Chapter 9: Growth Groups in Schools, Churches, and Agencies

Growth Groups
by Howard J. Clinebell, Jr.

Chapter 9: Growth Groups in Schools, Churches, and Agencies

What would happen if . . . the idea of developing human beings was considered so important and vital that each neighborhood had within walking distance a Family Growth Center which was a center for learning about being human, from birth to death? . . . human potential is infinite. We have only scratched the surface.

Virginia Satir1

The framework and prototype of such a network of lifetime growth centers already exist -- in the schools, churches,( Read "church and temple" whenever the word church appears.) and social agencies of our communities. But the vision of a more humanizing community can become a reality only as these institutions function more fully as human growth and development centers! These institutions hold the key to releasing the people dynamic in a community; they are the most realistic basis on which to create group growth opportunities for people of all ages.

Enlivening our Institutions

Herbert Otto has pointed out that "The actualization of our human potentialities is closely bound to the regeneration of our human institutions.... We must begin with ourselves and the institutions with which we are most intimately concerned and connected."2 Somehow we must continually revitalize the educational establishment, organized religion, and community agencies so that they respond to changing human needs -- becoming ( in John Gardner's words ) "self-renewing institutions."

Growth groups can help in this renewal process. When leaders of institutions make groups a major thrust in both staff development and program, significant things happen. The level of participation and enthusiasm tend to rise as real human needs are met. In churches, the much-abused term "church renewal" becomes an experienced reality as congregations commit themselves to corporate ministries of mutual growth. People experience love, reconciliation, and grace in small communities of caring. The same enlivening occurs in schools where small-groups stimulate whole-person growth. In my own teaching, the discovery that growth groups and inductive methods of teaching theory can be combined in ways that strengthen both, has made a refreshing difference. In social agencies, growth-oriented groups are a practical means of moving to a prevention and fulfillment orientation and away from the repair-therapy orientation. Enhancing positive mental health in small groups for normal people may prevent many personal and family problems from developing.

An institution is vital to the extent that it is meeting human needs. In making decisions about types of growth groups to develop in any organization, listing unmet needs is the place to start. Which ages or groups within its constituency have the most pressing unmet growth needs? Among these, which hold the most promise of renewing the internal life of the organization to make it a more enlivening social environment? In schools, this question usually points to teachers and administrators. In churches, it points to clergymen and their spouses, lay leaders, and church school teachers. In agency settings, it points to administrators, counselors, and other staff members. Providing growth opportunities for these strategic groups is the most direct way to increase an institution's growth-stimulating vitality.

In all organizations, potential small group leaders are another high-priority target. Discovering natural growth facilitators and offering them a depth group experience is an efficient way of developing creative leadership for groups ( growth and otherwise) within the organization. Several churches which now have a lively variety of growth groups did precisely this. They recruited the most emotionally mature persons available for the first group; those showing natural facilitator aptitudes were invited to obtain further training and then to co-lead groups with more experienced leaders. As more and more key people in any organization have growth experiences, the interpersonal climate and the program are gradually enlivened.

In his book Joy, Expanding Human Awareness, William Schutz declares:

Our institutions, our organizations, the "establishment" -- even these we are learning to use for our own joy. Our institutions . . . can be used to enhance and support individual growth, can be re-examined and redesigned to achieve the fullest measure of human realization. All these things are coming. None are here, but they are closer. Closer than ever before.3

Growth Groups in Schools

Schools can and should play a major role in providing growth opportunities for persons of all ages. Every community has its schools. If teachers, administrators, school boards, and parents catch a vision of schools as lifelong growth centers, the humanizing impact of this vast network of schools can be immense. In public and private schools, from prekindergarten through graduate and professional education, and continuing in a tremendously expanded adult learning program, growth groups can be used to release the people dynamic throughout society.

Good schools have always been growth centers. All genuine learning is growth. Skillful teachers are natural growth-facilitators. The growth group approach is a methodology for whole-person education by which teachers can increase their influence for growth. It is an approach which is effective in the most difficult and vital area of education -- that involving feelings, attitudes, values, and relationships. These matters must receive increased attention if education is to equip people of all ages for full, responsible, joyful living. Norman Cousins describes humanizing education: "The first aim of education should not be to prepare young people for careers but to enable them to develop respect for life. Related lessons should be concerned with the reality of human sensitivity and the need to make it ever finer and more responsive; the naturalness of loving and the circumstances that enhance it or enfeeble it."4 Growth groups offer a setting in which students and teachers can wrestle together with the value dilemmas and relationship problems which are central to the development of a workable life-style; they can promote the integration of relevant content from our culture in this process.

