Practical Theology

IST 2080 Practical Theology

Fall Quarter 2018 (hybrid)

Iliff School of Theology

Instructor: Rev. Dr. Rubén Arjona

Course Description

This course explores models of practical theological reflection and methods of reflective professional practice as frameworks for religious leadership in the variety of contexts in which students will work. Students will be introduced to disciplined modes of embodying the integration of theory and practice that allow them to place their coursework across the curriculum into regular conversation with their practice as religious leaders and ministry professionals in a variety of institutional and cultural contexts.

Learning Goals. Students who complete this course will be able to:

  1. Identify and evaluate several contemporary approaches and methods to practical theology.
  2. Articulate their understanding of practical theology and identify and assess their own gifts, strengths, and growing edges within the field.
  3. Locate their own particular scholarly and practical interests within the field of practical theology.
  4. Demonstrate beginning competence in theological reflection, interdisciplinary study, and intercultural capacity.

Degree Learning Goal

Theology and Religious Practices (PR): engage in analysis of contemporary religious traditions and institutions in order to assess, design, and perform meaningful leadership practices with sensitivity to contextual realities and relationships ( Master’s Student Handbook , 2016-2017, p. 5).


Required books:

Dykstra, R. C. (2018). Finding Ourselves Lost: Ministry in the Age of Overwhelm. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.

Lee, Boyung. (2013). Transforming Congregations through Community: Faith Formation from the Seminary to the Church. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

* Both books are now available as e-books on Primo. Some restrictions apply. Follow these links: Dykstra: Link ; Lee: Link. If you prefer to own hard copies, you may, of course, purchase the books through your preferred bookseller.


1. Class participation: class members will be expected to do the readings and reference them in weekly reading forums. (Weeks 1 and 10: 3 points each = 6%; Weeks 2 – 9: 7 points each = 49%; no post on Week 5)

2. Presentation/Participation during Gathering Days (= 10%). Class participants will share their preliminary ideas for their final papers/projects (3-5 minute presentation). 

3. Final Paper/Project

Option A: Final Integrative Paper (= 35%).- The final paper (approximately 7-10 pages) should articulate your practical theological understanding of a theme or a case that is significant to you. If you'd like, this paper may take the form of an autobiographical reflection paper (e.g., What does practical theology mean for you, personally, given your personal history and social location?). You will be expected to engage some (not all) the readings of the course. Additional sources are welcomed but are not required. 

Option B: Final Practical Theology Project (=35%).-  If you prefer, you may work on a PT project. For this project, you would articulate your own understanding of practical theology in conversation with course materials, and then describe what that practical theological understanding might look like fleshed out in an ideal embodied community. This could take the form of a media project, a video, a sermon, an educational resource, or an artistic expression with accompanying explanatory written materials. If you have another idea in mind, please talk to the instructor. 

Welcome to Practical Theology!

"Practical theology has always been and remains far more than an academic endeavor. It has been about returning theology to the people."

Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore


Class Schedule


Topic & Readings

Week 1

Sept. 10-14

Introductions: “Our Ecumenical Selves”

Reading: Dykstra, Finding Ourselves Lost, ch. 2

Week 2

Sept. 17-21

Practical Theology: Definitions

Kahalan & Mikoski, “Introduction”

Ward, “Practical Theology as the Ordinary Life of the Church”

Miller-McLemore, “Practical Theology: A Definition”

Osmer, “Introduction: Four Tasks of Practical Theology”

Week 3

Sept. 24-28

On Community

Lee, Transforming Congregations through Community (entire book)

Week 4

Oct. 1-5

On Individuality

Dykstra, Finding Ourselves Lost, introduction and chapters 1, 4, 5 & 7 

Week 5

Oct. 8-12

Gathering Days

Kim, “Preaching as an Art of Shared Leadership”

Turpin, “Christian Education, White Supremacy, and Humility in Formational Agendas”

Doehring, “In Over Our Heads with Financial Anxiety from Student Debt”

Week 6

Oct. 15-19

Eucharistic Interpretations

Carvalhaes, “Christians and Yorubá People Eating Together”

Arjona, “John Calvin on the Lord’s Supper: Food, Rest, and Healing for Shivering Souls”

Week 7

Oct. 22-26

On Childhood

Dykstra, Finding Ourselves Lost, chapter 3

Capps, “The Child Jesus as Endangered Self”


Dykstra, Finding Ourselves Lost, chapter 6

Week 8

Oct. 29-Nov. 2

Buddhist Perspectives

Yetunde, Pamela Ayo. (2018). Object Relations, Buddhism, and Relationality in Womanist Practical Theology. Read the following chapters:

Chapter 1: "What is Buddhism, and What Is Buddhism in the Insight Meditation Community (IMC)?"Preview the document

Chapter 3: "The Spiritual Practices and Experiences of African-American Buddhist Lesbians in the IMC"Preview the document

Chapter 8: "Conclusions and Counseling Recommendations"Preview the document



Trinlae, “Prospects for a Buddhist Practical Theology”

Week 9

Nov. 5-9

"Zookeeping" in Practical Theology

Goto, "Writing in Compliance with the Racialized 'Zoo' of Practical Theology"

Week 10

Nov. 12-16

Final Papers

No required reading.


Sep 13, 2018ThuWeek 1: Introducing Our Ecumenical Selves (Post by Wednesday, September 12) due by 05:59AM
Sep 19, 2018WedWeek 2: Practical Theology: Definitions due by 05:59AM
Sep 26, 2018WedWeek 3: On Communitydue by 05:59AM
Oct 03, 2018WedWeek 4: On Individuality due by 05:59AM
Oct 10, 2018WedWeek 5: Gathering Daysdue by 05:59AM
Oct 12, 2018FriPresentationdue by 05:59AM
Oct 18, 2018ThuWeek 6: Eucharistic Interpretationsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 25, 2018ThuWeek 7: On Childhooddue by 05:59AM
Nov 01, 2018ThuWeek 8: Buddhist Perspectives due by 05:59AM
Nov 08, 2018ThuWeek 9: "Zookeeping" in Practical Theologydue by 06:59AM
Nov 15, 2018ThuWeek 10: Parting Gifts (Post by Wednesday, November 14)due by 06:59AM
Nov 17, 2018SatFinal Paper/Projectdue by 06:59AM