Your Congregation Is Not Your Family

Your Congregation Is Not Your Family

January 7, 2019—The fact is that, despite the warm metaphor we commonly use, a congregation is not a family. A congregation is a localized, institutionalized expression of a larger social system: the organized religious system.1 The relationship clergy have with…

The Middle of the Story (and hurrying up to catch up)

November 26, 2018—One of the most mystical concepts in Bowen Theory is that of the multigenerational transmission process of relationship systems. This multigenerational process is a powerful force at work in biological families and in congregations. The concept…

Why Bowen Theory is Useless

November 12, 2018—Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST), or “Bowen Theory,” continues to grow in its interest to, and influence among, clergy, denominational leaders, and seminaries. I think this is a good thing, overall. Many have found in BFST a frame…

Why I Do This Work Called Bowen Theory

October 29, 2018—I learned about Bowen Theory in seminary and following it through the pastor with whom I served and several ministers who “practiced” the theory and participated in workshops called Leadership in Ministry (LIM). While in seminary, my professors…

Maybe the Problem is With You

July 30, 2018—Have you ever heard a pastor say, “Why is it that no matter what church I go to I always end up with the same bunch of @&#* idiots?!” If you’ve had a string of dysfunctional churches, the…

A Non-Canonical Text Discovered!

July 2, 2018—Archaeological discoveries have made us aware of other versions of sacred stories that were lost for previous generations. For example, the full text of the Gospel of Thomas was only discovered in 1945. These non-canonical texts provide alternative…

The Hidden Power of Multigenerational Transmission

March 26, 2018—The Bowen Systems Theory concept of multi-generational transmission in families, although often difficult to accept at one level, is logically appreciated at another. Families pass along habits, traditions, beliefs, grudges, feuds, genes, and emotional process down the generations….

Learning the Theory

October 2, 2017—The first time I ever heard of Larry Matthews, founder of the Leadership in Ministry workshops, was when I heard his voice on a cassette tape. In Chicago in April 1997, Larry led a workshop on church…

Can You Stop Sabotage?

Sabotage is a predictable reactive phenomenon to the threat of change. Anytime leaders work toward change, of whatever kind, they can expect reactivity. As such, we should always expect it. The form it takes, however, is often surprising.

A Repertoire for Leadership in Anxious Times

May 23, 2016—Functioning at a high level of self-differentiation is the golden fleece sought by organizational and congregational leaders who are students of Bowen Systems Theory. Especially during times of acute anxiety and systemic reactivity, effective leaders will work on…

Five Ways to Become a Popular Leader (though not necessarily an effective one)

January 18, 2016—Every once in a while I need to challenge someone by asking, “Do you want to be liked or do you want to be effective?” In one sense it’s a false choice, but in another, leaders often will…

What Will You Choose When You Have a Choice?

October 26, 2015—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…

For the Bookshelf: Becoming a Healthier Pastor

October 5, 2015—In 1996, Fortress Press published one of the more helpful resources in examining positive congregational relationships and the overall quality of church life, namely, Ronald W. Richardson’s Creating a Healthier Church. His application of Bowen family systems theory…

For the bookshelf seeds for the future by Adam Tyler

Clarifying Misunderstandings

August 31, 2015—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…

For the Bookshelf: A Failure of Nerve

August 3, 2015—The re-issue of Edwin Friedman’s final work (unfinished at the time of his death), A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (New York: Seabury Press, 2007. 260 pages. $28.00. ISBN 978-1-59627-042-8), is quintessential…

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