Emotional Systems Theory

Through a systems lens, we see congregations or communities as nonlinear, organic and dynamic. Everything exists in relationship to everything else. A systems model suggests that there is not one cause, but interacting variables that elevate the anxiety and chaos within a community. Transforming such anxiety and conflict is both an art and a science. In working through challenges with congregations, it is helpful to assist them in identifying those variables impacting the group, and begin to work on strategies to address them. For larger adaptive issues, most of the time there is no simple answer. The task is to continue asking the difficult questions.

Viewing congregations as emotional systems, especially during times of high anxiety and conflict provides opportunity for communities to give attention to relationships while identifying those interacting variables that contribute to anxiety. Interactive processes among the community help shift the focus form a linear problem-solving approach to deeper learning and understanding as a community.

Posts in this Category


Transforming Community

The JustPeace way takes a systems approach to conflict because we embrace transformed communities – communities that have space, resources and relational practices that can include all in loving and supportive ways. If conflict is simply two ideas seeking to share space, we don’t always have to change the ideas or the people who have the ideas, sometimes we can change the space in ways that lovingly embrace our different ideas.

Creating a Container for Conversation

If a strong enough container has been built, then when the heat gets intense, the container can hold, which helps transform the content in the container and the container itself as well as the participants and the DNA or soul of that collective community

Becoming Shapers of Context

I have come to believe that the outer space/context in which we work is only as open as is our inner space out of which we live. They are parallel processes. For me, this is part of the underbelly of leadership—the interior conversation that enables us to offer our best, deepest gifts, and to be shapers of context, rather than being shaped by the context.

Honoring Relationships

During difficult times, when divisiveness is pervasive, attention to the quality of relationships often suffers. In order to find a way forward, relationships must be honoring. A relationship is honoring when it provides space for authentic self-expression and seeks to not do violence to the Other because of the differences. A relationship is honoring, when it has as its highest priority the dignity of all.

Poetry makes nothing happen

In this Lenten Resource is the poem, “Poetry makes nothing happen,” by Craig Gilliam with a comment by a friend about the poem’s meaning for leaders; in addition, a Lent Prayer by Howard Thurman.

Robustness and Vulnerability in Leadership and Ministry

In other words, when I enter a courageous conversation and find my anxiety rising, I remind myself that I have or will be given what I need to meet whatever or whoever emerges in the encounter. My primary task is to show up, to be present, and to pay attention; then, to offer what I can honestly and respectfully

Do we really need conflict resolution?

The problem with “conflict resolution” is that it creates or reinforces the notion that conflict is bad, sinful and destructive and should not exist. Once we stop seeing resolution as an end in itself, we can understand more clearly the real nature of the underlying conflict — what it says about the system, the living body and its needs.

Have you ever thought of your church as haunted?

Our congregations and we cease to be haunted when we cease to be afraid of our past; our present and our possible future, our horizon, or those we wronged, those we did not help or those who we think might wrong us. We forgive ourselves and our congregations forgive themselves by changing the pattern, and we change the pattern by forgiving others and ourselves. Our fear is the measure of our absence.