Self-regulation as a function of pastoral leadership
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Can a pastor increase his or her own self-regulation and self-differentiation as a pastoral leader by integrating an understanding of one's own family system, the historical functioning of the congregation being served, and the pastor's most meaningful passage or story from the Bible? Will these three often disparate pieces weave together into new understandings that can improve the pastor's own functioning? This project is designed to begin to answer these questions.
Chapter One presents the history of the development of Murray Bowen's Family Systems Theory and the eight main concepts of this theory. The overarching lens through which all of these concepts will be examined is the issue of the pastor's own level of chronic anxiety. Anxiety is the response of a person or an organism to a real or perceived threat. Acute anxiety is precipitated by an actual event, such as almost being in an automobile accident. Chronic anxiety is not connected to a specific event, but becomes part of one's personal fabric and reduces one's ability to respond appropriately to the actual situation. Threats are perceived that may or may not actually exist. Can the pastor's anxiety begin to be regulated, or modified, as that pastor examines the family or origin issues that drive it? This chapter will include Bowen's concepts of self-differentiation, emotional triangles, sibling position, and emotional distance including cutoff, particularly as they affect pastoral functioning. Then anxiety will again be the variable through which to view the congregation the pastor is serving. Can the pastor further regulate personal anxiety by gaining a historical perspective on the congregation being served and the chronic anxiety that is part of that system? This part of the chapter will introduce Bowen's concepts of nuclear family emotional process, the family projection process, multigenerational transmission process and societal emotional process, particularly as they affect congregational functioning.
Chapter Two will be an in-depth examination of my family of origin which will discuss the patterns of family functioning I discovered as I completed my family genogram, similar to a family tree. A genogram is a beginning tool that leads one to ever-deeper levels of inquiry. This chapter will include further discussion of the Bowen principles that were most important to my family history. As this emotional process is discussed I will also show how understanding some of that process that came from my family has allowed me to begin to self-regulate my own anxiety and become more self-defined as a pastoral leader.
Chapter Three will briefly examine the history of one of the congregations I served in an attempt to discover the roots of that particular congregation's functioning. It will also search for the Bowen principles operative in the life of that congregation that may have come from the founding families of that congregation over one hundred and fifty years ago. It will also be an attempt to discover the chronic anxiety operative in that congregation. What caused that congregation anxiety? Could the roots of that anxiety be discovered? If they could, how would knowing them assist me, the pastor, in furthering my own self-regulation and self-differentiation? Additionally, this chapter will discuss the ways this congregation's functioning contained emotional processes similar to my family's functioning and how understanding the ways those processes merged led me toward greater self-regulation and self-differentiation.
Chapter Four will be an in-depth examination of the biblical account of the patriarch Jacob/Israel. This examination will begin with God's call to his grandfather, Abram, in Genesis Chapter Twelve. It will examine this sacred family for the existence of Bowen's concepts of human functioning present within the members and generations of this family. That examination will begin with Abram and move throughout the remainder of the Genesis story including discussions oflsaac, Jacob and Esau, as well as Joseph, and their other significant family members. This discussion will also include more traditional categories of biblical interpretation such as use of language, physical description of characters, and, the presence of the narrator. However, the main focus will be to try and uncover the process of functioning that existed within this family. As that process is revealed it will again contain common themes from my own family and the congregational family described in Chapter Two. Within this Genesis family reside the one biblical story and the one biblical character who have always been most important to my life and faith journey. As that is described I will raise the possibility that not only did I choose this story and this character as my most meaningful, or favorite, but that they, in a sense, also chose me because of the emotional process in my family. It will also include further discussion of how seeing this now familiar process from my own life in the biblical family have led me to continued efforts toward self-regulation and self-definition as a leader in the congregation.
Chapter Five will integrate these three elements, my family story, the congregational story, and the biblical story, to demonstrate how the common elements that existed in all three of these stories led to a "Eureka" moment for my life and ministry. That experience led to further discoveries of common process and themes in all three stories. Seeing how these stories weave together into one common story has raised my awareness of many of the issues which will provoke my anxiety, particularly in the role and duties of a pastor, and how I have used them to regulate a great deal of anxiety in ways that have improved my functioning as a pastor. This chapter will further illustrate how Bowen theory concepts exist in all families and congregations and how knowing this theory can lead a pastor toward more effective leadership through self-regulation and self-differentiation.
Chapter Six, the concluding chapter will describe how other pastors, if they are already familiar with Bowen Theory and family emotional processes, may begin to apply the approach described in this paper within their own lives and ministries to increase their ability to regulate anxiety and self-differentiate within the life of the congregation. Additionally, it will describe how I attempted to offer this approach to other pastors and the results of that effort. It will also show how that attempt to offer this integration of the stories of other pastors also facilitated an increase in my own ability to self-regulate and self-differentiate within the life of the congregation.