Teachers and administrators are keys to the growth climate of classrooms, faculty relationships, and administrative committees. Open, growing teachers tend to create growth-stimulating relationships with students. Administrators with firm and person-affirming styles tend to create growth-supporting schools. As suggested above, growth opportunities for these key persons are crucially important.

My wife and I have had a number of teachers in our growth groups. Often they were under heavy pressure in their jobs. They liked their work for the most part, but were "up to their ears" in discipline problems, staff tensions, criticisms from parents, and feelings of being sucked dry by the enormous needs of oversized classes. In some cases, the groups have helped them gain interpersonal satisfactions to offset job frustrations and have increased their communication and person-centered skills. A notable example was a fourth grade teacher who reported at the end of a group: "I've discovered here that it's O.K. to care and express it. What this has done to my teaching is amazing. The kids respond as if I were a different person!"

Peter Knoblock and Arnold Goldstein report on the use of group interaction to overcome professional loneliness and to further teacher growth. Six teachers met for seventeen sessions. Opportunity to talk out their ideas and feelings enhanced their ability to cope with daily classroom problems. They discovered a major untapped resource of experience and help -- each other. Research findings on the group showed that the teachers had developed new listening skills, improved teacher-to-teacher relationships, and increased their understanding of themselves, each other, and their students.5

An Esalen program for teachers employs encounter, body movement, and sensory awareness techniques. Participants have developed innovative ways to integrate students' feelings, values, and relationships with the regular school curriculum.6

It behooves school administrators to make professional growth groups available to teachers who desire them as part of their continuing training. (It is also important for school boards and the community in general to understand the purpose of whatever small groups are used in a school system.) Since some teachers prefer to attend growth groups completely unrelated to the schools, community agencies have an opportunity to provide such groups. "Teacher Effectiveness Training" is one approach which has been productive with both professional (public and private school) and volunteer (church school) teachers.

Carl Rogers describes a plan for using encounter groups to awaken an entire school system from top to bottom. Beginning with a growth workshop for key administrators and board members, encounter groups are subsequently provided for interested teachers, students, and parents. Finally, a vertical group composed of two trustees, administrators, teachers, parents, excellent students, and failing or dropout students is held on the theme: "Our schools: What I like and don't like about them, and what I want them to be."7 The emphasis is on developing a climate of openness and self-directed learning throughout the system.

Growth-group methods can be applied to classroom teaching to increase students' feelings of confidence and competence. William Glasser's open-ended classroom meetings, described in Schools Without Failure, are one illustration. In another educational innovation, the Human Development Program, children in groups of ten or so, for about twenty minutes each school day, participate in a variety of learning games. These allow them to experience success, deal with positive and negative feelings, discover something about relating, and learn that others have similar fears and concerns. Kindergarteners, for example, may receive and give fruit or candy to each other. Reactions to the exchanges are then explored by the children as they learn they have the ability to make others feel good. The goal of the program is to develop persons with healthy self-confidence as a foundation for maximum learning and for actualization of their potential.8

In addition to classroom growth methods, schools should develop a variety of other small groups for students, led by qualified teachers, counselors, and school psychologists. Two sources suggest the variety of growth group possibilities. Merle M. Ohlsen describes group counseling of adolescents and children in schools.9 Helen Driver reports on two groups for high school seniors, three groups for college students, and four leaderless teachers' groups.10 The second part of Driver's book reports on forty-four projects using small groups in elementary, high school, college, and graduate professional schools (as well as mental health settings ), as described by the leaders of each group.

Growth groups are being used increasingly with college students in ecumenical student religious centers, in psychology and human relations courses, in training of dorm counselors, and in college guidance programs. Three psychologists who use growth groups at the University of California at Davis state: ``This small group approach, bringing persons together in an atmosphere of community and trust, fairly explodes with antidotes for what ails higher education.... The basic mode of the encounter group is relevance, the actual, the real, and the here-and-now.... The encounter process stresses openness, transparency, and clear and effective communication.... It helps to reduce the barriers of roles and styles of living which keep apart and prevent understanding.''11

Since the professional effectiveness of teachers, ministers, social workers, counseling psychologists, nurses, and psychiatrists depend so much on their skills in relating and communicating, graduate schools training them should make extensive use of growth groups. My experience with professional growth groups for theological students over the last decade has convinced me that the quality of professional services could be raised significantly in a few years if growth groups were used widely in professional education. It takes more interpersonal competence to be effective in any of the person-centered professions today than it did in a less chaotic time. Groups offer opportunities to integrate the knowledge of one's profession with essential interpersonal skills in the formation of one's professional identity.

