Utilizing natural family systems theory to foster health in congregations: Murray Bowen as teacher of congregations

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Norman Thomasma


“Natural family systems” theory is a way of thinking about human behavior drawn upon widely by theorists and consultants working to resolve congregational conflict and promote congregational health. The development of this approach is credited to Murray Bowen and is typically referred to as “Bowen Theory.” I believe there is value in reflecting upon the normative nature of Bowen Theory for congregational life. In this paper I hope (1) to affirm significant congruence between family systems theory and biblical givens, (2) to identify areas of likely or potential divergence, and (3) to suggest some ongoing conversations that are invited by this connecting of family systems theory to congregational life.

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Pastoral psychology; Church management; Pastoral theology