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SERIES (19-20)

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.

Registration for the 2019-2020 Leadership Series has closed, but we’d love to have you join the 2020-2021 Leadership Series. Registration information for the next series will be released soon.




  • Presentation and discussion of theoretical concepts of Bowen Theory

  • Application of theory in one's family

  • Application of theory in the workplace


September: Alliances, Coalitions, and Triangles: The Geometry of Human Relationships

Gossip is as ancient as the earliest hominid vocalizations.  It can serve to bind together the group in an information sharing and social norm enforcing manner.  However, these communications can be problematic over the long haul.  This presentation will survey the land mines of triangles and the predicaments that they pose in the family, the congregation, and the organization.

October: Channeling Tina Turner: What's Emotional Process Got to Do with It?

In an age of polarization and digital communication, the challenge to connect well is increasing.  Discussion about the impact of emotional process and avenues for direct, thoughtful and diverse engagement will be explored.

November: Getting to Know You: The Mystery of the Self and the Other

The most grown-up thing you will ever do is to have a person to person relationship with every member of your family (Murray Bowen).  This discussion will explore definitions of these kinds of more open relationships, some of the obstacles in moving in that direction, and ways of thinking that will enhance the depth and quality of relationships in the family and the congregation.

January: Toward More Principled Spiritual Exercises for the Unenlightened 

Coming to terms with one’s religious heritage as an essential path to defining a current faith tradition will be the focus of this presentation.  Persons informed by a more objective reconciliation of the prior familial traditions will find that this perspective lends not only clarity and direction to the present but also serves as a guide to a more vibrant and flexible spirituality for the future.  A presentation of Antoinette Brown Blackwell will be offered as an example of differentiation of self.

February: Things Fall Apart: Managing Leadership in the Era of Shifting Denominational Sand

The last ten years in American religious life has led to significant changes in denominations and the development of spiritual and religious trends that lie outside of traditional structures.  What adaptive capacities can be engaged that contribute toward greater maturity in decision making and relationships?  How does family attentiveness contribute toward greater autonomy and resilient connections with colleagues and community?

March: Strong Where Broken: Trauma in an Era of Triggers

A review of current thinking on the impact of trauma in the life of individuals, families and organizations will be explored in these discussions as well as leadership and individual challenges to thinking that contributes to greater strength and theological capacities that frame the impact of trauma from a Bowen perspective.

April: 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).  Historians have long acknowledged the role of the past in shaping the present and the future.  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 and merits that this understanding can provide for negotiating relationships in the here and now.

May: Special May Leadership Series Two-Day Event

Featuring guest speakers Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, and Peter Steinke, author of Uproar: Calm Leadership in Anxious Times.



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


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 20, 2019

October 18, 2019

November 15, 2019

January 17, 2020

February 21, 2020

March 20, 2020

April 24, 2020

May 28-29, 2020


Methodist Theological School of Ohio

3081 Columbus Pike 

Delaware, OH 43015


September 19, 2019

October 17, 2019

November 14, 2019

January 16, 2020

February 20, 2020

March 19, 2020

April 23, 2020

May 28-29, 2020


The 2019-2020 Online Leadership Series will use Zoom video conferencing software. This means you can log-in and participate from anywhere in the world.



  • Registration includes full participation in the nine 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.


Individual Registration: $1,200 per person

Group Discount Registration: $1,000 per person


Individual Registration: $1,350 per person

Group Discount Rate: $1,150 per person


  • Creech, R. Robert. Family Systems and Congregational Life: A Map for Ministry.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 2019.  [Healthy Congregations’ Book of the Year 2018-19]

  • Brown, Jenny. Growing Yourself Up:  How to Bring Your Best to All of Life’s Relationships. New South Wales, Australia, and Dunedin, New Zealand:  Exisle Publishing, 2017.


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 six active youngsters with another one ‘on the way’ in the fall.  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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