When Rev. Dr. Peter L. Steinke died last year on July 13, 2020, the Church-at-Large suffered a great loss. As an LCMS pastor, educator, and pastoral counselor, Peter applied Family Systems Theory to understanding congregations and their processes.
Congregations function like families in that they have anxiety, internal power struggles, conflicts, cohesion as well as separations, secrecy, and sabotage. Church family members also are positive and caring but they can also be hostile and ugly. What Peter did for the church-at-large was that he used Family Systems theory as a lens through which the church could function healthier and more maturely.
Peter studied under the tutelage of Edwin Friedman, who did pioneering work with churches and synagogues using the Family Systems model. Later, Lutheran Brotherhood gave Dr. Steinke a million-dollar grant to create Healthy Congregations. He formed an Advisory Board of Lutherans to guide his work. He trained thousands of congregational leaders, pastors, and other church workers to better understand their churches and how to create healthy relationships.
Peter was a prolific reader, writer, and fine theologian. Just a few of his many works appear here:
1. How Your Church Family Works: Understanding Congregations As Emotional System
2. Congregational Leadership In Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What
3. Uproar: Calm Leadership In Anxious Times
4. Preaching the Theology of the Cross: Sermons and Worship Ideas for Lent and Easter
He was the major speaker at many LCMS District Pastor’s conferences across the country. He did many dozens of consultations in LCMS congregations as well as in other Christian churches. He was a consultant for many Lutheran leaders and he had a great sense of humor.
It was my privilege to have served on Pete’s Healthy Congregations Advisory Board for ten years. I highly recommend his books for congregational leaders, clergy, and other church workers. The church still needs his voice for the health of our churches and workers.
(See Dr. Bruce Hartung’s words about Steinke’s legacy here. Also, read Steinke’s forwardto Edwin Friedman’s book: A Failure of Nerve - Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix).
One Minute is written by Rev. Ron Rehrer, Counselor for Church Workers of the PSD. He can be reached by phone at 949.433.5182 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org