During periods of societal regression, people may feel more entitled to even their bad behavior.
They may feel they have legitimate “excuses” for behaving as they do and that this should be understood and accepted no matter what the negative effect is on society.
During such times the court system is also likely to agree with this stance.
The general levels of violence and crime may increase, the divorce rates will rise, greater polarization will be prevalent in society in a number of areas, civic and business leaders will be less principled, the drug culture will flourish, people will become more litigious, and everyone will do their own thing rather than work together to overcome challenges.
During times of upset, if just one key leader can be less anxious, relate well to others in the group, and simply define self, this will have a beneficial impact on the life of the group as a whole.
The more important this person is to the life of the group, the greater the impact.
If this one person is more solid and less anxious, he or she can be an anchor for the whole system.
The average level of differentiation of a congregation is the critical element in determining whether a church is able to accomplish its stated mission.
It decides to what extent a church is influenced by exterior social, cultural, political, or economic pressures and influences or, from the interior of the church, how much it is affected by the reactions and complaints of key people in the church.
How much does the focus of church life and mission get blurred by anxiety and its related emotional patterns?
Differentiation is what allows us individually to fulfill our Christian calling more closely, to choose our principled ethical and moral stances with clarity, and to act with courage in fulfilling them.
It allows us to relate to others in the loving way we would like without participating in the “party spirit” that destroys church life and ministry.
It allows us the emotional flexibility to stay in contact with all important constituencies in the church, hear all points of view and understand them without being aggressive or defensive, or retaliating when hurt, or accommodating in response to emotional pressure from key others in the system.
In addition, it allows us to know which battles to fight, when, how, and what the potential outcomes and costs may be.
Adapted from Ronald Richardson, “Bowen Family Systems Theory and Congregational Life,” in Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.
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