Systems thinking is a little like immunology: If the T-cell count plummets, that jeopardizes the body's resistance to disease. One thing affects another. Everything is connected.

To understand the parts, you must look at the whole—that's systems thinking.

In his book Generation to Generation, Edwin Friedman, who died in 1996, applied the way family members related to one another to the way churches and synagogues operate as a whole. A disciple of Friedman, Peter Steinke, a Lutheran (ELCA) minister and counselor, has written Healthy Congregations (Alban Institute), which evaluates the health of a congregation using family-systems theory. Steinke views churches as living, breathing organisms.

Leadership senior associate editor Dave Goetz asked Steinke how systems thinking might help pastors bring health to their congregations.



In Healthy Congregations, you say that disease in a church can be good. How so?


Peter Steinke: For any system to be healthy, it has to be challenged; sometimes ...

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