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Power or Influence?

Prepared by Pastor Vern Sundmark

PlanningTheme: How we pass on our faith and life to our children depends on whether we have chosen power or influence by which to pass on our faith.

Target Audience: This module was designed for use with a group of single parents, but could be used for other groups.

Time Required: 3 hours

Material and Resources (required)

  • Paper and pencils
  • Newsprint, felt pens

Welcome, Introductions, and Greetings
Begin by acquainting people with one another. Enter into an agreement that anything said here is kept confidential so that people are free to be open about themselves.

Spend a few minutes explaining Partners in Faith. See What is PIF?


Distribute sheets of paper and pencils. Give the following instructions, "On the sheet of paper, write your answers to the following 3 questions. You will have only 5 minutes to do this."

  1. Who has been most influential in your life beginning with your childhood?
  2. Name three values or practices that you inherited and continued from your parents.
  3. Name three values or practices from your parents that you decided not to adopt for your own life.

Gather and summarize answers on newsprint.


  1. "Why did some values stick and others did not?" Discuss in groups of two. Add ideas to newsprint. Probable general experience to be noted: Where you saw values being lived out, you adopted them. Where they were not lived out, you either inherited them unconsciously or you dropped them deliberately. You are in charge of the values you adopted and you are tied to the ones inherited.
  2. "Who leaves the most lasting impression? The people who are known for power and control or the people who are known for influence and nurture?"

A diagram on newsprint explains the words just used. A continuum is drawn as a line across the page. On the left side write "Power/Control" and on the right side write "Influence/Nurture".

Power/Control — Influence/Nurture

Make the point that all of us move between these poles depending upon what we believe is needed at the time. The important point to be made is that power always runs out eventually, but influence does not. How we pass on our faith and life to our children depends on whether we have chosen power or influence to pass on our faith.

Now, to narrow the focus, divide into small groups of 3–6 and discuss:

  1. "Where else do we see this difference between power and influence?"
    Probable answers with some commentary on any of the following: politics, religion, education, health services, economics, church, community.
  2. "For which of the two on the continuum were Mother Theresa and Adolph Hitler remembered?" "Who has the lasting admirers?"
  3. "Are you the result of mostly power or mostly influence in your growing up?"
  4. "What would you wish to change if you could go back?"

Gather as a large group to share and summarize.


What themes are in scripture to suggest a guide for deciding our values?

Choose as many scripture verses as time allows. Add others that seem appropriate. (See Discussion Notes that may help to facilitate this activity.)

As each Bible reference is read, ask the group, "Is this a power theme, an influence theme or both? Have you known anyone like that? Does it fit your current lifestyle?"

Allow time for discussion in groups of 3–4.

Proverbs 3:24 Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.

2 Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

Philemon 1:8 For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty.

Ex 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant

Mark 8:27 Tell me, who do people say that I am?

Matthew 11:28 Come to me all who are tired from carrying your heavy loads and I will give you rest.

Luke 9:54 Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy them?

Building on the discussion of influence vs power, have groups discuss the following:

  1. "Which of your values have your children most strongly continued? Which ones have they either dropped or have yet to adopt? How often do you see yourself in them?"
  2. "What spiritual practices in yourself are most likely to continue in your children, either now or in the future?"

Gather as a large group with any general comments that the group wants to share.

Close with a litany and prayer.

Permission is granted to reproduce this module for use in ELCIC congregations. Any other use requires copyright permission. Please contact bfast@elcic.ca.

In full communion with The Anglican Church of Canada
© Copyright 2007 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada