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Leadership Series

"Navigating Overwhelming Times"

The Leadership Series is an opportunity for leaders across professions (pastors, religious leaders, educators, administrators, and health professionals) to enrich and expand their ability to apply principles of systems thinking to self, family, and organizations. The year is composed of seminars that promote in-depth thinking about self, family, and organizational process through the lens of Bowen Family Systems Theory. The seminar includes plenary presentations, application of systems theory to workplace and family, and small group coaching in the afternoon. Practical application of theory through working with a coach for an extended period of time is at the heart of systems thinking.

All Leadership Series Sessions are currently in progress. Check back for

2023-24 opportunities and information.

2022-23 Leadership Series Application Process

We invite all participants to do some thinking prior to the start of the program by completing an application and preparing a family diagram of three generations. The application is a series of questions to prepare you for the perspective and process of the program. Resources for completing the family diagram are available. A conversation with one of the group consultation facilitators will follow the receipt of your application. 

Please download and complete the correct application, and submit it along with your three generation family diagram to:


A non-refundable deposit of $25 that will be credited towards your registration cost is due at the time of application.

Application for NEW participants (or those last participating prior to 2019).

Application for CONTINUING participants. 

How to Build a Family Diagram

Guidelines for the Family Diagram



SCHEDULE (1:00 - 4:30 p.m. Eastern)

1:00- 2:30 p.m.: Broadening perspective through the lens of systems theory (Part 1)

2:30 - 3:00 p.m.: Break

3:00am - 4:30 p.m.: Broadening perspective through the lens of systems theory (Part 2)

Online coaching groups will be scheduled at another time by the consultation group during the first session.

Online participants will receive a link to watch the Bowen Video presentation at their convenience.


September 22 & 23, 2022 (Onsite for all)

October 20, 2022

November 17, 2022

January 19, 2023

February 16, 2023

March 16, 2023

April 20, 2023

May 22, 2023 (Monday)


The 2022-23 Online Leadership Series will use Zoom video conferencing. This means you can log-in and participate from anywhere in the world.



SCHEDULE (8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Eastern)

8:30- 10:00 a.m.: Broadening perspective through the lens of systems theory (Part 1)

10:00 - 10:30 a.m.: Break

10:30 - 12:00 p.m.: Broadening perspective through the lens of systems theory (Part 2)

12:00 - 12:30 p.m.: Lunch

12:30 - 1:30 p.m.: Bowen video presentation

1:30 - 2:30 p.m.: Small Group Coaching - Workplace application

2:30 - 3:00 p.m.: Break

3:00 - 4:30 p.m.: Small Group Coaching - Family of Origin (FOO) group


September 22 & 23, 2022 (Onsite for all)

October 21, 2022

November 18, 2022

January 20, 2023

February 17, 2023

March 17, 2023

April 21, 2023

May 22, 2023 (Monday)






Onsite at the Healthy Congregations Office

(located inside All Shepherds Lutheran Church)

6580 Columbus Pike

Lewis Center, OH 43035


The Asynchronous Option allows you to watch recorded sessions on your own time each month, and schedule monthly consultation groups via Zoom. Asynchronous participants will be asked to attend the September 22-23, 2022 Orientation dates onsite with all other participants.


  • All particpants are expected to attend the Orientation Sessions on September 22 & 23, 2022 in person onsite at the Healthy Congregations Office location.

  • Registration includes full participation in the eight month program as well as access to a systems coach in small group sessions.

  • Registration includes a free 1-year membership in the Healthy Congregations Member Network, a free book of the year, and access to the Members Area of the website (a $105 value).

  • A group rate discount is available to all participants who register more than one individual from any one organization, church, or immediate family.

  • Individual coaching (with one’s small group coach) is available at a reduced rate.

  • No reimbursement or credit for missed sessions.

  • The registration cost is refundable (less the Application Deposit) until two weeks prior to the first seminar.


  • Tuituion for online, onsite, and asynchronous groups is the same.

