Theology and Religious Studies: Leadership

Innovation, pioneering and entrepreneurship in the Christian tradition
Specialization of:Theology & Religious Studies
Title:MA Theology & Religious Studies

All types of organizations require good leadership. Inspiring leadership brings people together and finds new and fruitful ways to move ahead. Societies benefit from humane and servant leadership. Religious traditions provide us with wisdom that can be used to guide and inform the ongoing processes of change and innovation in (religious) organizations. The Leadership specialization focuses on leadership issues in organizations and movements, especially (but not exclusively) within the Christian tradition.

Both religious and secular insights will be used. The focus is on existing communities (e.g. churches), pioneer projects (e.g. church planting) and religious entrepreneurship (non-profit and commercial). We want to explore how we can develop leadership into a fruitful instrument that serves communities and projects to grow into credible and contextualized expressions of their (religious) traditions. The Leadership specialization is meant for those who wish to deepen their insight into the academic theory behind leadership in a practice-oriented way.

Staff in the core modules: dr. Erik de Jongh, prof. dr. Stefan Paas, prof. dr. Joke van Saane, dr. Sake Stoppels (coordinator).

In March 2017 the Theological faculty was ranked nr 7 in the world by the QS World University Rankingsempty

The program grants a deepening of knowledge and insights into the field of value-based religious leadership and the psychological and community aspects that go along with it. The specialization Leadership consists mainly of two courses (Leadership I and II), an internship, and the writing of a Master's thesis, supported by some other courses, such as Research Skills, Hermeneutics, and an elective. 

In Leadership I the focus is laid on the person of the leader as a balanced self, that is: in accordance with his/her own (spiritual) life and the community he or she serves. Using contemporary psychological models of leadership and practical theological models of community building and working on change and renewal, critical reflections will be done on case materials. The student describes his/her own leadership profile, interviews a leader of his or her own choice, and analyzes an ego-document of a leader. 
Staff: prof. dr. Joke van Saane, dr. Sake Stoppels 

Leadership 2 will concentrate especially on pioneering religious communities and initiatives that are looking for new ways to impact their environments. This search for new missionary opportunities happens both as a grassroots’ movement, usually through inspired individuals and groups, and as top-down movements, usually through the initiatives of ecclesial bureaucracies. In this developing field, a religious ‘free market’ develops, concurring with new types of religious leadership both inside and outside religious institutional structures. 
Staff: dr. Erik de Jongh, prof. dr. Stefan Paas 

In the module on hermeneutics you will be taught philosophical hermeneutics, which is one of pillars in the methodology of theology and religious studies. ‘Research Skills’ will deepen your understanding of methodology. In this course you will also be trained in the philosophy of science, argumentation, and you will write your thesis proposal. Directly after ‘Research Skills’ you will start writing your thesis and do your internship at the same time. This can be an internship in an organization but you can also do a research internship within the faculty of theology itself. The ‘master seminar’ is an integral part of the whole second semester. During your internship and writing your thesis, you will be coached and supervised within the ‘master seminar’.

More information

Theology & Religious Studies: Leadership courses in the study guide.

In any field of keen human interest skillful leadership is crucial. Therefore career prospects envisaged are broad: positions of responsibility and entrepreneurship in societal organizations and movements, in politics, in schooling and education, in non-profit organizations, in Churches and other Christian organizations, and in the world of business.

PhD opportunities 
Students are encouraged to do advanced studies and research in the field of Leadership. PhD proposals are welcome.

With its Leadership programme VU Amsterdam offers a unique trajectories in Academic Leadership which involve extensive reflection on human values, psycho hygiene, and spiritual formation.

The outstanding match of teachers brings a unique blend of expertise to the lectures. Prof. dr Joke van Saane is a highly respected psychologist and lecturer, and has published several books and articles on issues of leadership. Dr Sake Stoppels is an esteemed theologian and also trained in social sciences and has written extensively about church renewal. Dr Erik de Jongh is a widely recognized specialist on spiritual formation and human organization. Prof. dr Stefan Paas, theologian, is an internationally recognized expert on church planting and church renewal. All four combine their work with broad exposure and a vast network. 

The Faculty 
The Faculty of Theology of VU Amsterdam consists of excellent scholars with international reputations and connections in all the major fields of theology. You will be exposed to the best that scholarship has to offer. The research conducted here is of a high academic level, and seeks to closely interact with societal issues and interests. Our faculty has strong partnerships with various societal organisations and initiatives. The Graduate School of Theology and Religious Studies offers courses for (prospective) PhD students and functions as a platform for interaction between junior and senior scholars.