Relationship training will undoubtedly be increasingly emphasized in adult education. Junior and senior colleges, university extension departments, churches, high schools, and community agencies should provide high-quality groups with an emphasis on learning to love, to create, to enjoy, to relate, to communicate. As leisure increases, both the need and the possibility for such in-depth learning groups will also increase. George Leonard puts the challenge well: "Education in a new and greatly broadened sense can become a lifelong pursuit for everyone. To go on learning, to go on sharing that learning with others may well be considered a purpose worthy of mankind's ever-expanding capacities''12 Education, in this perspective, becomes not a timelimited preparation-for-living but an ongoing way of life. Small groups can help to nurture this lifelong growth. Their goal is to make learning "as relevant, involving, and joyful as the learning each of us experienced when we were infants first discovering ourselves and our surroundings."13

Growth Groups in Churches

Churches should play a strategic part in the growth network needed to develop the unused human potentialities in every community. No other institution in American life has regular, face-to-face contacts with so many millions of adults. The small group approach is a natural in the church, undergirded by a long tradition. The right of each person to develop his full potential as a child of God is basic in the Jewish-Christian heritage. Many church leaders -- clergy and laity -- are discovering the power of groups for implementing this right. Robert Leslie, a pioneer in using small groups in the church, now reports: "An increasing number of people are finding new meaning in their church life through small sharing groups. More and more ministers are finding a new focus for their ministry in developing group life.''l4 Relevant churches have a three-pronged mission: to heal brokenness, to nurture growth, and to equip (train, coach, educate, inspire) change/growth agents to help individuals and to create a more humanizing society. Growth groups are useful in each of these thrusts.

I concur with George Webber's conviction that a congregation in mission "will make basic provision for its members to meet in small groups (as well as corporate worship), not as a sidelight or option for those who like it, but as a normative part of its life.''l5 A viable motif for the church in the last third of the century is found in words attributed to Jesus in John's Gospel: "I have come that men may have life . . . in all its fullness" ( John 10:l0, NEB). To implement this motif in mission, a church must become a human wholeness and training center.

Churches have several unique advantages and resources which can be utilized in growth groups. Since all eight life stages are represented in a congregation, there's a splendid opportunity to develop a full ladder of growth groups. Small groups can help people prepare for normal, developmental crises (e.g., adolescence) and cope with unexpected, accidental crises. The vertical orientation of the church fellowship defines another unique resource -- an explicit concern for nurturing spiritual growth by helping people develop functional adult values and philosophies of life and thereby strengthen their connection with the Source of life and growth. Spiritual growth involves deepening one's sense of "at-homeness" in the universe and increasing one's awareness that"I'm O.K. -- You're O.K. -- God's O.K." God is very dead for many people. The concept refers to no reality in their actual experience. God can be revived for them only in relationships where theological truths become experiential realities. This can happen in growth groups. At the close of two weeks of daily growth group sessions, participants in one workshop could identify these biblical themes in their shared experiences: bondage and liberation, salvation by grace, judgment, death and rebirth, alienation and reconciliation, mutual caring, the transforming power of love, becoming a spiritual unity, growth.

Church groups can contribute to spiritual growth by utilizing basic insights from their heritage. This heritage holds that man is more than "a larger white rat or a slower computer''16 -- his freedom, awareness, valuing, caring, and creativeness constitute the core of his humanness. These spiritual aspects (called the "image of God" in traditional language) are what make man human. Growth in these increases his humanity. From the religious perspective, human potentializing is not so simple as an acorn becoming an oak. Man takes part in creating or distorting his own future; he is to a degree self-determining.

The human potentials movement needs the emphasis of the Hebrew-Christian tradition (and of Freud) on man's powerful tendencies to resist, block, and distort the growth drive. Simplistic growth models such as unfolding flowers are deceptively attractive but inadequate when applied to the complexities of human life The recognition that "dying" precedes rebirth is a valuable part of ancient Christian wisdom (expressed symbolically by crucifixion preceding resurrection). In groups this truth becomes experiential as the painful dying of life-constricting defenses and patterns of relating precedes rebirth to more intimate, vital relationships. From their heritage, church groups should be aware that ultimately all growth is a gift and a mystery. Grace, the love we do not have to earn, is the power that produces growth. Forgetting this, infatuation with our techniques can make them sterile and manipulative. A sense of the ultimate mystery of all life and all relationships should remind church groups that there are no psychological answers to the deepest dimensions of any human problems. For the normal anxiety and existential loneliness which are inescapable parts of man's self-awareness, only spiritual and philosophical answers satisfy.17 To help persons find these is that part of a growth group's task to which a church group brings unique resources.

