Online Course for Clergy in Transition

Transitions can create anxiety for clergy and congregations. Change is more productive when leaders work at managing themselves and their reactivity to change. Transitions include, but are not limited to, exiting a congregation, entering a congregation, closing a congregation, starting a new congregation, ending a program, vision casting, starting a new program or retirement.

Transitions can be especially challenging when the context is new. For example, when a congregation has its first female pastor or when a clergy person, who grew up in an urban area, starts serving a rural congregation.

Participants in the Online Course for Clergy in Transition will learn Bowen Family Systems Theory. This theory of human behavior, developed by Dr. Murray Bowen, is based on observational research of families and relationships systems like congregations. Over the years, clergy leaders like Ronald Richardson, Ed Freidman, Peter Steinke and others have applied systems theory to congregational leadership.

Participants will work on differentiation of self in their family and in their congregation. This includes completing the monthly reading assignments, participating in the online course, and participating in individual coaching. Participants will be responsible for setting up dates and times for monthly online coaching. The online course will be the first Tuesday of every month (except in January*). The monthly course will include a presentation on a concept in Bowen Family Systems Theory and a presentation on the application of theory to transitions.

Please Note: Participants will be responsible for scheduling a monthly one-hour session with a coach.


Date, Time & Login Info

Dates & Time

2018: September 4, October 2, November 6, December 4
2019: January 8*, February 5, March 5, April 2, May 7
Time: 9:30 am to 12:00 pm (Central Time USA)

*This course will be the first Tuesday of every month, except in January.

Login Info

The monthly course will be available live online at the designated time. Recorded sessions will not be available in the case of an absence. The course is offered through a video conference platform available at A free version of the platform can be downloaded through an app store or at the website. A computer, tablet, or smartphone with microphone and web camera are required. Prior to each session, participants will receive by email a meeting ID# and instructions for logging on.

Please note:

Participants will be responsible for scheduling a monthly one-hour session with a coach.


Application, Registration & Payment

Application Process

Participant acceptance is based on the completion of the application form and a brief interview. Applications will be sent via email—please contact John Bell to request the application form, to set up time for a brief interview, and for questions about the course.

Registration Fees

The cost of the program is $1,260 per person due when the class begins. You may either pay online or via mail with a check or credit card after the application process is completed.


John Bell, M.Div. is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church where he has served for 25 years and is a faculty member for the Center for Family Consultation. He has been teaching and applying the principles of Bowen Family System Theory for more than 18 years. John finished a three-year post-graduate program in Bowen Family Systems Theory and Its Applications at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family at the Georgetown Family Center in Washington, DC. In addition to his work in his local church, John’s effort to understand BFST continues through research, writing, blogging, teaching, and coaching individuals, families and congregations. His interests include: transition and its effect on a system, homelessness and the role of the family, reactivity as a response to anxiety, and congregational and work systems. He writes a weekly blog for Thinking Congregations. John is married with three children and is currently serving Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora, IL. 

Additional Information

For more information, please contact John Bell.