Dr. Janel Kragt Bakker is Associate Professor of Mission, Evangelism, and Culture at Memphis Theological Seminary.
She teaches Context and Models for Mission and Evangelism, a foundational course which brings classroom learning into dialogue with field education as students engage in practical theological reflection about their experiences in parish or non-profit ministry. Students not only analyze and interpret practices of mission in various settings but also generate practical ideals for enhancing ministries in their particular contexts.
Dr. Bakker also enjoys teaching interfaith/intercultural electives such as Jesus, Jails and Justice; Religion and Contemporary American Society; and Christian Dialogue with World Religions. Significant learning in these courses happens outside of the classroom. For instance, students explore Christian responses to the criminal justice system while sitting in on a court hearing, touring the county jail, and riding along with police officers on their beats. As they take a deep dive into the cultural and institutional dynamics that drive imprisonment in the U.S., students trace ways that Christian understandings of justice and redemption intersect with and challenge our country’s current system.
In all of the course that she teachers, Dr. Bakker encourages students to contextualize the good news of the Christian gospel. Learning through case study, participant observation, and service learning, students don’t just acquire information or master techniques; they embody wisdom. Dr. Bakker enjoys facilitating collaborative, creative, and inductive learning experiences. She pushes her students to make connections across disciplines, drawing on sociology, history, and religious studies as they develop as practical theologians. Believing that empathy is critical for this work, Dr. Bakker also encourages her students to practice placing themselves in the shoes of other people—particularly the marginalized. This is the cycle of practical theology that she facilitates: see, judge, act, and repeat!