Dialogue and diversity 
VU Amsterdam is located in the Netherlands and has deep bonds with the Reformed Protestant tradition. In recent years, however, the student body has increasingly become interdenominational, international and interreligious. Your education will be enriched by fellow students who come from various denominations, from Pentecostal to Mennonite to Islamic to Evangelical to Buddhist. Students from other countries bring new and different perspectives on life and faith. You will learn to think about the meaning of your faith for your time and place in dialogue with others. You will discuss religious phenomena and ideas from several disciplinary perspectives, in conversation with students and teachers from various disciplinary backgrounds.

The Faculty of Theology is housed in a modern building in Amsterdam with a first-rate theological library on site. The building is equipped with the latest technology and study facilities. As a student you will have access to these facilities.

Since its founding in 1880 by the statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper VU Amsterdam has been committed to first-rate scholarship and learning combined with utmost respect for faith traditions and theological points of view. You will become part of this great tradition.

Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities of the world and the cultural capital of the Netherlands. You will be able to live in Amsterdam and to benefit from all it has to offer. For students in theology or religious studies, Amsterdam is a perfect context to study, because of the multi-religious identity of the city.

Overview Theology & Religious Studies: Leadership

Language of instruction



1 year (full-time) / 2 years (part-time)

Tuition fee

Application deadline

15 July for Dutch students. 1 April for EU and non-EU students. EU students with an international degree who do not need housing services through VU Amsterdam can still apply until 1 June.

Start date

1 September

Study type

Part-time, Full-time


Specialization of Theology & Religious Studies (1 year)

Field of Interest

Religion and Philosophy

More information:
Information days

Dutch students

Students holding a Bachelor’s degree from a Dutch University (WO) are directly eligible for admittance in this Master’s programme.

Students with a suitable HBO degree can apply for a premaster’s programme (this programme is taught in Dutch). Our Admission Board will have to approve your request for admission. 

You need to apply before July 15 in Studielink. The registration has to be completed before August 31.

Coordinator of the Leadership master's programme specialization 
Dr. S. Stoppels 

VU Public Relations Office 
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 598 5000 (Monday - Friday, 9:00 to 17:00). You may also e-mail us at:

International students

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. 

Specific admission requirements for the Master’s Programme Theology and Religious Studies, specialization in Leadership 

Students with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology or Religious Studies from a university abroad will only be admitted following an assessment of their degree by the admissions board. Students with Bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines are also welcome to apply, provided that the degree obtained is from a research-oriented university. Before the start of the academic year the student needs to have an intake with the coordinator of the specialization. The aim of this intake is to discuss possible deficiency in theological knowledge of the student. 

You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. Only students who have completed a full high school or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. We require a TOEFL score (score 580 paper based, score 237 computer based or score 92 internet based) or an IELTS score of 6.5 overall band score. Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C. 

Please refer to the language requirement page for the general requirements regarding the English language test.

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.    

Step 1: Meet admission criteria 

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online 
Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English. 

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents) 
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcript of records 
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education 
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education. 

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via e-mail. 

Step 3: Await decision on admission 
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam! 

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam! 
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation what to do after admission. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam! 

Further information about; 
Tuition fees

As an international student planning to study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, you can apply for a variety of grants and bursaries. 

Detailed information about scholarships and deadlines can be found on or


Additional Scholarship offered by the faculty

Mijntje Pruissen Scholarship

Mijntje Pruissen Scholarship is a Merit scholarship programme for strongly motivated international students with excellent study results. Eligible candidates must be able to prove their academic excellence, and they must be admitted to the Master’s programme in Theology and Religious Studies (all specializations, and both the one- and the two-year Master’s programme). This concerns English taught Master’s programmes only.

Students eligible for this scholarship are students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who are applying for an English taught Master’s programme in Theology and Religious Studies at the Faculty of Theology. Students with the Dutch nationality and/or a Dutch degree (if the Dutch degree is used for admission) are not eligible for admission.

The scholarship amounts to € 5,000. Application deadline: 1 April 2017

For more information or questions about the procedure please send an e-mail to:

Mr. Stipo Jelec

Coordinator of the Leadership master's programme specialization 
Dr. S. Stoppels 

For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office: 

Stipo Jeleč          
Tel + 31 (0)20 598 8920 

VU Public Relations Office 
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 598 5000 (Monday - Friday, 9:00 to 17:00). You may also e-mail us at: