For excellent resources see Bill Easum, Unfreezing Moves
What Bill says works with controllers because controllers are all about trying to maintain the status quo and maintain homeostasis. That’s how they keep control. If you focus on your controllers, then you are simply contributing to the anxiety, and sooner or later the anxiety will focus on you as the identified patient, making you look like the problem. By focusing on the dreamers, those capable of embracing and casting vision, and feeding their hunger to grow and learn, you will sufficiently destabilize the system to the point that the controllers can no longer maintain homeostasis and control.
A few things to be aware of: 1) controllers over function in desperate situations to regain control through hostage-taking, which is a means of establishing lots of triangled relationships against the destabilizing force. Pushing and casting vision and consensus around mission is contagious, and empowers people to not be taken hostage. 2) controllers often function out of an unconscious adherence to pathological behavior, which is often older than the controllers. Destabilizing the system breaks the pathology, but you may also have 1-on-1 instances when you can see the roots of the pathology, which can empower you to change it. 3) Declining and/or struggling churches tend to attract people with real personality disorders. Just because people in the church think so-and-so is a great person because they’re a great worker or whatever, doesn’t mean that they’re worthy of being in leadership. What I’ve found is that quite often it’s these people with personality disorders who have been placed in leadership positions, and that normal applications of systems theory don’t work with them. They simply have to go, however you can manage to do it. Changing a sick system to a healthy one will usually cause them to leave anyway, because their disorder isn’t fed by a healthy system.
The 3 most important things I’ve learned from systems theory are:
1) Differentiated people make the system healthy. The clearer people are on who they are, their calling and purpose, and their place in the shared mission, the healthier the system is.
2) Seriousness kills. Maintain a sense of playfulness and paradox even regarding the serious things like mission and vision. The Gospel is about joy, not our attitudes. Seriousness feeds negative anxiety, whereas playfulness confronts controllers with truth and unwillingness to play their silly games.
3) Closeness reduces emotional space, and emotional space is essential to personal growth. A church that touts how close everyone is, is a church where new people can’t fit in, one where people derive their sense of identity from the system and not their relationship with Christ, and one where the slightest spike to anxiety will set off a war. It’s like a billiard table … the closer the balls are together, the less effort it takes to send them into chaos, but spread them to where there is lots of space and the system can endure lots of chaos. Everyone must be working on their own identity and find intimacy without being attached at the hip.