In developing church growth groups, it helps keep their unique perspectives and resources accessible if their purpose is described theologically as well as psychologically. A church's group plan should have two parallel thrusts -- (1) developing groups with explicit goals of personal/marital/family growth, and (2) infusing regular, ongoing church groups with a stronger growth emphasis. In larger churches, the eventual aim of the first thrust should be to make a variety of growth experiences available to all interested persons at each stage and interest category. In smaller churches, a leaders group, one for couples, one for youth, and one mixed group are usually feasible.

Priority should be given to establishing certain types of groups: As indicated earlier, one of these is a group for church officials, other lay leaders, teachers, and youth leaders. Reaching these persons is the most efficient way to infuse ongoing groups with a growth emphasis. Marriage enrichment groups, particularly for new and expecting parents, should have priority. As the only institutions with direct entree to millions of new families, churches have a strategic responsibility to provide growth experiences for those who have or will soon have awesome influence over the mental health of small children.

Since spiritual growth is an explicit concern, special spiritual enrichment groups should be developed in churches. (Spiritual development should be emphasized in all groups as part of wholeperson growth. ) Depth Bible study groups, Yokefellow, and Koinonia18 groups are approaches which combine deepening one's faith and relationships. Crisis support groups should be available as part of a church's growth opportunities. When crises are handled well, they produce growth. A middle-aged widow told how an informal support group (of former church school teachers) rallied round when they received word that her teen-age daughter had run away. "I believe I would have come unglued without that group!" she stated. Bereavement recovery groups, as suggested earlier, should be available in every church. As the only professionals regularly involved with the family after death occurs, clergymen have the major responsibility for facilitating recovery from grief. By helping persons complete their "grief work," small groups can liberate potentialities for fuller living. In many churches, those in crises, including bereavement, may become a part of mixed growth groups.

Action-Growth groups can express both the pastoral and the prophetic ministry, and should have priority in a church's group program.

After several months in a Bible study-growth group (led by their pastor) the members began to look for ways to share their new awareness of relationships and the Christian life in their community. They decided to do something about the white suburban ghetto in which they lived. First they invited persons from the half-dozen black families in their community, to join the group. Several accepted. Over the next few months they had the experience of relating in depth across racial lines, around biblical issues. Then they decided to spearhead efforts to get open housing in their community. Drawing in allies from other churches and community groups, they formed an open housing task force which is engaging in a continuing effort to implement the ideals of religion and democracy in housing practices.19

Caring teams of laymen can best be trained in growth-action groups. Warm, confident, and accepting people are chosen and trained to work as volunteers, under the minister's direction, calling on shut-ins, the sick, newcomers, and the bereaved. After trying several approaches, I now believe there are three ingredients in effective training: (1) Brief input sessions presenting, with abundant illustrations, simple, operational tools such as reality therapy and crisis-helping methods. (2) Skill practice and supervision -- for example, role-playing a call on a bereaved person. (3) Personal growth experiences in a small group where the integration of ideas and skills can occur. The group's trainer-facilitator should keep a balance between personal growth and training for helping others. This kind of relationship training should be available to all church groups which do lay calling for budget raising, membership recruitment, parish shepherding, etc., to increase their interpersonal skills.

In addition to these high-priority groups, churches should develop other growth opportunities, guided by the need-pattern of particular congregations and communities.

The pastor of a Massachusetts congregation decided to do something about the superficial relationships which make many churches "communities of strangers." Attempts to recruit separate growth groups were unsuccessful because of crowded schedules. The alternative was to introduce a growth emphasis into regular boards, committees, and meetings. By streamlining business, time became available for deeper sharing. In approaching each group, the minister explained his intent and asked permission to introduce certain experiences of relating. Several women's groups turned from primary concern with the institutional church to community projects, as a result of the "new flavor" developed in the groups through interpersonal deepening.20 It has been my experience that many larger church meetings, including worship services, can be enlivened by incorporating small group communication and awareness experiences into the proceedings.

Growth groups can be effective in small churches and in small communities. The minister of such a church, who has developed two groups, reports that small-town anxiety about secret-breaking sometimes deters deep sharing. But assets outweigh liabilities. The groups have bridged differences between several people, opened individual counseling opportunities, let parishioners express "beefs" directly, and given the minister support in his ministry.21 I concur with Robert Leslie's suggestion that the most natural, unthreatening way to introduce personal sharing in churches is to combine this emphasis with study. This is essential in many rural and conservative areas where resistance to newer group approaches exists.

