Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Second Advisor

Joseph Kidder

Third Advisor

Loren Dickinson


The college years often represent the time when young people drop out of church. The reasons vary. One of the factors in a decision to abandon church is that college students feel many traditional churches are irrelevant. Conventional methods of pedagogy and communication are typically used. The result is a learning environment that feels stale to many young people.

Some educators are experimenting with new methods of instruction based on advances in learning theories, instructional strategies, and in whole-person learning. The purpose of this study was to consider the Improv Church as a learning environment where these advances in education might be applied in a church. To this end, two research questions shaped the study: (1) What aspects of the Improv Church make it appealing to collegians? (2) In what ways does the theoretical and practical scholarly literature explain the phenomenon of the Improv Church?

Method. The primary method of research used was qualitative. Through surveys, focus groups, interviews, journals, and videotapes of the Improv Church services, the stories of the participants began to emerge. Through triangulation, a confluence of evidence helped to shape a broader story. These data were then enmeshed in the growing body of knowledge from theories of communication, education, and theology.

Results. Much of the theoretical and practical scholarly literature mirrors the experience of participants at the Improv Church. These participants spoke of the positive impact this ministry had made in their lives. In digging deeper for an understanding of why, three themes emerged as reasons for the appeal and success of the Improv Church. These themes include community, humor, and the promise of spiritual growth.

Conclusion. The Improv Church holds a strong appeal to collegians. It is a place that is rich in community, humor, and spirituality. Consequently, this ministry is making an impact in the lives of participants. Theories from theology, communication and education help to inform and explain the phenomenon of this interactive learning environment.

Subject Area

Worship programs--Planning, College students--Religious life, Religious education--Seventh-day Adventists


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