Is your triangle “bad”?

Is your triangle “bad”?

The Leadership in Ministry workshops at The Center for Lifelong Learning use Bowen Theory (or Bowen Family Systems Theory—BFST) as a framework for interpreting the dynamics of congregational and organizational life, and, to help participants work on their…

What type of repertoire do differentiated leaders tend to follow?

Functioning at a high level of differentiation is the golden fleece for most congregational leaders who are students of BFST.

Especially in times of acute systemic anxiety and symptomatic reactivity, effective leaders will work on focusing on the repertoire that…

Resources for personal leadership

Purists of Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST) tend to eschew notions or frameworks of individualistic perspectives to therapy or interpreting families or organizations (like “personality type” or “traits” schemas).

They prefer a consistent “systems” approach that focuses on the structural…

Emotional Integration in Organizations

At the conclusion of a recent presentation on leadership in organizations someone asked, “How would you define emotional integration in an organization?”

While I did not use that phrase in my presentation, it was a good question.



Thinking Changes Things

In October 1929, the U.S. Stock Market crashed.

Investors lost billions of dollars; were drained of their sense of invincibility; and confronted with the limits of industrialization and human power.

This unprecedented event set in motion the Great Depression—a deep…

What Will You Do?

In Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST) the concept of differentiation of self is all about functioning.

One manifestation of the extent to which one is functioning in a self-differentiated manner is how well one can separate feeling from thinking.


Get Understanding

Few things escape the consequences of their own success.

This axiom seems true even of Bowen Family Systems Theory.

It seems that systems theory is now the “in” thing—never have there been as many courses on it, or more “experts”…

An Act of Unselfish Love

I was in late elementary school – the years when one is old enough to recognize that hardships exist in life but young enough to think the world was all about me.

My mother had a close friend whom she…

Knowing When To Fold ‘Em: The Plight of Second Chair Leaders

Congregational staff who occupy the “second chair” often find themselves in a precarious position related to the prospects of their tenure.

Sometimes circumstances dictate this, but also, the relationship with the senior pastor can be a major factor, or, simply…

Pastors, their families and best practices

The paradox is that if we want our families to be healthy, balanced and whole, then we need to work on ourselves.

How do I bring my best self to my family?

If I say that something is important to…

Five Common Responses to Anxiety

Bowen systems theory helps us understand relationship dynamics universal to relationship systems, from families to corporations, to churches. Systems theory identifies four common responses when it comes to how we handle anxiety. Here’s an example.


Agnes is an anxious…

Managing Stress: A Bowenian Perspective

In the last several months, the world has been touched by coronavirus.

It has quickly evolved into a global pandemic.

This unexpected force has relentlessly disrupted the flow of commerce, changed the shape of education, revealed the inadequacies of our…

Triangle Games

The concept of the emotional triangle often is referred to as the “building block” for emotional process dynamics in relationship systems (families, churches, organizations, etc.).

Dual relationships (one on one) are difficult to maintain so it does not take long…

Breaking out of Gridlock

June 17, 2019—I consulted with a couple of organizations that were “stuck” but motivated enough to get moving toward becoming “healthier.” As I worked with the leaders and employees of both organizations I was reminded of some fundamental truths about…

Four Systems Traps When Starting at a New Ministry

Bill Wilson, founder and director of the Center for Healthy Churches in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, wrote about “4 Traps for Clergy Moving to a New Congregation.” He named them as the trap of expectations, the trap of…