Larger churches can develop a variety of growth groups. An Oregon church uses its groups to serve both its members and its community. One of the ministers describes the church groups:

The congregation has five growth groups (called Interpersonal Support Groups) in which various growth skills are taught and practiced. There are also five fellowship groups, without a growth agenda, but with some growth results. There is a great correlation between those who are group participants and those who have leadership in the congregation.... The congregation is unusually candid about expressing what they think and openly expressive of warmth. In short, there are more freed people around.... We continually educate the older members about the nature of these programs. This is necessary in order to have staff time allowed for them.22

The church also has student-adult communication groups, Yokefellow groups, and Functional Department Groups (combining growth and task objectives).

This church reaches out to the needs of its community by sponsoring and staffing two sessions of Parent Effectiveness Training and one of Teacher Effectiveness Training each year. Recently the church has begun weekend Marriage Effectiveness Training groups. Approximately 90 percent of participants in these three programs are not members of the sponsoring church.( A number of churches in various parts of the country have sponsored or cooperated in growth centers which serve their communities by offering growth workshops, institutes, and retreats).

The impact on a church of its growth groups is evident in this report from a minister in California:

Small growth groups have added a real flavor to the life of our congregation . . . they are the persons who are most involved in the life of the church at all levels. They have made our church a community in their reaching out to others out of their own self-fulfillment. I personally have benefited from these groups. I am constantly affirmed in seeing persons change, but even more so by their love and appreciation for me and my skills in group work.23

Clergymen have exciting, demanding jobs as growth facilitators in churches seen as human-development centers. Their commitment is to liberate, enlarge, deepen, and enrich the pro-life forces in families, individuals, and social institutions -- and to equip laymen for their enlivening work in the congregation and community. To be effective as an enlivener of others, a clergyman should have his own growth group for continuing professional renewal. The minister and his wife should be in an ongoing marriage growth-support group in order to nurture their own relationship. The strange new world we live in opens unprecedented opportunities for ministries to persons. But it also demands more resourcefulness, more spiritual guts, more love with muscles. To meet this challenge -- to minister to the new age -- a clergyman must acquire new tools; more important, he must be open to becoming a new person -- more aware, caring, and alive. That is why he needs a growth group on a continuing basis,

Growth Groups in Community Agencies

If growth groups are to become maximally available and effective, community agencies must play a major role. Many persons who are not likely to join groups in churches and schools may do so if they're made available in family counseling agencies' mental health services, youth organizations, business and industry, fraternal groups, self-help groups (such as A.A., P.W.P., Alanon, etc.), and in the many organizations devoted to special needs of the handicapped, ex-prisoners, ex-patients, unwed parents, minority groups of all kinds, senior citizens, community action groups, ethnic organizations. Furthermore, the effectiveness of many agencies and organizations can be increased significantly by utilizing growth groups to achieve their particular goals-for-people.

Growth groups have a role in both the preventive and treatment aspects of community mental health services. Growth groups should have a central place in the after-care programs which follow intensive treatment. Community networks of groups for families of patients and ex-patients would improve the interpersonal environment which supports or sabotages full recovery of the patient. In a survey of the ways groups are used in mental health centers, psychiatrist E. Mansell Pattison found that one of the most frequent uses is in consultation services for those in the care-giving professions.24 In the Los Angeles area, for several years, small groups of clergymen met with consultants supplied by the community mental health centers to discuss counseling relationships in their parishes. These groups had a double value -- they were an efficient use of the consultants' time, and, as mutual learning and support occurred, they became professional growth groups for the ministers.

Mental health education is most successful in growth groups where the principles of mental hygiene can be applied in personal ways, ways which take into account the feelings, attitudes, self-image, and relationships of those involved. Groups also have a major role in training mental health personnel -- professionals, paraprofessionals, and nonprofessional volunteers. Pattison's survey revealed that a surprising 41 percent of the centers provided some type of personal growth group for their professional trainees. The training of the nonprofessionals who staff the effective Marriage Guidance Centers in Australia and elsewhere is done mainly in groups.

Mental health centers should also offer growth-oriented groups to clients. A surgeon on a medical school faculty came to a private mental health clinic with this question: "At forty-two, I'm a high-level technician. Where can I go to learn how to live?" An innovative psychologist responded to this challenge by setting up a growth group called a "School for Living," aimed at actualization of potentialities and increasing effectiveness in living.25 This approach is now being used in a state rehabilitation of the handicapped program.

Many family, marriage, and child counseling agencies make use of growth groups, particularly in family life education programs. The Pastoral Institute of Calgary has an extensive program of small group education for family living. The director of this program describes why they prefer to use the growth group approach: "It is in the dynamics of a small group that we experience the interactions, feeling responses, and behavior patterns of our own family's relationships -- and others. A small group provides a catalytic learning situation with . . . emotional involvement and safety, under the guidance of a leader-facilitator, in which intellectual, feeling and behavior learning can best take place."26

Many of the 340 Family Service Association of America agencies use growth groups in their family life education. A counselor in one such program comments on the values of this approach: "Individual concerns and frustrations are handled, feelings are recognized and shared. The participants try new methods, then bring up the same topic in other meetings. Some topics such as sex education, handling of anger . . . may be main topics for three or four sessions."27

The "Y" is using growth groups for both staff training and service to youth and families. The National Board of YMCA's sponsors a Family Communication Skills Center to help "Y's" develop programs for families. Local "Y's" use Parent and Teacher Effectiveness Training and family crisis prevention groups in workshops for training staff and lay group leaders.

Business and industry have made extensive use of growth groups to improve human relations within their organizations. "Organizational Development" ( O.D. ) is an approach which attempts to "integrate individual needs for growth and development with organizational goals and objectives in order to make a more effective organization."28 It has been used by school systems, religious organizations, governmental agencies, as well as business and industry. The goal of O.D. can be described by Abraham Maslow's term "synergy" -- the state which exists when an organization is so arranged that an individual in meeting his own needs also meets the needs of others and the organization.29 O.D. is an illustration of how growth group principles can, by taking human relationships and needs seriously, be used to accomplish tasks more effectively.

Groups Through the Life Cycle

To maximize the fulfillment of human potentials, the organizations of a community -- schools, churches, agencies, and others -- should develop small groups designed to meet the growth needs of persons at each of the eight life stages. An overview of these stages and some groups which are relevant to each may suggest new possibilities for groups which can be developed in your organization. The following chart lists the stages as delineated by Erik Erikson;30 some groups which can help accomplish the growth goal of each stage (column 2); and some groups to meet the needs of "significant others" at each stage ( column 3):

Stage and Life Growth Groups for Growth Groups for

Task Persons in this Stage Significant Others

Stage 1: IN- Expectant parents growth

FANCY groups.

(Birth to 15 Parents growth groups

months ) for support, learning,

strengthening, catharsis, trust

Life task:

Developing New Parents marriage

BASIC growth groups for

TRUST, couples.

through a lov- Groups for adults in-

ing, depend- volved in nurseries,

able, nurtur- baby-sitters.

ing relation- New Grandparents

ship with growth group.

parenting Prebaptismal training

persons. groups

Key question:

Can I trust

my world,


Stage 2:Nursery groups. Parents support, sharing,

EARLY Toddlers creative play and fellowship groups

CHILD:) groups., to meet the needs of

HOOD this stage -- their own

( 15 months to and their child's. ( Each

2 1/2 years ) stage 1-5. )

Parents growth group

Life task: Developing a Play group for child.

sense of Ongoing training group

AUTONOMY for nursery school

while retain- workers (church &

ing basic nonchurch).

trust. Group for parents of

handicapped children -- (all stages).

Key question:

Can I be an


and not lose

the love I

also need?

Stage 3: PLAY Pre-school nursery groups. Parents growth groups to

AGE "Play therapy" adapted meet the needs of this

(3 to 6 to stimulate growth of stage -- theirs and their

years ) nondisturbed. child's.

"Head start" group for Family growth nights, weekends, camps.

children from culturally

impoverished backgrounds

Life task: .

Developing a Child and family crea-

sense of INI- tivity groups -- dance,

TIATIVE. art, music, drama,

myth-creating, etc.

Key question: Single-parent groups (at

Can I prize each of first 5 stages).

and exercise

my growing

sense of

strength and


Stage 4: Clubs and activity groups Parents growth groups,

SCHOOL for boys or for girls. to help them begin to

AGE ( 6 to 12 Junior and junior high release the child.

years ) camps, and conferences.- Leader and teacher

growth groups for

Discovery groups --

Adults leading groups

Life task:

Developing a emphasis on creative at this stage.

sense of IN- activities, play that Parent-child groups:

DUSTRY, develops skills and father/son; mother/

and of one's competencies. daughter.

role as a boy Confirmation-growth Family nights: fun, study,

or girl. classes. worship, sharing.

Play therapy groups for Family checkups.

the non-disturbed. Family camps.

Key question:

Can I acquire Relationship, sex, and Child-family crea-

competency drug education groups. tivity groups.

in the basic Tutoring groups, using

skills of my older students.



Stage 5: Teen discovery groups: Parent study and growth

ADOLES- Boy/Girl relations, groups. (See Middle

CENCE getting along with years. )

(Puberty to parents, decisions about Parent support groups to

20 ) drugs, alcohol, sex, cope with stresses of

vocational choices. adolescents in home.