  • The $25 non-refundable Application Deposit will be credited toward your registration costs.

  • A deposit of $200 is required at registration. The balance of the fee is due prior to the start of the first session. (A September and January payment option is available.)



  • Early Bird Registration (Before August 7, 2022): $1,200 per person (incluing $25 application fee)

  • Individual Registration (Beginning August 8, 2022): $1,350 per person (incluing $25 application fee)

  • Early Bird Group Discount Rate* (Before August 7, 2022): $1,150 (including $25 application fee)

  • Group Discount Rate* (Beginning August 8, 2022): $1,150 per person (incluing $25 application fee)

        *"Group Discount" applies to two or more individuals from the same organization or household

Payment Plan Option:

  • $25 application fee & $200 Registration Fee due at time of registration

  • $562.50 payment due by September 19, 2022

  • $562.50 payment due by January 16, 2022



  • Bowen, Murray. Family Therapy in Clinical Practice

      - Chapter 16 for Orientation

      - Other chapters for other presentations - to be announced.

  • Creech, R. Robert. Family Systems and Congregational Life.

      - Part 1 for Orientation

  • Harrison, Victoria. The Family Diagram and Family Research

      - This book can be ordered from the Center for the Study of Natural Systems and the Family.

  • Additional readings will be added before and after sessions throughout the year.


September 22 & 23, 2022

Orientation for ALL Registrants (Onsite for all participants)

Thursday, 1:00 pm to 7:30 pm Eastern AND Friday, 9 am to noon Eastern

       All Shepherds Lutheran Church​

       6580 Columbus Pike

       Lewis Center, OH 43035


An introduction to the year, the process for small group consultations and several presentations will be made.

October 20/21, 2022

Re-establishing and Maintaining Connections ‘after’ Covid

Unprecedented alterations in the ways that humans interact with each other have occurred in every major institution throughout the globe. In this presentation, participants will explore the varied ways in which their families, congregations, and organizations responded to the structures imposed by society’s attempts to address the virus and the accompanying impact upon entire relationship networks. Additionally, as churches and society re-engage with each other, Bowen Family Systems Theory offers a way to reflect upon the challenges of establishing person-to-person relationships in an era of Zoom, social media, and heightened societal anxiety.

November 17/18, 2022

What’s Your Vector, Victor?

What accounts for direction? How is life course determined? In a family, a congregation, a workplace? Once a life course is embarked upon, is there still opportunity for change? How might the pressures of overwhelming times affect directions? This presentation will explore these questions through the lens of Bpwen Family Systems Theory, looking at what factors play into the emergence of life courses, the potential for predicting them and what wiggle room may be exercised over the course of time.

December - No Meeting

January 19/20, 2023

When Leaders Fall

Tales of inappropriate behavior by leaders and clergy misconduct are ubiquitous, appearing when external and internal pressures mount. Does Bowen Family Systems Theory offer a way of thinking about these aspects of human behavior that go beyond traditional explanations of perpetrator and victim?  Does a systems approach provide not only a different way to account for these very human situations as pernicious as they are but also a way to address and perhaps prevent irresponsible leadership behavior?  Might a thorough examination of the family of origin of the leader coupled with varying responses to the environmental pressures and inordinate expectations be one route to more thoughtful and constructive responses?  Bowen Family Systems Theory provides some clues to these questions.

February 16/17, 2023

Violence, Extremism and Natural Systems Thinking

Misguided ideology? Mental illness? Gun access? Conspiracy Theories? How might thoughtful leaders think about these things short of blaming, invoking claims of evil, and calling perpetrators “poison”? What does it look like to define a self in the midst of such turmoil? What resources can faith traditions bring to bear in a time like this? What does Bowen’s concept of Societal Emotional Process contribute to our thinking and our action? Case studies will help guide our thinking.


