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 Lance King.
I have been a participant in LIM Workshops since 2003. I joined the faculty in April 2018 at Israel’s invitation.
So far, I have enjoyed the discoveries I made while compiling my first plenary session presentation “The Launch Code.” As with so much of this work, the textbook research combined with the honest exploration of my own native emotional process helped me grow in my understanding of the theory and in my awareness of my own functioning.
I see LIM workshops providing a platform for leaders to examine their leadership practices and relational functioning through the lenses of several more objective partners. Such partners invite the leader to reconsider their own approach to challenges, enhancing the likelihood that the leader will discover better ways of leading. If a leader continues the work over time, the workshop provides both regular reminders and accountability to make beneficial changes.
Congregational relationship systems are fueled by potent invisible dynamics. The unaware clergy risks spending much energy in frustrating, unproductive ways. When the clergy person gains lenses to see how their own default functioning interacts with the default functioning of their congregational setting, they increase their capacity to practice leadership more productively. Bowen Family Systems Theory provides new lenses through which to see previously invisible congregational dynamics as well as a more effective concept for imagining what it means to lead.
Several presentations stand out as exceptional for me.
1) “If Dealing with Resistance is the Key to the Kingdom, What is the Kingdom?” This presentation by Larry Matthews first enabled me to see that resistance is systemic instead of personal. This was liberating in that I realized that my leadership challenges were not purely reflective of my personal deficits. But, it was also challenging in that I recognized that there is no way around facing the resistance if I want to accomplish growth and/or change in my relationships or in my ministry.
2) “Leadership Lessons from the Dog Whisperer (or similar).” This presentation by Israel Galindo enabled me to see that relational dynamics are native to biology and not just humanity. Seeing how unproductive relationship systems (families with difficult dogs) were radically enhanced by the presence of a self-differentiated leader (alpha) was revolutionary and motivating. Bill Pyle’s presentation “Herding with the Bovine and the Human” was similarly revealing and enjoyable.
Not long ago, a parishioner “stomped out” of worship in the opening 30 seconds of my sermon, publicly objecting to my use of playfulness in an opening prayer. In years past, the outburst of this congregationally “important” person would have derailed me not only for the remainder of worship but until I was able to “make things right” by either apologizing, coddling or otherwise tending to the parishioner’s anxiety. Thanks to several years of doing this work, I was able to regulate my anxiety at that moment (it still flared up) and continue preaching with only mild internal concern. I even regained my sense of humor by the end of the sermon. Later, I was able to think carefully about the situation without soothing myself by anxiously triangling in another. Throughout the day and into the next day, I was able to get clearer about my role in the situation without getting defensive, and determined to stay connected to the parishioner without needing anything from them (approval, absolution, understanding, etc.)
If the person appears to be thriving: I might say, Congratulations!
If the person is struggling with leadership, but unable to see the value in this program, I might say, “How’s that working for you?”
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.
Upcoming workshops in Kansas City and Atlanta locations! Click here to learn more about the LIM program.
The Rev. Lance King is Senior Pastor of Chestnut Grove Baptist Church, Earlysville, VA. A long time participant of LIM he joined the faculty in 2018.