OUT-GROUP MEMBERS & A Leadership Exercise of Listing People Who Feel Left Out

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/30/15

Every organization has out-group members.  But, in churches we are charged with shepherding them too (c.f. Luke 15:11-32).

But, what exactly are out-group members?  Northouse  (2012, p. 151) defines them as “those individuals in a group or an organization who do not identify with the larger group” (ibid.).  And thus, in Northouse’s words “out-groups are a natural occurrence of everyday life” (ibid.).

A Leadership Exercise

With your leaders (or classmates) identify how you will in the future listen to such people, who often remove themselves from our midst making communication with them difficult.

The leadership exercise is to draft a grand list of “church out-group members” (i.e. out-group members we might encounter in a church).  The purpose of this exercise is to help us all see the many types of out-group members that we have in our churches and to ensure we do not overlook communicating with all of them.

Therefore, just add your list (and if a student in one of my courses, just copy the previous student’s list) of out-group members one might encounter in a church.

Here are some examples from Northouse (2012, p. 151) that can provide a structure for our list:

“Out-group members can be identified in many everyday encounters. At school, out-group members are often those kids who do not believe that they are a part of the student body. For instance, they may want to participate in sports, music, clubs, and so on, but for a host of reasons do not do so.  At work, there are out-groups comprising people who are at odds with the management’s vision, or who are excluded from important decision-making committees. On project teams, some out-group members are those who simply refuse to contribute to the activities of the group.”

To complete the leadership exercise, just fill this in the reminder of these two sentences:

  • At church, out-group members can be ….
  • For instance, they may …

That’s it.  Just add to other’s lists about 2-3 examples of church people who would fit Northouse’s definition of an “out-group member.”  Try not to use examples that you may have already used in this week’s postings, but make this an expanded list.

I’ll start.

At church, out-group members can be …. church board members who feel they are in the minority on the board.
For instance, they may … feel like the board is made up of people from the church’s dominate culture, and that they won’t listen to the out-group member. Their insights about their emerging culture can thus be overlooked.

At church, out-group members can be …. those who do not have a good grasp of Christian terminology.
For instance, they may … be confused by the theological words the pastor and other leaders’ use and thus just keep quiet to keep from embarrassing themselves.  Their spiritual maturity can thus be obstructed.

At church, out-group members can be …. congregants who felt close to the previous pastor but now don’t feel as close to the new pastor.
For instance, they may … feel useless with their knowledge unneeded and their advice unheeded. Their spiritual gifts go unused, and the church suffers (1 Peter 4:10 CEB, “And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts.”)

The list you develop can help your team see the many out-group members that we must reach out to and listen to if we, as church leaders, are to be “good managers of God’s diverse gifts” among the people that God sends to us.


Northouse, P. G. (2012). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.