March 16/17, 2023

Systems, Sacraments and the Importance of Showing Up at the Table

A family diagram of the impact of natural systems theory shows ministry leaders as some of the most faithful and prolific writers and observers of human beings and relationships that emerge in families and organizations. What is it that draws ministry leaders to consider Bowen Family Systems Theory? How do emotional dynamics impact choices of community, theology and perspective on a “holy other”?  How might we look at creeds, sacraments and ritual from a natural systems perspective? These ideas will be discussed in conjunction with congregational, business, educational and non-profit case examples.

April 20/21, 2023

Aging, Agency and Agencies

While the pandemic may have caused some setbacks in life expectancy, the World Health Organization noted an increase in average lifespan of more than 6 years between 2000-2019. With people living longer, aging is being thought about in families, workplaces and congregations.  What are the challenges of caring for an aging population in families, workplaces and congregations? What effect might increase in significant challenge in aging, both for those who are aging and those who accompany them? What light might Bowen Family Systems Theory shed on how they might be faced and navigated? Bring your own questions and thinking as this is explored in the presentation.


Annual Healthy Congregations May Event

Date, location and theme to be determined. This national conference will include all of the 2022-23 Leadership Series participants.

Emlyn Ott is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has served as a parish pastor, campus minister, pastoral counselor, leader, and seminary professor for over 25 years. She was named CEO and Director of Healthy Congregations,Inc. in 2005. She holds a Master of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, a Doctor of Ministry from Phillips Theological Seminary, and is a Clinical Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. She has participated for nine years in postgraduate work at the Center for Family Process and the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family and is currently part of Research Group at the Bowen Center.


Anthony J. (Tony) Wilgus, faculty emeritus from the University of Findlay, taught social work for 28 years subsequent to a 10 year stint as a clinical social worker and administrator.  After graduate school at the University of Michigan, he entered the post-graduate training program at the Georgetown Family Center from 1979-1981.  Since that time, he has attended the annual symposia, presented numerous papers, and published manuscripts on a wide range of topics rooted in the family theory originated by Dr. Murray Bowen.

Currently, he resides in Oberlin, OH with his wife, Rev. Beth Marshall.  He occupies the ‘next chapter of his life’ by serving on the Board of Healthy Congregations, Inc. and the Human Relations Commission in Oberlin.  Cherishing his roles as a father of 3 lovely daughters and stepfather to a wonderful son and daughter, he now embraces the joys of grandparenthood to seven active youngsters ranging in age from 1 to 14.  Gardening, biking, reading voraciously, and listening to the loons on a Canadian lake bring much joy as he endeavors to lead a life of contemplation in action.

Dana Runestad.jpg

Dana Runestad has been a pastor in the Southeast Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 1986. Born into a family of pastors, nurses and musicians, she is the youngest of four with three older brothers, is a wife to Barry and mother of two grown sons. She holds degrees from Carthage College in Kenosha WI (BA), Southern IL University (MMusic), and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (MDiv). She has served in a great variety of congregational settings and staff positions.


Dana (rhymes with “banana”) has relied heavily on Peter Steinke’s books to navigate in leadership. In 2015 she started a three-year stint in the post-graduate program in Bowen Family Systems Theory at the Bowen Center in Washington D.C.; since 2018 she has been part of the Center’s Faith Leaders’ Seminar. She enjoys her book club (20+ years running), hiking, watching good TV and a good laugh.

Jennifer Long 2021.jpg

Jennifer Long is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, a trained interim minister (IMN) and currently serves an ELCA congregation in the southern tier of New York. She  participated in the Advanced Clergy Clinic in Family Systems (Lombard Mennonite Peace Center) for six years, the Clinical Forum Series (Western Pennsylvania Family Center) for one year and most recently spent five years in the Postgraduate Program at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. 

In her 25 years of ministry, she has served in staff, solo, and interim roles as well as a consultant in church conflict. She is a graduate of the University of Hartford (1992) and Eden Theological Seminary (1996) and enjoys volunteering for the Murray Bowen Archives Oral History Project.

Wife, mother of two, oldest sister of four, and daughter of an only son and middle daughter, she has a particular interest in points of connection between Bowen Family System Theory and spirituality, religious practice and church conflict. 

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