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Doctor of Philosophy in Christian Education and Congregational Studies (PhD)

The PhD in Christian Education and Congregational Studies prepares persons for teaching and research in seminaries, departments of religion in colleges and universities, and church leadership. Students learn how Christian faith is formed and embodied in communities of faith through the integration of insights from theology and the social sciences (psychology, education, sociology, anthropology).
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Virginia Lee
Garrett-Evangelical provides a unique space to discern and interpret one's call, the coursework necessary to prepare for a variety of ministries, and the companionship necessary to sustain one on the journey. - Dr. Virginia Lee

Commitment to Academic Excellence

With a rich history of scholarship, a strong reputation for teaching, and access to world-class academic resources, Garrett-Evangelical is committed to excellence throughout its PhD program.

  • Substantial scholarship resources
  • Emphasis on pedagogical theories and methods
  • Opportunities for developing skills as teachers and scholars through serving as research and teaching assistants and developing a teaching portfolio
  • Home to one of the top ten theological libraries in the nation
  • Connected to faculty and libraries at the largest concentration of seminaries in the United States as part of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools
  • Partnership with Northwestern University libraries and faculty
  • Exceptional record of placing students in teaching positions at colleges and seminaries as well as leadership roles in the church

Renowned Faculty Dedicated to Rigorous Academics and the Practice of Ministry

Our faculty is one of Garrett-Evangelical's greatest assets. They are widely recognized for their expertise, scholarship, and leadership in the Church and academy. They represent most of the major denominations and a variety of theological perspectives. Our faculty members have published hundreds of books and articles, and several hold places of international recognition and preeminence in their fields.

Our faculty in the area of Christian education and congregational studial studies include:

Affording Your Education

100% Tuition Scholarships for all phd students

All students accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy program at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary will receive a 100% tuition scholarship!

About the PhD at Garrett-Evangelical

The PhD program prepares teachers and scholars for seminaries, church-related colleges, universities, denominations, ecumenical agencies, and local congregations. While the program is centered at Garrett-Evangelical, it draws on faculty resources at Northwestern University; the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS), which includes four seminaries with PhD programs; and other approved universities.

Students may specialize in one of six concentrations with an optional focus in African American/Black Religious Studies available in any concentration:

Our graduates leave with a knowledge and mastery of key approaches, scholarly literature, and research methods in their focused area and appropriate cognate studies. They are engaged in practices of research, teaching, and leadership and are theologians and practical theologians contributing to the missions of the Church and the academy.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Founded in 1853, Garrett-Evangelical is a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church with an ecumenical outreach. Faithfully embracing the future, we are committed to preparing skilled, bold and articulate leaders for ministry in the 21st century. On the campus of Northwestern University, upon the shores of Lake Michigan and on the outskirts of Chicago, Garrett-Evangelical is a place to nurture mind, body, and spirit. The seminary serves more than 400 students from many denominations and various backgrounds and its 4,500 living alumni serve church and society around the world.

Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy in Christian Education and Congregational Studies is a 40-credit hour degree that includes:

  • Foundational Courses (7-credit hours)
  • Courses in Area of Concentration (33-credit hours)
  • Research Tools (2)
  • Qualifying Exams (4 written, 1 oral)
  • Dissertation Proposal
  • Dissertation and Defense

Note: PhD students are expected to complete a minimum of 3 semesters on campus at Garrett-Evangelical

PhD Teaching Certificate

The Garrett-Evangelical PhD program offers the opportunity for students earn a PhD teaching certificate. Through teaching seminars and workings, teaching assistant (TA) experiences, and TA case conferences, the PhD teaching certificate program equips PhD students to:

  • Be reflective practitioners in the scholarship and practice of teaching
  • Become a partner with other students in reflecting on and supporting colleagues as teachers
  • Reflect critically on teaching philosophies and practices
  • Foster relationships that will support and sustain participants over the year of the workshop and beyond
  • Fashion unique identities as teachers
  • Understand and navigate institutional cultures
  • Prepare a teaching portfolio in anticipation of future employment in college or theological school


Graduates of this program will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced knowledge of broad areas of their respective disciplines—primary sources, secondary sources, methods, and intellectual foundations
  2. Demonstrate the ability to plan and conduct research and make contributions to their field
  3. Develop research skills to carry into their future work as scholars
  4. Demonstrate skills in oral and written communication to present and publish work in their field
  5. Demonstrate competence in teaching their discipline in a designated course on pedagogy and through practical experience as teaching assistants
  6. Demonstrate, through service in academy, church, and seminaries, the value of their discipline to the academy and community at large


Meet Some of Our PhD Students


Meet a Graduate

Dr. Jo Ann Deasy
Director of Institutional Initiatives and Student Research at the Association of Theological Schools

Dr. Jo Ann Deasy received her PhD from Garrett-Evangelical in 2010, with a specialization in Congregational Studies and a minor in Contextual Theology. In 2014, after serving for seven years as Dean of Students and Community Life at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago and for four years as the pastor of Sojourner Covenant Church in Evanston, Dr. Deasy became Director of Institutional Initiatives and Student Research at the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). In this position she has been coordinator for the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers Initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment and carried out under the auspices of ATS. Her work with the initiative focuses on research, education, institutional strategies, and collaboration in addressing the special economic challenges that confront those seeking to enter the ministry fields. Dr. Deasy was drawn to Garrett-Evangelical’s PhD program because of its grounding in church, with some students serving as pastors while pursuing their doctoral work. Her experience in the program “changed the way I do theology and the way I look at the world” by showing how “our practices themselves are inherently theological” and how they “reveal what we believe about God, ourselves, and the world around us.” Dr. Deasy was also deeply impacted by the feminist witness of the “brilliant women” with whom she studied, by the faculty member who “introduced me to the rich history and tradition of leadership in the Black church, and by the teacher who “recognized and named my ability as a theologian.” This shaping, she says, gave her the analytical tools to discern how inequality, privilege, and injustice are embedded in social and institutional systems, intellectual training she has found especially valuable in her current work at ATS on the economics of ministry and in her denominational advocacy for women clergy.


  • PhD Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
  • BS in Civil Engineering, University of California, Berkeley

A Few of Deasy's Publications

“Seven things we’ve learned about today’s theology students: Highlights from the 2015-2016 Entering Student Questionnaire,” Colloquy Online (March 2016).

“Rising student debt: Compare your institutional data to that of your peers,” In Trust Magazine, (Autumn, 2015).

“Father Images and Women Pastors: How Our Implicit Ecclesiologies Function,” in Doing Theology for the Church: Essays in Honor of Klyne Snodgrass, ed. Rebekah A. Eklund and John E. Phelan (Wipf & Stock, 2014).

“Women Leaders in Evangelical Congregations,” in Religious Leadership: A Reference Handbook, ed.  Sharon Callahan (Sage Publications, 2013).

“Reframing the Issue: Women’s Ordination in the Evangelical Covenant Church,” in The Covenant Quarterly (May 2009).

Admission Requirements

  • Masters degree in religious or theological studies from an accredited college or university
  • Proficiency in the English language

Admission Process

Detailed information for the application requirements and process can be found here.

In response to COVID-19 pandemic, PhD applications WILL NOT require GRE scores for those applying during the 2021-2022 academic year. The TOEFL test will still be required for students who have not completed a previous degree in English. Those who are unable to complete the test due to COVID-19 should contact the admissions office for alternative options.

PhD applications are due by January 20. The admissions committee reserves the right to determine in its sole judgment whether an applicant is a suitable candidate for a specific concentration in the PhD program.