PG 523 ‘Emancipating’ Practical Theology

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Module Level


Related Department

Centre for Mission & Ministries


Seminar presentations and end of term essay (c. 7,000 words).

Module Aims

The aim of the seminar is to explore in detail the contribution of Johannes van der Ven to the discipline of Practical Theology. Van der Ven pioneered ‘empirical theology,’ which permitted the methodological perspectives and tools of the social sciences to be regarded as appropriate and legitimate means for conducting theological enquiry. He integrated such tools into practical theology itself, favouring an intra-disciplinary perspective, whereby the tools of the social sciences become the tools of the practical theologian. This seminar examines the principles of van der Ven’s empirical-theological approach and instances of such research in the subject area of ministry and mission.

Indicative Syllabus:

  • An empirical approach in practical theology
  • Normativity and the value-laden character of all empirical research
  • Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
  • ‘Professionalising the Shepherds’
  • ‘The Legitimation of Parish Leadership’
  • ‘Ecclesiological Explorations from Volunteer Ministry’


  • Hermans, Chris A. M. and Mary E. Moore, eds. Hermeneutics and Empirical Research in Practical Theology: The Contribution of Empirical Theology by Johannes A. Van Der Ven. Empirical Studies in Theology 11. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2004.
  • Schilderman, J. B. A. M, J. A. van der Ven, and A. J. A. Felling. ‘Professionalising the Shepherds.’ Journal of Empirical Theology, 12, no. 1 (1999): 59-90.
  • Sonnberger, Klaus and Johannes A. van der Ven. ‘The Legitimation of Parish Leadership: An Empirical-Theological Approach.’ Journal of Empirical Theology 10, no. 2 (1997): 5-32. ---.‘The Structure of the Church.’ Journal of Empirical Theology 8, no. 1 (1995): 24-45.
  • Van der Ven, Johannes A. ‘An Empirical or a Normative Approach to Practical-Theological Research? A False Dilemma.’ Journal of Empirical Theology, 15, no. 2 (2002): 5-33.
  • ---. Practical Theology: An Empirical Approach. Translated by Barbara Schultz. Kampen, The Netherlands: Kok Pharos Publishing House, 1993.
  • ---. ‘Practical Theology: from Applied to Empirical Theology.’ Journal of Empirical Theology 1, no. 1 (1988): 7-27.
  • Van der Ven, J. A. and G. T. van Gerwen. ‘Ecclesiological Explorations from Volunteer Ministry.’ Journal of Empirical Theology 3, no. 1 (1990): 27-45.
  • Van der Ven, Johannes A. and Michael SchererRath, eds. Normativity and Empirical Research in Theology. Empirical Studies in Theology 10. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2004.