Systems Thinking


A Systems-based lesson for leadership.

Bowen Family Systems Theory provides me with a way to conceptualize, think about, and navigate my place in the world, and all the various relationships in my life. I find that the theory resonates with Scripture, and that the theory is a helpful hermeneutic when reading Scripture. Obviously the theory is not theology; but, time after time I find the theory operative in the families of the Old Testament, the wisdom of Proverbs, the upheaval Jesus caused among the religious establishment leading to his crucifixion, the admonitions of Paul, the societal regression found in Revelation, and in the life of the local church. The theory is like a set of emotional laws of physics. While the theory doesn’t have much of an interest in Trinitarian theology per se, the theory explains and predicts much of how theology gets lived out in human relationships.

In short, the theory helps me to think about what it means to live as a follower of Jesus, no matter what the challenges.

Here are some links you can follow to read about the theory.

The Bowen Center

This is, as far as I can tell, the Mecca for the study of family systems. I hope to attend there myself one day.  The link leads you to a synopsis of the theory.

The Family Systems Institute

Another clinical and training center. This link leads you to a synopsis of the theory that includes some critique of the theory.

Lombard Mennonite Peace Center

This center provides training events for congregations as well as conflict transformation services for congregations in conflict. I have attended the Basic and the Advanced Clergy Clinics. These clinics provide basic training in the theory along with case studies and a guide for doing family of origin work. It is the best Continuing Education work that I have ever done as a pastor. Also check out their Mediation Skill Training Institute. I took this training in 2009 and have only used it every week since!

A fun little video about a systems view of leadership.

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