Galindo, Israel, ed. Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context. Didache Press, 2017. 292 pages, paperback.
A review by the Rev. Richard K. Klafehn
The training for Interim Ministry provides an important introduction to the concepts of Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST), but there is simply not enough time to digest it, let it sink in and develop, and become skilled enough to use it. And as the adage says, practice makes perfect.
That’s why this worthwhile collection of 21 essays, written by those who have applied and used BFST in their personal lives and congregations, is so very helpful.
This volume contains 21 essays by Israel Galindo, faculty members from the Leadership in Ministry Workshops (Columbia Theological Seminary) which he directs, presenters, and participants.
It is an immersion experience into the language and thought process of BFST as practitioners have applied it and experienced it in their own lives and congregations.
It is a practical tutorial provided by capable coaches and gifted mentors, who have used it in their own leadership roles within congregations.
The benefit of reading this book can be increased comfort with the concepts of BFST, improved ease at applying them, and stronger, less anxious, more confident, and courageous leadership. I was able to put several illustrations and quotations immediately to use.
The 21 essays appear in a variety of styles and voices. This feature adds to the book’s readability, enjoyment, and interest, whether one reads the work straight through or pauses after each essays for some intentional and deliberate reflection. Some essays are shorter and serve as personal reflections. Others are more directly instructional, including one extended case study in a congregational context. Some are more practical. Others are more theoretical. Some seek to relate BFST to theology and others to science. One rather winsome essay is written by an interim pastor who is also a cattle farmer and is titled “Herding in the Bovine and the Human.”
Essay topics include, among others: leadership through a BFST lens, navigating triangles, sibling position, common misunderstandings of systems theory, self-differentiated leadership, reciprocity in the emotional field, the possibility of change, letting go of outcomes, anxiety, and empowerment.
Edwin Friedman is quoted throughout. A four-page bibliography is included at the end.