Institute for the Study of Religious Education and Youth Ministry



The Institute for the Study of Religious Education and Youth Ministry (ISREYM ETF Leuven) aims at

  • furthering academic research on practices of religious education and practices of youth ministry, and
  • cooperatively learning with professionals and professional organizations in the fields of religious education and youth ministry to enhance the quality of their practices.

These practices have to do with formational practices in which a religious tradition is at stake, located in a variety of localities, such as churches, schools, the public arena, the family, social media, and all kinds of (faith) communities and networks. While youth ministry practices are formational practices rooted in the Christian tradition, religious education practices typically refer to a broad range of formational practices in which any (non‑)religious tradition or some religious traditions are central. The primary focus of ISREYM ETF Leuven is the protestant evangelical context in particularly Flanders and also The Netherlands, but it is not limited to that. Research also includes comparative studies in which other national contexts or other religious or non-religious contexts are also objects of study.

ISREYM ETF Leuven is an initiative of Prof. Dr. Jos de Kock, Professor of Practical Theology at ETF Leuven, and a direct result of what he envisioned in his inaugural address in 2019, in which he presented a research agenda for his chair in Practical Theology. ISREYM ETF Leuven is contributing in particular but not exclusively to the third line of research in the research program of ETF Leuven for the period of 2020-2027: Religion and Church in Contemporary Society – “Religious Presence in a Pluralist World”. This research line strives to offer critical insight into the complex realities of religious actors (institutions, movements, churches, communities and individuals) in their very different contexts. ISREYM ETF Leuven will focus, in this regard, on the contexts of religious education and youth ministry practices as these occur in schools, churches and society. In addition, these contexts also call for critical evaluative research on religious and ethical discourses, practices and actions that seeks to contribute to significant public debates, creating common space for understanding, correctives and suggestions. Attention is given both to situations in which religious actors are vulnerable as well as where they occupy positions of power and influence.

Research Questions

The central research question for the period of 2020-2027 of ISREYM is:

 How might learning in encounter be understood as a concept and as a practice in current practices of religious education and youth ministry?

A series of sub-questions can be addressed in four sub-categories:

  • Sub-questions with regard to what is known from past research.
  • Sub-questions with regard to practices of religious education, both confessional and non-confessional.
  • Sub-questions with regard to youth ministry practices.
  • Sub-questions with regard to the religious identity development of children and youth in general.

Current Research Projects

  • Analysis of how the Bible is functioning in the context of Protestant primary and secondary schools in The Netherlands (Prof. Jos de Kock, together with Dr. Ronelle Sonnenberg, Protestant Theological University, Amsterdam)
  • Writing/editing of the first International Handbook on Youth Ministry Research (Dr. Jos de Kock)
  • Learning in encounter and spiritual development in stressful times: a reflection from the perspective of protestant-evangelical youth ministry practices in Flanders ( Dr. Jos de Kock).
  • Young People and the Bible – engagement with a holy text in a digital World (doctoral study by Judith Hildebrandt, MA; promotors: Prof. Dr. Jos de Kock and Prof. Dr. Jack Barentsen)
  • Development and evaluation of an educational package for religious education aiming at building resilience among young people against radicalization and polarization (part of the Educ8 Project (see ISFORB); Researcher: Samuel Velinga, MA; supervisor Dr. Jelle Creemers)
  • Doctoraatsstudie van Ben van Acker naar PEGO onderwijs

Recent Publications

Jos de Kock

  • De Kock, A. (2020). Learning in encounter and addressing normativity in Religious Education Faculties/Programs. Religious Education, 115(4), 426-435.
  • De Bruin-Wassinkmaat, A., De Kock, J., Visser-Vogel, E., Bakker, C., & Barnard, M. (2020). Religious identity commitments of emerging adults raised in strictly Reformed contexts in the Netherlands. Journal of Beliefs & Values,
  • De Kock, A. (2019). Het belang van het verbinden van generaties. Onderweg, 17 (nummer 5), 6-9.
  • De Kock, A. (2019). Opvoeding en geloofsopvoeding. Een godsdienstpedagogische reflectie. Radix, 45(4), 341-350.
  • De Kock, A. (2019). Wait a minute in stressful times. A practical theological account of learning in encounter. Inaugural lecture Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, Belgium, September 23rd, 2019.
  • Markus, J.J., Bertram-Troost, G.D., De Kock, A., De Muynck, A., & Barnard, M. (2019). Stimulating inquisitiveness: Teachers at orthodox protestant schools about their roles in religious socialization. Religious Education, 114(4), 513-527.
  • Van Leersum-Bekebrede, L., Sonnenberg, R., De Kock, J., & Barnard, M. (2019). Setting the stage for children’s participation in worship. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 24(2), 166-182.
  • Van Leersum-Bekebrede, L., Sonnenberg, R., De Kock, J., & Barnard, M. (2019). Deconstructing ideals of worship with children. Studia Liturgica, 49(1), 71-88.
  • De Bruin-Wassinkmaat, A.M., De Kock, J., Visser-Vogel, E., Bakker, C., Barnard, M. (2019). Being young and strictly religious: a review of the literature on the religious identity development of strictly religious adolescents. Identity, 19(1), 62-79.

Academic Conferences and Academic Service

Researchers from ISREYM ETF LEUVEN contribute on a regular basis by presenting at seminars and conferences and by writing articles for or being interviewed in professional journals or media.

Recent contributions:

  • February 2020: Dr. Jos de Kock held a keynote lecture on Feeling alive: learning in encounter in stressful times at the annual conference of the Central and Eastern European Association for Mission Studies (CEEAMS).
  • November 2019: Dr. Jos de Kock participated in the General Assembly of the European Council for Theological Education (ECTE).
  • November 2019: Dr. Jos de Kock presented a paper How to work with normativity in the Religious Education Faculty/Program at the annual meeting of the Religious Education Association in Toronto (Canada).
  • October 2019: Dr. Jos de Kock came to speak in the article Opvoeden tussen gedoe en genade in the journal Woord & Weg (Protestantse Kerk Nederland).


Jos de Kock
Judith Hildebrandt (PhD student)
Samuël Velinga (see ISFORB)
Ben van Acker (PhD student)



Kick off ISREYM ETF Leuven


3 October 2020: Studiedag Geloofsopvoeding: een lastig verhaal?


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