Bowen Family Systems Theory and Christian ministry: an appraisal and application

Full Title
Bowen Family Systems Theory and Christian ministry: an appraisal and application
J. Wesley White D.Min.
The thesis question of this project is, “Is differentiation of self a helpful concept for Christian ministry?” The project begins with a careful explanation of what differentiation of self means in the context of Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST), explaining that it primarily relates to distinguishing the emotional from the intellectual process and developing the ability to act deliberately in terms of reason and principle as well as feeling.
The project examines various passages of Scripture to seek a parallel between the teaching of Scripture and the understanding of differentiation of self in BFST. This investigation demonstrates that while the words are not present, the concept is extremely important in Scripture. The project then considers parallels to differentiation of self in church history, particularly noting the parallels with a variety of explanations of virtue ethics. The project then provides a summary of modern scholarship on this issue. It concludes that writers on these topics find the concept of differentiation of self to be helpful to ministry while also critiquing the secular concept of differentiation of self in BFST as needing the purpose of God’s kingdom and the grace of God for implementation.
Finally, a model for ministry is developed in an outline and explanation of a seminar. This seminar is designed to introduce ministers and ministry leaders to the concept of differentiation of self in ministry and show its utility for a variety of ministry contexts when placed in the context of Christian theological concerns and spiritual development.
Degree Granting Institution
United States
Degree Granted
Doctor of Ministry
Type of Work
S. Donald Fortson III Ph.D.
Number of Pages
Copyright Statement
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