Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building the World We Dream About: An Anti-racism Multicultural Program

Activity 2: Congregational Power Map

Activity time: 70 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 1 for all participants.
  • Decide small group assignments in advance. Create groups of four to six people, mixing longtime members of the congregations with people who have joined more recently. Post small group assignments on newsprint.
  • Decide where small groups will meet, making sure there is minimal noise interference.

Description of Activity

Introduce the activity with these or similar words:

Continuing on our journey to surface what is unseen, we will begin to examine power and authority in our congregation, both formal and informal. You will be working in small groups that mix longtimers with newer members of the congregation. While longtimers may be more familiar with the congregation's power system, those who are newer can offer important insights into perceptions about power in the congregation.

Before I invite you to move into groups, let's take a few moments to consider what we mean by the words "power" and "authority."

Distribute Handout 1 and invite volunteers to read the definitions aloud, refraining for the moment from reading the "instructions" part of the handout. Invite brief observations and insights about the two definitions, allowing about five minutes for this part of the exercise. Then, invite participants to jot in their journals their own impressions of which roles, positions, or groups in the congregation have power (that is, the ability to achieve purpose). Urge them to concentrate on roles, positions, and groups, rather than individuals, explaining that power structures exist apart from individuals who occupy particular roles in the system.

Allow three minutes for writing, and then invite participants to go a little deeper and consider by what authority those they listed exercise power. Is the authority formal or informal? Allow three minutes for writing, and then ask: what are the dominant identities of the people in roles, positions, or groups who hold power or are given authority (either formally or informally)? Invite participants to continue their reflection on power in the congregation by listing roles, positions, or groups (or types of people) who do not have power (that is, the ability to achieve purpose) or who have power only sometimes or in certain circumstances. Again, remind them to focus on roles, positions, and groups, and not on individuals. Invite them to consider the dominant identities of those who do not have power or who have it only sometimes. Allow five minutes for writing.

Invite participants to move into the small groups according to the lists you have posted. Give each group newsprint and markers and read aloud the instructions for mapping power and authority in your congregation.

Allow 30 minutes for groups to work. Circulate while groups are working, being alert for disgruntled members of the congregation who may try to use this workshop as an opportunity to express dissatisfaction or to scapegoat congregational leaders. If you become aware of such behavior, intervene in the group process and redirect the group, inviting them to focus on systems of power, not on individual leaders.

Have the large group reconvene and invite a member from each small group, in turn, to share their road map. As the maps are shared, invite observations and insights, using these questions to help guide the discussion:

  • What patterns are similar across maps?
  • Is there a group or "type" of person in your congregation that is missing from some or all of the maps?
  • What are the different ways to think about "power" in your congregation? (for example, "power over others" or, "power with others")?
  • Is power distributed equally in the congregation? Is power equally accessible?

After all the maps are shared, ask:

  • Using your lens of various characteristics of racism you discussed during the last workshop, how does race inform your power map?