The congregations of the Southern Ohio Synod have access to 12 rostered and lay leaders specially trained in Bowen Family Systems Theory to assist your pastor, council, and entire congregation through transitions, disagreements, future planning, and gaining a clear picture of who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.

This is done through:

  1. Work with pastors to help them visualize and see the larger picture within the life of the congregation.
  2. Opportunities for monthly review, by the team, of case studies submitted by a pastor on issues and opportunities within the life of the congregation.
  3. Congregational History Events where the entire congregation gathers and walks through its history from genesis to current-day to help frame their life together and identify what dynamics have been at play over the long term that either positively or negatively impact the ministry and vitality of the church.
  4. Assisting congregations as they prepare to transition from their current pastor to their next, whether this event is expected or unexpected, to ensure the best transition possible for everyone involved.
  5. Conducting interviews and sharing a report with the congregation when the congregation is experiencing conflict. The report provides observations and questions for further thought by the congregation and its leaders.

The Team

The Congregational Resource Team consists of six rostered ministers and six lay people who have undergone specialized training in Bowen Family Systems Theory and are sent in teams of 2-4 people to congregations requesting assistance with one of the areas above. They use the skills they have acquired through their training, plus their God-given gifts, which uniquely qualify them to serve on this synod team, to assist the congregation in identifying what they need to do as a family unit to remove barriers and establish healthy patterns of thinking and behaving that set up the congregation for long-term growth and vitality.

Bowen Family Systems Theory

The Family Systems Theory is a theory in human behavior that arose from research by Dr. Murray Bowen of Georgetown University, more than 60 years ago. This theory observes that our thinking, and our behavior, is always part of a group (or system) of people to which we are emotionally connected. This is especially true of the family in which we grew up! Therefore, understanding the emotional process of the whole group, and where we fit in the group, can help us understand our own behavior better. This, in turn, can help us to think more clearly and be more creative as we think about the challenges that we, and the group, might be facing.

In the years since Dr. Bowen first introduced it, Family Systems Theory has been studied, researched, expanded, and used to understand how churches, synagogues, corporations, and other organizations work. The Congregational Resource Team spends much of its training time on the work of those researchers, including Dr. Edwin Friedman, Dr. Roberta Gilbert, Rev. Peter L. Steinke, and others.

The team receives its training from Dr. Larry Foster, an ELCA pastor, Family Systems therapist, and teacher at the ELCA Family Systems Academy in Chicago, where Pr. Bob Abrams, Assistant to the Bishop, received his four years of training in preparation for leading this specialized team.

For more information on Family Systems Theory, please visit the Bowen Center website at

Cost to your congregation

Most of the Congregational Resource Team’s services are covered by your mission support to the synod. Some of the more intensive services have a very low one-time fee. All costs are shared upfront so there are no surprises for your congregation.

How to tap the Congregational Resource Team’s services

Contact Pr. Bob Abrams, Assistant to the Bishop, at or 614-714-3157.