Life task: Identity search groups. Parents group to work on

Developing a Work/worship/play their own unfinished

strong sense groups. identity and conflicts

of IDEN- Premarital growth groups stirred up by teens.

TITY. Depth study groups. Joint parents-youth

Retreats, camps groups -- series, camps,

hikes, task groups, retreats;

generation gap bridging groups.

Key questions:

Who am I? social action groups.

As a male or Coffeehouse groups;

female? What drop-in center; rap ses-

is my worth? sions.

What are my Self-other awareness

own values? groups.

Preparation for marriage groups.

Preparation for parenthood, college, leaving home, etc.

"Search for meaning" groups.

Ecology growth groups.


Stage 6: Single young adult ( See groups for children

YOUNG growth group: `'Deep- in stages 1 4.)

ADULT- ening Relationships."

HOOD Preparation for marriage


Life task: Newlyweds growth

Developing group: Building your

INTIMACY marriage.

(Groups for young parents

Key questions: -- see Stages 1, 2 and

Can I estab- 3).

Iish close and Family network groups:

meaningful several young families.

relation- Marriage Liberation

ships? groups.

"Alternatives to Mar-

riage" groups.

Stage 7: Mid-Years Marriage En- (See groups for adoles-

MIDDLE richment group. cents and young

ADULT- Generativity groups: adults, stages 5 and 6.)

HOOD evaluating oneself in-

vestment plan

Life task: (philosophy of life).

GENER- Growth through service

ATIVITY groups: personal

(generating caring teams; social

life through action task groups.

investing one- Depth study groups: with

self in a personal growth

society ) focus.

Spiritual search groups.

Key question: Discover-Your-Hidden-

Can I find my Talent group.

fulfillment Your Second Vocation

through giv- group.

ing to the Preparation for Construc-

ongoing tive Retirement group.

stream of life? Groups for parents of

teens ( see Stage I; )

and emptying nest.

 Stage 8: Creative activity groups: Groups for young and

OLDER depth study groups; mid-adults whose

ADULT- art groups; contem- parents are now lean-

HOOD porary issues groups; ing on them.

prayer and share


Life task:

Developing Service groups aimed at

"EGO IN- the needs of older

TEGRITY," adults and others in

by accepting the community; dual

and affirming focus on service and

one's life. personal growth; group

to use the many rich

talents of retired


Key question:

Can I make

peace with Spiritual growth groups.

my finitude, Bereavement group for

accept my working through losses

brief place in of various kinds.

Life with Grandparent and

gratitude and foster-grandparent

serenity? Can groups.

I experience Constructive retirement

and prize groups.

those things Social action group.

which tran- Transgenerational group.

scend my


Growth groups provide opportunities to discover ways of satisfying one's personality needs in the changing relationships, demands, frustrations, and possibilities of each new stage. As a strategy for helping persons cope constructively with the normal crises of human development, they are without equal. The most effective way to make your organization a human development center is to create growth groups to meet the needs of your members at their varying life stages.

Additional Reading

For Teachers and School Group Leaders:

Borton, Terry, Reach, Touch, and Teach: Student Concerns and Process Education. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.

Cantor, Nathaniel, The Teaching-Learning Process. New York: The Dryden Press, 1953.

Driver, Helen I., Counseling and Learning through Small-Group Discussion. Madison, Wis.: Monona Publications, 1958.

Glasser, William, Schools Without Failure. New York: Harper & Row, 1969.

Guerney, Bernard G., Jr. (Ed. ), "Teachers as Psychotherapeutic Agents," Psychotherapeutic Agents, pp. 337-380.

Holt, John, How Children Learn. New York: Pitman Publishing Co., 1967.

Leonard, George B., Education and Ecstasy. New York: Delacorte Press, 1968.

Mahler, Clarence A., Group Counseling in the Schools. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969.

Morris, S. B., et al., "Encounter in Higher Education," in Burton, Encounter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1970, pp. 189-201.

Ohlsen, Merle M., Group Counseling. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.

Rogers, Carl R., Freedom to Learn. Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill, 1969.

Sharp, Billy B., Learning: The Rhythm of Risk. Rosemont, III.: Combined Motivation Education Systems, 1971.

For Church Leaders:

Anderson, Philip A., Church Meetings that Matter. Philadelphia: United Church Press, 1965.

Casteel, John L. (Ed.), The Creative Role of Interpersonal Groups in the Church Today. New York: Association Press, 1968.

Clinebell, Howard J., Jr., "Group Pastoral Counseling," Basic Types of Pastoral Counseling. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1966, Chap. 12.

