Peter a frith
Systems thinker・ Educator・Mentor
Mental health ministry
Healthy Church Network (HCN)
My research into congregational systems found that the most difficult challenge facing church leaders and their congregations today is the relational system. It is the most powerful human influence at play in churches and the least understood. An increasing number of leaders are finding themselves ill equipped to manage the emotional reactivity generated within the congregation, which commonly disrupts fellowship and thwarts the church's mission. In the words of one young clergyman, "it was the way people related to each other" that was the most difficult challenge he confronted in his new pastorate.
Emotional reactivity is on the rise in the community and is being reflected in the church and a new generation of leaders will need to be equipped with what is being touted as "third wave" leadership skills - how they can manage themselves in the midst of emotionally reactive storms and how they can influence the system to calmly and imaginatively pursue their mission.
While other approaches to church health tended to concentrate on the presence and balance of skills and programs such as small groups, gifts, worship and mission etc., HCN focuses on the relational and emotional functioning of the congregation. HCN seeks to engage church leaders and others in dialogue around leadership style and the effective management of the emotional system at play in their congregations. The aim of the network is to promote healthy church life by empowering leaders to be centred, calm, courageous and connected.
How do I join HCN?
In order to appreciate church health from the perspective of relational systems theory, I recommend these accessing these three introductory resources (links below):
1. A video:
2. Two articles:
Hitting the Wall - clergy encountering the emotional system in their first parish (published in Crucible journal, Vol. 11.1, March 2020) or, if you are brave enough, tackle the dissertation).
Anxiety and Differentiation in the Ephesian Church (extract from J. Brown & L. Errington (Eds.), Bowen Family Systems Theory in Christian Mministry: Grappling with Theory and its Application Through a Biblical Lens. Sydney: The Family Systems Practice & Institute).
3. A chart
Bowen's scale of differentiation
Then drop me a line. A membership platform is in development.
"The criteria for assessing church health needs to be revisited because health that is defined by correct doctrine, successful programmes, inspiring worship, powerful preaching or enterprising mission is inadequate, if these ventures are consistently sabotaged by the relational system".
Articles & media
More coming soon. Watch this space.