How Your Church Family Works: Understanding Congregations as Emotional Systems

by Peter L. Steinke. The Alban Institute, 1993.

As an accompaniment to Edwin Friedman’s 'Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue', this book applies family systems thinking to guide the reader from a micro view of congregational relationships to a macro view. Drawing on biblical stories and contemporary congregational scenarios, Steinke clearly articulates our interrelatedness and its inevitable potential to produce anxiety and other emotions. He urges readers to recognize that the anxiety inherent in interrelatedness provides opportunities for change and growth. He encourages leaders to be "self-differentiated," or in responsible and responsive relationships that neither diminish their own integrity nor intrude on the integrity of others. Healthy responses to congregational struggles include focusing on self, not others; strength, not weakness; process, not content; challenge, not comfort; integrity, not unity; system, not symptom; and direction, not condition. This book is a valuable resource for congregational leaders, and offers helpful examples of congregational problems and resolutions.