Intensive Study Phase of Sabbatical Complete
By John Lepper
As I write this I’m completing the intensive study phase of my sabbatical. The class, “Bowen Family Systems Theory and Leadership in the Congregational Context,” has given me opportunity to gain new insights of systems theory and understand how it can be applied to congregational leadership. While the theory was originally developed in a therapeutic context, Edwin Friedman, Ron Richardson, Peter Steinke and others have applied this to the work of pastors.
Reading for the class included seven books as well as numerous assigned articles. Professor Israel Galindo spent the first of the three weeks helping us become acquainted with the concepts of Bowen Theory. The second and third weeks were used to make practical applications to leadership in the congregational setting and also to help us incorporate it into a theological framework.
This approach to leadership shifts the focus from content to the context of leadership—that is, the emotional process. One of the key functions of leadership is maintaining awareness of this larger process rather than focusing only on the content, or specific issues. The second shift in focus is from “others” or “organization” to the changes they need to make. The focus moves to the leader’s own emotional process which then forms a basis for providing a vision for the congregation one leads.
The last three weeks of the sabbatical will be spent revising and rewriting the interim resource which I wrote during the first half of the sabbatical. This resource, “Building Bridges During the Interim,” now needs to be revised in light of the new insights gained from this class.