Bowen Family Systems Theory offers a way of thinking that affects every aspect of leadership in ministry.
Workshops are taught by BFST experts and help participants confidently lead their congregations and organizations. Participants gain insight from learning with others while sharing their unique vocational challenges and joys.
This feature explores the thoughts and experiences of Leadership in Ministry faculty member Julie Josund.
I came to LIM in 2018 while teaching BFST in the DMin program at the School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University. My entre into this approach to life and ministry began with Dr. Peter Steinke and the Healthy Congregations movement. I was an HC facilitator and Synod Coordinator and wanted to go deeper into the work which led to my DMin in Pastoral Leadership and Bowen Family Systems Theory.
I enjoy accompanying people, most often pastors or pastoral leaders, in, through and around the ways of life and ministry. I believe that being a pastor can and should be a joyful, hopeful enterprise and I like being able to help make that true for more of my colleagues.
Getting involved in LIM workshops is some of the best continuing education for clergy and other leaders. BFST (eventually) finds its way into our practices and behaviors and then seriously helps us go through, and get through life and ministry with less stress and with more joy.
BFST is perfect for clergy. We learn to draw upon the strengths and weaknesses of our families of origin and use those to avoid the pitfalls of ministry. Clergy deal with so many different families in our daily work, with all their various levels of maturity – having a sense of our own self, along with knowledge of the concepts of the theory, helps us to be pastors in successful and life-giving ways.
One of my favorite presentations is Barack Obama’s genogram. The book he wrote, Dreams From My Father, long before he became President, is a study in family systems research. We see a young man meeting family members, learning their stories, discovering where and how they lived, then making applications from that study to his own life. My thesis is that that ‘work’ caused him to develop into the leader he has become. Obama’s story also beautifully models that having a “perfect family” a) doesn’t exist, b) is not necessary for success or leadership, and c) strengths may develop out of perceived weaknesses.
I was going head to head with the “Matriarch” of the Family Size church I was serving as Pastor. She and I were both first-born daughters with multiple younger siblings. This alone created a unique and potentially problematic working relationship for us. Every family has only 1 first daughter, right?! Were we competing? Did we need to? Was that helpful? (I’ll let you answer those questions).
Then she and I moved into a classic triangling behavior. When the two of us were not mature enough to deal directly with each other….well, we triangled in the most vulnerable person in our system, the church secretary. The secretary got way too much focus, the church council was brought into the conflict, she developed symptoms and eventually was fired!
When I (finally) began to apply Systems thinking to this situation I was able to lighten up, recognize the dynamics and get back to ministry. And hire a new secretary – sorry C.
Come back when you’re ready!
If you’re looking to teach how the concepts of the family emotional process can be applied to all aspects of ministry, Leadership in Ministry workshops may be for you.
Those seeking to explore the theological implications of this concept, opportunities for personal ministry reflection through small groups and presentations, guide and encourage participants’ work on genograms and family of origin issues and prefer a peer group setting, could benefit from LIM.
Click here to learn more about the LIM program.
The Reverend Julie M. Josund is Lead Pastor of Edmonds Lutheran Church, Edmonds, Washington (just north of Seattle). She is a native of the Pacific Northwest, the first-born daughter of first-generation immigrant parents. She has been a pastor and teacher in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) for more than 25 years. Her MDiv is from Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul, MN. She completed four units of CPE in Seattle and received her DMin from San Francisco Theological Seminary in Systems Theory and Pastoral Leadership.
Julie directed the Institute for Clergy and Congregational Renewal at Pacific Lutheran University and worked in Contextual Education for Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkley, CA and Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. She studied family systems for pastoral leaders and congregations with Dr. Peter Steinke, and was the coordinator of the Healthy Leaders, Healthy Congregations Initiative for the Northwest Washington Synod (ELCA). She is a Level II Coach with the ELCA, and adjunct faculty at the School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University, teaching systems courses in the DMin program since 2005.