Leaders Who Last is a good introduction to Family Systems or Bowen Theory. It’s easily understood. I’ve read it with the staffs of two congregations where I’ve done interim ministry. Family Systems is the best explanation I know of how groups work. For my summary of Family Systems, read this post and the five that follow: What (Who) Is the Problem? can we fix it quickly?
Here are some “mustard seeds” from this book, Leaders Who Last:
Lasting as a leader does not mean finding an easy way to do it: there is no easy way. We will always face setbacks and discouragements, and at times we will throw up our hands in despair. But as we persevere, we will also find times for satisfaction faction and celebration. (Kindle Locations 69-71).
Human systems, too, both families and larger groups, achieve a certain balance over time. There is an interdependency among the parts.When one part makes a change, even a positive change, it upsets the balance. The other parts will try to restore the balance. If a leader charts a substantive course forward, parts of the system automatically push back, attempting to restore the balance. To make real progress, one must stay on course in the face of reactions that amount to unintentional sabotage. (Kindle Locations 146-149).
It is important to remember “the presence of the past,” as scientist Rupert Sheldrake calls it. Patterns are established over time, and old problems (and old solutions) of a congregation are likely to crop up again. The past need not determine the future, but if we ignore it, we are more likely to be tripped up by it, as powerful patterns persist without our awareness. Better to be curious, to look for the threads that continue and experiment with ways we might claim and use them without being governed by them. (Kindle Locations 265-268).
Change is evolutionary, not revolutionary. As a pastor, I developed oped a mantra: “Everything takes five years.” Substantial developments in congregational life, the kind that will last, take even longer. (Kindle Locations 341-342).
When we unconsciously act from our family script, our choices are limited. It tells us how to be angry, or how to hide, or how to protect others. We learned our lines as soon as we learned to talk. (Kindle Locations 375-376).
When you are more motivated for people to change than they are, then you have a problem-and they have all the power. The more they resist, the more you get sucked in. The more energy you spend trying to change them, the more things stay the same. This is equally true in a marriage, in parenting, or in leading a choir, a church, a judicatory, or a denomination. (Kindle Locations 603-605).
Churches, like families, can view money as a weapon, as evil, as emotionally fraught, as dangerous, as scarce, as a possession. A more neutral, open view of money sees it as a resource, a tool, an opportunity, a gift. This neutrality makes it easier to make decisions that can benefit the future of the family and its members-and the church and its members. (Kindle Locations 1003-1006).
We simply have to tough it out sometimes, and remember that things will settle down if we can keep our heads. Courage does not mean we are not anxious or afraid, but that we can act in spite of our fear. Instead of being surprised by crisis, we can simply be prepared for the fact that we have a hard job, and crises are going to arise. (Kindle Locations 1201-1203).