expect to have a healthy group.

“I know he beats his wife, but he teaches a good Bible class.”
“I know he bullies the rest of the elders to get his way, but he’s a successful businessman and respected in the community.”
“I know she doesn’t prepare her class lessons, and fails to show up often, but we don’t want to offend her family.”

My inspiration for this post was a post from Seth Godin:

Function (and the dysfunctional organization)
Here’s how you end up with a bully in a position of authority at an organization:

Someone points out that the bully is a real problem. And the boss says, “I know he’s a bully, but he’s really productive and we can’t afford to replace him.”

And here’s how you end up with a naysayer, or a toxic co-worker:

Someone points out that people are afraid to work with this person. And the boss says, “I know, but we really need her expertise.”

And, person by person, trait by trait, we build a broken organization because we believe that function trumps cooperation, inspiration and care.

Until it doesn’t, and then, all we’ve got left is a mess.

The negative people who do nothing functional are an easy decision. It’s the little compromises around people who seem to add value that corrupt what we seek to create.

Build a team of people who work together, who care and who learn and you’ll end up with the organization you deserve. Build the opposite and you also get what you deserve.

Function is never an excuse for a dysfunctional organization, because we get the organization we compromise for. — Seth Godin, August 17, 2016:

Which is another way of saying:

If a situation is chronic, it’s because everybody likes it the way it is more than what it would take to change it.

You can’t take enough vitamins to offset the damage of poison.

How much wrong and hurt can a leader do before we’ll do what’s right, stop the constant injury, and call the leader to be accountable for the hurt he caused?

(Visited 849 times, 61 visits today)
Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

2 Responses to “How to Build and Maintain a Dysfunctional Group: “I know..but we need” (You can’t take enough vitamins to make poison good for you.)

  • Jeff W. Smith
    5 years ago

    Once upon a time, in yesteryear, a lady was very destructive to the fellowship of the church. This was known, and witnessed by myself, the elders, and those who she was recruiting to her way of thinking. I shared with the elders the need to discuss this with her, they were unwilling. So…..I went by myself to her home. Just me, her husband, and this lady in their living room. It did not go well. I was unprepared for the level of anger she demonstrated, but denied being angry. Her husband was silent. I did have my say but was barely heard. Lessons learned……1) don’t go it alone, “take one or two others so every matter may be established” said Jesus, Mt. 18:15-18. 2) I could not do alone what the group (leadership in particular) should be doing. 3) Accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can, have the wisdom to know the difference. In my arrogance I thought I could fix anything, I could not. This is humbling but has been helpful to me. 4) Prepare for such encounters with prayer, study, planning, & sound Bible strategy. I plowed ahead not counting the cost, unprepared, and therefore ineffective in helping her get better and in helping the church get better. The only good that came is what I learned from a bad experience, I don’t think she learned a thing from our encounter.
    I tell folks that as an older preacher I work “smarter” than I used to. The above encounter is one of the many experiences that helped me learn to work smarter. I am not proud of the many mistakes I’ve made. I am grateful that from most of those mistakes, I have learned.

  • Ever read the book, “The People Of The Lie”? It is scary yet so true of people who seem on the surface to be friendly and yet they are fully factious to a church. M. Scott Peck nails it! The person he refrences was a great match to a person in our congregation.
    As elders, we were better prepared to handle their behavior. It was a difficult situation, yet afterwards, the congregation was very thankful for how we handled it.

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