Students at commencement

Meet the Faculty

Craig Van Gelder

Craig Van Gelder

Professor Emeritus of Congregational Mission

  • Ph.D. (University of Texas)
  • Ordained ((CRC))
  • Ph.D. (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
  • M.Div. (Reformed Theological Seminary)


Craig Van Gelder served as tenured professor of congregational mission at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN, having taken this position in 1998 following ten years as professor of domestic missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI.  This field of study aims to help students understand trends in American society, changing contexts in which congregations function, factors contributing to church health and decline, and the dynamics of organizational change and development.

Ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 1984 and the Christian Reformed Church in 1990, Van Gelder combines a practical and academic interest in helping congregations engage in mission.  Much of his practical interest stems from working as a consultant for over two decades in assisting congregations in strategic planning and processes of organizational change.  He continues to engage in some consulting work in addition to his teaching responsibilities.

He is a member of the American Society of Missiology, the Gospel and Our Culture Network, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Urban Affairs Association.

After earning a bachelor of arts degree from Georgia State University in 1970, Van Gelder received the master of divinity degree from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS in 1978.  He received the Ph.D. degree in missions from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX in 1982, and the Ph.D. in administration in urban affairs from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1985.

He is author of The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit (2000), is editor of Confident Witness-Changing World: Rediscovering the Gospel in North America (1999), is a contributing author of Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (1988), and is co-editor with George Hunsberger of The Church Between Gospel and Culture: The Emerging Mission in North America (1996).



This seminar helps participants implement the thesis proposal that was developed in the previous seminar, a thesis proposal that incorporates a theologically informed use of social science research. Participants are also guiding through the writing process of drafting the first four chapters of their eventual thesis—introduction, literature review and theoretical perspectives, biblical and theological perspectives, and research methodology.

CL 7551 01THESIS PROJECT DMIN Session II - CML 2015-2016

This year long seminar provides students with a structured process to implement the research design of their approved research proposal and to incorporate their findings into their final thesis. The seminar meets during the year for three two-day work sessions in helping all participants finalize the chapters of their theses. Course will be registered as 0.5 course in both CL terms.

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