Clinebell, Howard J., Jr., "Mental Health and the Group Life of the Church," Mental Health through Christian Community. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965, Chap. 7.

Leslie, Robert C., Sharing Groups in the Church. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971.

Reid, Clyde, Groups Alive -- Church Alive, The Effective Use of Small Groups in the Local Church. New York: Harper & Row, 1969.

For Agency Group Leaders

Argyris, Chris, Integrating the Individual and the Organization. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1969.

Gifford, C. G., "Sensitivity Training and Social Work," Social Work, Vol. 13, No. 2, April, 1968, pp. 78-86.

Golembiewski, R. T., and Blumberg, Arthur ( Eds. ), "Where Can T- Group Dynamics Be Used?: Applications in the Home, School, Office, and Community," Sensitivity Training and the Laboratory Approach. Itasca, Ill.: F. E. Peacock, 197O, pp. 289 ff.

Maslow, Abraham, Eupsychian Management. Homewood III.,: Richard Irwin and The Dorsey Press, 1965.

Scheidlinger, Saul, "Therapeutic Group Approaches in Community Mental Health," Social Work, Vol. 13, No. 2, April, 1968, pp. 87- 95.

Schutz, William C., "Task Group Therapy," Joy, Expanding Human Awareness, pp. 209-213.

Schwartz, William, and Zalba, Serapio, R. (Eds.), The Practice of Group Work. New York: Coluinbia University Press, 1971.




1. Virginia Satir, "Marriage as a Human-Actualizing Contract," The Family in Search of a Future, New York: Appleton, 191O, p. 59.

2. Herbert Otto, "The New Marriage," The Family in Search of a Future, New York: Appleton, 1970, p. 112.

3. New York: Grove Press, 1967, p. 223.

4. Norman Cousins, "See Everything, Do Everything, Feel Nothing," Saturday Review, January 23, 1971, p. 31.

5. Peter Knobloch and Arnold Goldstein. The Lonely Teacher. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1971.

6. George B. Leonard, Education and Ecstasy, p. 220.

7. Carl R. Rogers, Freedom to Learn, pp. 803-323.

8. "Magic Circles in the Classroom ( abstracted from an article by Harold Bessell), in Sensitivity Training and the Laboratory Approach, Golembiewski and Blumberg (Eds.), pp. 349-3S2.

9. Merle M. Ohlsen, Group Counseling, pp. 193-239.

10. Helen I. Driver, Counseling and Learning through Small-Group Discussion, p. 167 ff.

11. S. B. Morris, J. Pflugrath, and B. Taylor, "Encounter in Higher Education," in Burton, Encounter, pp. 192-93.

12. George B. Leonard, Education and Ecstasy, p. 16.

13. This is Terry Borton's description of the way schools can become by stressing the process of coping with a student's real concerns. Reach Touch, and Teach, p. vii.

14. Robert C. Leslie, Sharing Groups in the Church, p. 7.

15. George Webber, The Congregation in Mission. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1964, pp. 116-17.

16. James Bugental (Ed.), The Challenges of Humanistic Psychology New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967, p. vii.

17. For a discussion of the relation of existential anxiety to religion, see Clinebell, Basic Types of Pastoral Counseling, Chap. 14.

18. Robert A. Raines, New Life in the Church, New York: Harper & Row, 1961.

19. Haciendia Heights, Calif., United Church of Christ; Ralph Earle was the pastor.

20. David H. Plate, "Encouraging Growth Groups," The Christian Advocate, August 22, 1968.

21. Letter from Vernon L. Story, June 7, 1970.

22. Letter from Arthur C. Morgan, April 2O, 1970, Kenneth Jones was the minister in charge of group development.

23. Letter from Reilly N. Hook, May 2S, 1971.

24. "Group Psychotherapy and Group Methods in Community Mental Health Programs," a report presented at the 25th and 26th annual meetings of the American Group Psychotherapy Assn., 1969-70.

25. The psychologist is Lawrence D. Mathae.

26. Letter from Oakley Dyer, June 7, 1971.

27. Letter from Joan Macy, FSA, Riverside, Calif., May 19, 1971.

28. Golembiewski and Blumberg (Eds.), Sensitivity Training and the Laboratory Approach, p. 342.

29. Abraham Maslow, Eupsychian Management, pp. 17-33, 88-107.

30. See Erikson, "Identity and the Life Cycle," Psychological Issues, Vol. 1, No. 1 1959, for a fuller discussion of the stages. The chart is adapted from two charts developed by task forces in my seminar, "Group Counseling in the Church." I am indebted to these groups.