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The 2021-22 Leadership Series is in process.

Please check back this summer for information about the 2022-23 Leadership Series.


Finding One’s Own Path in the Midst of Anxious

Families, Congregations, and Communities


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 eight one-day seminars that promote in-depth thinking about self, family, and organizational process through the lens of Bowen Family Systems Theory. A seminar day includes plenary presentations in the morning and application of systems theory to workplace and family in 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.

Leadership Series Application Process for 2021-22


Welcome to planning for the 16th annual Healthy Congregations, Inc. Leadership Series!

We hope you will join us for a yearlong experience of applying Bowen Theory, theological reflection and practical application to leadership during these days of rapid change and important challenges.


This year, we are inviting all participants to do some thinking prior to the start of the program by completing an application.  The application is a series of questions to prepare you for the perspective and process in the program.  A conversation with one of the group consultation leaders in the program will follow your return of the application.


Two options are available for your preparation to be a part of the program:


1) If you are interested in registering for the first time, or you have previously been in the program prior to 2018, please submit your responses to the questions on the following application along with a non-refundable deposit of $25 that will be credited toward your registration costs.


2) If you have registered for the Leadership Series between 2018 and 2021 and desire to register for the 2021-22 program year, please submit your responses to the questions on the following application along with a non-refundable deposit of $25 that will be credited toward your registration costs.




The process is confidential.  You will be hearing from someone to schedule a conversation within a week of your application being received.


Please complete your application by Wednesday, September 15, 2021 and email it to

New to Leadership
Series - Application

Continuing Leadership
Series - Application




  • Presentation and discussion of theoretical concepts of Bowen Theory

  • Application of theory in one's family

  • Application of theory in the workplace



Orientation for all Registrants - September 23 and 24 

  • Thursday, 6:30 pm to 9 pm Eastern

  • Friday, 9 am to noon Eastern


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

  • Finding a Path for Self: Dr. Bowen's Journey

  • Finding a Path for Faith Communities: Principled Clarity

  • What’s love got to do with it?  Relationships at home, in the congregation, and community



Healthy Congregations is aware of the importance of clarity about health protocols.  We are in consultation with our Board, state, and CDC regulations as well as the guidelines established by our host location as we plan for Fall onsite activities.



Adaptation or Exploitation? What’s a Leader to Do?

The influence and impact of institutions diminish as celebrity and consumer culture spread. Is this a coincidence or is there a reciprocal connection? What are some implications for the church? For congregations? How does a leader balance stability and change when it seems like survival is at stake? How might an institutional leader find a path for self through this terrain without sacrificing integrity?



Oppression, Victimhood, and Human Agency:  A Bowen Theory View


Contemporary analyses of human problems range from critiques of societal structures that explain issues like poverty, racism, and beyond while other explanations highlight the role of the individual and the necessity of pulling oneself up by the proverbial bootstraps.  Bowen theory offers a more nuanced understanding, taking into account biological, psychological, and environmental challenges and human variation in the adaptation to unfortunate circumstances in all human lives.  Choices for self can emerge when interacting with family member, congregants, and others via a different theoretical perspective.



No Meeting





Around or Through? Navigating Sabotage in Congregations and Families

Sabotage will be explored, as well as the concepts it relates to; also want to explore the language that surrounds it, even the word 'sabotage' itself, which sometimes points a finger at the other, and in doing so can miss the opportunity it provides in finding a path for self.





The Sins of Our Fathers and Mothers: Does the Past Become the Present?


“The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.“ (William Faulkner)   Bowen theory proposes that the relationship system in the present is notably influenced by the functioning and maturity levels of our foremothers and forefathers.  This presentation will highlight the concept of the multi-generational transmission process and the challenges that this understanding can provide for negotiating relationships in the here and now.




Cancel Culture and the Process of Maturity in a Trauma-Informed World

Relationship dynamics will be observed alongside the impact of current challenges in ministry and family life, with particular attention to how trauma is understood.  The processes of cut-off and cancel-culture will be viewed from a Bowen theory perspective and with application to more mature functioning and mission in faith communities.


Forgiveness, Grief, and Resilience

In the season of Spring and this season of rebirth, we’ll explore remarkable similarities between the processes of forgiveness and differentiation of self. How might working on differentiation help create a path for self through pain and grief into resilience? What are implications for leaders facing resistance in congregations?





Annual May event - May 23, 2022 location and theme to be determined; offered online and onsite. This national conference will include all of the 2021-22 Leadership Series participants.



SCHEDULE (Eastern)

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

10:00am - 10:30am: Break

10:30am - 12:00pm: Broadening perspective through the lens of systems theory (Part 2)

12:00pm - 12:30pm: Lunch

12:30pm - 1:30pm: Bowen video presentation

1:30pm - 2:30pm: Small Group Coaching - Workplace application

2:30pm - 3:00pm: Break

3:00pm - 4:20pm: Small Group Coaching - Family of Origin (FOO) group

SCHEDULE (Eastern)

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

2:30pm - 3:00pm: Break

3:00 - 4:30pm: Broadening perspective through the lens of systems theory (Part 2)

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

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


September 23 & 24, 2021 (Online for all)

October 22, 2021

November 19, 2021

January 21, 2022

February 18, 2022

March 18, 2022

April 29, 2022

May 23, 2022


Onsite at the Healthy Congregations Office

6580 Columbus Pike

Lewis Center, OH 43035



September 23 & 24, 2021 (Online for all)

October 21, 2021

November 18, 2021

January 20, 2022

February 17, 2022

March 17, 2022

April 28, 2022

May 23, 2022



The 2021-22 Online Leadership Series will use Zoom video conferencing. This means you can log-in and participate from anywhere in the world.



New for 2021-22! The Asynchronous Option allows you to watch recorded sessions on your own time each month and schedule monthly consultation groups via Zoom.


  • 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 Network, a free book of the year, and access to the Members Only portion 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 deposit) until two weeks prior to the first seminar.


Tuition for online and onsite groups is the same.

$25 Non-refundable Application Deposit that will be credited toward your registration costs.



Individual Registration: $1,350 per person

Group Discount Rate: $1,150 per person



  • 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.

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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