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rship Series

"Thinking for Self in a World that Proclaims the Answers"

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. Practical application of theory through working with a coach for an extended period of time is at the heart of systems thinking.

This course is currently underway and no longer accepting registrations. Check back in spring for 2024-25 registration information.

2023-24 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. For "new" applicants, 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 2020).

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.


Friday, September 29, 2023, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Eastern: September Special Event

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Monday, May 20, 2024: Special Leadership Series Event


The 2023-24 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


Onsite at the Healthy Congregations Office

(located inside All Shepherds Lutheran Church)

6580 Columbus Pike

Lewis Center, OH 43035


Friday, September 29, 2023, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Eastern: September Special Event

Friday, October 20, 2023

Friday, November 17, 2023

Friday, January 19, 2024

Friday, February 16, 2024

Friday, March 15, 2024

Friday, April 19, 2024

Monday, May 20, 2024: Special Leadership Series Event


  • Registration includes a ticket for the September Special Event "Still Pending: Developing Resilience in the Face of Trauma."

  • 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 onlineand in person 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 6, 2023): $1,200 per person (incluing $25 application fee)

  • Individual Registration (Beginning August 7, 2023): $1,350 per person (incluing $25 application fee)

  • Group Discount Rate* (Beginning August 7, 2023): $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 22, 2023

  • $562.50 payment due by January 15, 2024


Friday, September 29, 2023

Still Pending: Developing Resilience in the Face of Trauma

September Special Event for ALL Registrants: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Eastern; Online via Zoom

October 19/20, 2023

Isms, Schisms and Bandwagons: What might responsible spiritual leadership look like during a time of cultural warfare?
What does a natural systems lens offer in this moment? How do I form my opinions? How do I express my opinions? How do I manage that? What impact does that have on my family and my faith community, not to mention me? How do I navigate challenges, for example, around cancelled composers, gender fluidity and transition, woke-ism or politics from the pulpit? Am I hopping on the latest bandwagon or acting on principles? Case studies through the lens of Bowen Theory will guide our thinking.

November 16/17, 2023

Revisiting Privilege, Victimhood, Agency and Differentiation of Self
Privilege, victimhood, and oppression are part of the verbal landscape in many of our mainstream churches and denominations as well as other relationship networks. Use of this kind of language can reflect a particular way of thinking about the world and life in this society. Moreover, these beliefs impact not only denominational thinking but also denominational practice. Some discussion will explore the impact of this way of thinking about the world in people’s professional and personal experiences.  Participants in the Leadership Series will have an opportunity to review their thinking on these current trends in American society. Participants will question the roots of their own thinking on these important issues.

December - No Meeting

January 18/19, 2024

Unscripted: Bowen Theory and the Journey of Parenting
Are there ways Bowen Family Systems Theory informs the journey of parenting? Would it be the same for everyone or different for each family? Does it affect how one thinks about one's own parents? This presentation will consider the work and play of parenting and how theory might be a touchstone for this unscripted journey.

February 15/16, 2024

Under Siege

In Tim Alberta’s book, The Kingdom, The Power, And the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism, a member of the clergy describes the state of the church as “under siege.” This claim contributes to the conflation of right-wing politics and religion, even permeating the pulpit. In the face of perceived threats to existence, the propensity to circle the wagons and to penalize dissenters dramatically increases with progressive churches experiencing similar phenomena. Churches, denominations, and families function quite differently, then, in this
chronically anxious environment.

Participants will examine the ways in which their denominations, congregations and families perceive themselves to be ‘under siege,’ distinguishing between ACTUAL challenges and perceived threats. Finally, there will be an exploration of attempts to more clearly define one’s guiding principles in this climate. This review will include failures and successes and the entailed risks to clergy members and family members for articulating positions that may clash with the prevailing ‘group think.’

March 14/15, 2024

Bartenders, Baristas and Banter:  The Power of Community in an Age of Epic Change

We all want a place where “everyone knows your name,” as the theme song from the television comedy Cheers expressed. Throughout sacred texts of all traditions, the power of relationship connection and community is underscored and is a source of pain, purpose and growth.  What happens in families and faith communities when shifts in the social fabric, systems of organization, and expectations about relationships undergo massive shifts?  What is happening in faith communities today that demonstrate the power of connection as well as clarity of purpose?  What might prompt new life and clarity?  How can Bowen theory be a framework, or not, for our observation and leadership?

April 18/19, 2024

The Things We've Handed Down: The Interplay of Cutoff and Generational Transmission in Family and Church
How are things handed down through the years? Is it simply the sins of past generations visited on future generations? This presentation will look at the ways generational transmission flows through the lives of families and organizations, as well as what factors contribute to it and what functions it may serve. It will also explore the ways cutoff and the multigenerational transmission process influence each other.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Special Leadership Series Event - details forthcoming


  • 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.


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.

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Dana Runestad has been a pastor in the Southeast Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 1986, where she has served in a variety of congregations and staff positions. She's a youngest sister of three brothers and the daughter of a pastor and a nurse. After relying on every Peter Steinke book to get her through thirty years of parish ministry, she took a deeper dive into Natural Systems Theory in 2015 with 3 years in the post-graduate program at the Bowen Center in Washington D.C. From 2018-2023 she participated in their Faith Leaders Seminar. She's been in a book club for over 20 years and enjoys hiking and good TV with her husband of forty years, Barry Rabe. (Dana rhymes with banana.) They have two grown sons.

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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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