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Control/Oversight (page 1)

Many groups could not retain members or extract sufficient resources from them without applying strict controls. Sadly, in many cases, the most powerful instrument of control is the member's own mind. By accepting the group's philosophy, they become tightly bound to the group - not by chains or locked doors, but by their own habits and fears. Still, some groups use other methods to ensure no one 'slips through the cracks.' A few of them are listed below; as always, suggestions are welcome, so feel free to send them on in.

Group housing - If you can coerce a person to move into group housing, they are much easier to control. Their phone (and nowadays, computer/internet) use can be monitored, and they can be watched over by older, 'more experienced' members. In addition, more money can be extracted from them in the form of rent. In First Christian Fellowship Church of Norfolk, for example, I was part of a group of church members selected to purchase apartment buildings for use as staff housing. When we were in the planning stage, the pastor told us that it was a way to get more money from some of the Navy guys - they might not mind paying a little rent for a corner of a bedroom, and that would probably be money they wouldn't give otherwise. Such an arrangement can be very lucrative for the group - just convince your members that four of them really couldn't get such a nice apartment anywhere else for $200 per month (each).

Here's a hypothetical, conservative scenario: Buy three buildings that each cost $100,000 (mortgage: $1000/mo each, utilities/upkeep: $1500/mo each), and have 6 apartments each, put 3 guys in each apartment, charge them $200 per man per month (total: $10,800/mo), and you've got a huge positive cash flow (about $3,300/mo, or almost $40,000/yr), even after you pay for all the mortgages, utilities, and maintenance. Add a dozen more people (just cram them in; they're spiritual enough to deal with it), and you could even pay an apartment building manager's salary and have lots left over. It's not hard to generate tens of thousands of dollars per year from just a few dozen members - FCFC Norfolk is doing quite well with their single men's housing.

Checking up on people - Anyone that has stood quarterdeck watch on a ship in Norfolk, VA, has probably seen this: one or two guys show up looking for somebody they don't really know to see if they want to come to church. If you were to ask the right questions, you might find out that they were sent there by First Christian Fellowship Church to 'check on' somebody. New members, or those with irregular attendance, are looked up often. This is not concerned friends coming by to see if Johnny can come out and play - it's a bunch of members being directed by a coordinator at the church to go and collect errant or prospective members. The church maintains a database of men, and uses it to track who's in port, which pier their ship is at, which berthing they live in, who's out to sea, when they pull back in, etc. As of January of 2000, the church phone attendant was required to fill out a report every day of all the new brothers and those considered to be "wavering;" this report listed who looked them up, what their status was, how they were doing, etc.

"Two by two" - Members are discouraged from being alone or doing things without another member. This is supposedly to help people 'stay spiritual.' In most cases, though, it's done because the group doesn't trust these members to be by themselves without supervision. When I first came into FCFC Norfolk, this policy was so ingrained into "the brothers'" minds that several of them offered to go home with me when I went to visit family over the weekend. Needless to say, I turned them down, as it seemed rather "gay."

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