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Donald Marvin Joy

By Chris Kiesling


Donald M. Joy (b. 1928): Professor at Asbury Theological Seminary; taught in the areas of human development, moral development and family studies since February 1971; formerly, Executive Editor of Curriculum Publications for the Free Methodist Publishing House from 1958-1973. Author, mentor, educator, pastor, healer, evangelist, father, husband, Joy is widely known for his profound understanding of the processes, systems, and interacting domains of human growth and development in the context of faith. The mentoring he has given to three generations of young men and women, the years of curriculum he developed that now lives in the hearts and minds of parishioners, and the pattern of high fidelity in ministry and moral decision making that he demonstrated and promoted are central threads in the tapestry he continues to weave.


Early Life, Education and Marriage

Donald Marvin Joy, son of Marvin Earle and Marie Royer Joy, was pulled into the world by the forceps of Doc Adams on August 20, 1928 in the bedroom of his grandparent’s homestead, 22 miles southwest of Dodge City in Gray County, Kansas. A difficult delivery that revealed a serious heart leakage in his mother, Joy weighed beyond eight pounds and wore red bruises of a forceps delivery during infancy. Although his father was called in from the tractor and was present at his birth, it was his grandmother Joy and his aunt Ruth, his mother’s sister, who first held and cared for him. Studying the mysteries of birth bonding later in his career, Joy came to regard this initial contact as explanatory of how he became the one out of twenty-two grandchildren to have a special, mutual affinity with his grandmother, and how his aunt would be the kinship tie for which he would drop everything to fly to Denver to attend her funeral. Where other children in the family distanced themselves from grandma Joy’s emotional irregularities - behaviors associated with depression and lucid moments of walking the aisles of the church as a “shouting Methodist” - these early experiences of attachment seemed to insulate him from any aversion to her struggles with depression.

Pilgrimage begins at Conception

Within seven days after his birth Joy was in the Cave Community Free Methodist Church (FMC), named because most of the residents, including Joy’s grandparents, had lived first in dugout borrows on the wind-protected side of a bank to temper the effects of sub-zero winter storms. The church had been established when grandma Carrie Hulet Joy virtually single-handedly organized a school house revival and brought to the community a Kentucky Methodist evangelist. Grandpa Charles Wesley Joy was converted in that meeting and gave up chewing tobacco, despite the fact that the evangelist himself chewed, much to the chagrin of Grandma Joy.

At about four or five years of age, Joy had what he remembers as an early experience of the “numinous” - sensing something or Someone outside and larger than this present world. A significant memory is of his finding a fallen “star” - a bright metal object with five points. The reality of this being a childhood memory is evident when Joy tells how he remembered that the star would rest three dimensionally on three of the points, a physical impossibility in reality. Young Joy became convinced that it was a fallen star and tried repeatedly to throw it high in the air to put it back in place. Recalling the story with amusement, Joy realizes how dangerous such an effort must have been with a heavy metal object, perhaps a tractor lug nut. Yet, he still recalls the very place along a country road where he lost it in a road ditch overgrown with high weeds. Although not yet a devotional conversation with personal deity, Joy’s precocious acceptance of responsibility for helping the Other manage the magnificent starry skies over rural Kansas forms a seamless sense of vocation, impressed by an early feeling of awe for the numinous. He would later find resonance with the Old Testament prophets who likewise were called from the land and the soil of agricultural settings. Indeed, Joy’s writing and ministry are marked by a high respect for Creation and a passion to mend a broken universe, especially broken people who have lost their way.

The predominant influences of Grandma Joy and Aunt Ruth continued throughout Joy’s childhood. Grandma Joy was his first Sunday school teacher and as her grandson he had sole right to her lap and privileged access to the gum in her purse. On occasion she would call Joy, “her little preacher boy.” The Sunday School Providence lithograph teaching pictures, with the matching small pictures for each child to take home, were produced by editorial staff that Joy would eventually join as a colleague. Although friendship networks extended in these formative years to school, it was largely church friends, several of whom were cousins, with whom Joy and his family shared Sunday afternoon meals. Skinny-dipping at the Herbert Zortman reservoir, and having run of the rattlesnake infested farms provided ample exploration and entertainment through the difficult, poverty-stricken, dust bowl years of Western Kansas. Aunt Ruth would serve as Joy’s first spiritual mentor toward whom he could direct his early, serious theological questions. Cousin Rex Hoffman, Aunt Ruth’s son, also figured prominently in his development as a peer with whom he could “share everything.” This connection to family also exposed Joy to the paradoxical figure of Rex’s father: a man who could tenderly teach adult Sunday School and pray with fervency at church, while raging at his children and dispensing physical beatings and verbal abuse toward Rex and his older brother when at home. The contrasting images baffled Joy and generated what became a lifelong quest for integrity, closing the gap between “what is, and what is supposed to be.” A piece of art craft created by Mrs. Schmidt, Joy’s Sunday school teacher as he hit his teens, gave him a life target he still embraces. The framed, hand-painted, foil-backed, black text said powerfully, “God first” and still sits on display in Joy’s personal library.

Markings on the wall chart in his eighth grade classroom document Joy’s rapid growth in height and weight as he was hitting pubescence. That year he began to shave every day and grew an inch a month for all nine months of the school year, making him the tallest boy in a class of twenty peers. His sense of responsibility and love of work were made habitual through the daily sharing of farm chores with his father. Together they would milk 16-20 cows both morning and night in a four-cow milking barn. Joy’s father, highly extroverted, would talk and sing much of the time they worked together, giving the more introverted son much to mull over. Joy recalled one particularly salient conversation offered to him at age thirteen. Wearing his denim farm cap, his head buried in the flank of a Jersey cow pulling milk, Joy heard his father open up the subject of his origination; “Donny, did I ever tell you about the day you were conceived?” Breathless, but eager to offer a carte blanche freedom to see where his father wanted to go, he said, “No, I’m sure you never did.” His father disclosed that Joy had been conceived at two o’clock in the afternoon. While shaving the next morning his dad became convinced of the pregnancy upon hearing his wife singing while preparing breakfast. It was the first time she had sung at home or church for three months, marked from the time she lost her first pregnancy. If there was more to the conversation, young “Donny,” the introvert, heard none of it. The realization that he could not have been conceived had his older sibling (who he intuited had been a brother) survived flooded him with two simultaneous emotions. First, there was gratitude and relief simply knowing he was born alive. Second, there was a profound sense of loss and obligation to that “older brother.” Knowing that he was the one given a lease for life and realizing that he “needed to live for the two of us,” Joy expects someday to describe to his brother what it meant to have a life on earth. He still reflects how his father’s early conversation had a remarkably taming effect on his emerging manhood, and everyday since heightens for him the sense that life is precious.

Formation: Opportunity, Responsibility and A Summons to Serve Others

Gladys Zortman was Joy’s Class Leader in that rare Methodist tradition which survived in the Free Methodist Church until 1960. Gladys always affirmed his walk with Jesus and Joy knew and respected her right to ask him questions in the open class Meeting. As he left for college in the fall of 1945 at the age of 17, Gladys presented Joy with a hard-back, brown, silk-covered copy of E. Stanley Jones’ book, The Way. In the front fly leaf she penned the profoundly shaping blessing, “Dear Don: If you are going to be a minister, be a good one. May God bless you.”

Throughout his freshman and sophomore years at Central College Joy would read one page every day from The Way, and then purchased the companion Jones book, The Way to Power and Poise, to study his Junior and Senior years at Greenville College. Joy continued this practice into his marriage often sharing a reading with his wife and expanding it to countless lists of such daily books. The Scriptural concepts Jones’ presented were formative in Joy’s fearless search for theological meaning of God’s activity in the created world.

During his eighth and ninth grade years in Fowler schools, Joy played basketball, and enjoyed his band and orchestra experiences so much that he fantasized having, as his director did, his own dance band. Grandma Joy however had reduced the issue to a formula: “A praying knee does not grow on the same limb with a dancing foot.”

Shortly after a personal surrender of his life to God at age sixteen, Joy found himself, as he often did, serving as the impromptu “special music” for a revival in a local church where he and his family were visitors. Standing in the pulpit to sing, Don spotted in the back seat a freshman from his high school with whom he had an acquaintance. Quite certain that he was a victim of religious coercion and likely physical abuse at home, Don grieved for the pain he carried. The young man looked up briefly as Don took his place to sing and then hunched down so that only the crown of his head was visible. The moment was a vocational calling for Joy. “I remember my calling to ministry and its focus that came to me as I was singing that night: the abused and those who otherwise, through no fault of their own, have found faith virtually impossible to embrace. I had not mastered the John Wesley language that understands ‘prevenient grace,’ which suspends responsibility for those incapable of responding to God. I saw myself wanting to be a friend and liberator for such folks.”

Joy’s summons to a holy vocation involved in “reaching out to people in the grasp of trauma or the pain that follows,” would be visible in his advocacy on behalf of the wounded and the disenfranchised. Like his childhood, his calling was deeply connected to the people in the Cave Community Free Methodist Church. It was they who would affirm his call to ministry and issue Joy his first license at age seventeen, setting in motion the process leading to his ordination as “Deacon” at age twenty-two and “Elder” at age twenty-five. The congregation was a vibrant example of true community and taught Joy about the “connectional church.” Joy recalls a salient conversation his parents had with the Class Leader regarding the potential academic failure of one of their young men preparing for ministry at Central College. It was Gladys Zortman who said, “We were the ones who gave him his first license…if he fails, then the responsibility falls back on us, because we voted to approve him for ministry and gave him his first license.” Joy reflects with pleasure the life-long effective ministry service of that improbable and poverty-trapped young college student and the echo of Gladys Zortman’s concern as he too accepted his first license and set off for a vocation in ministry.

This small congregation distributed responsibility widely. They held five consecutive Sunday school classes simultaneously in the sanctuary separated by cloth curtains suspended by three sets of tension wires that would then be opened for worship. Thus, Joy progressed from the preschool class of the left front corner of the chancel, through the grade school class in the choir row behind the pulpit, then to the teenage class in the right rear section of the sanctuary. He discovered that he could tune in to the other class teachers like “cable TV theological school” from any corner of the sanctuary, spurring him with the wisdom of important dialogue. Often the dialogues would spill over to the Sunday evening Young People’s Missionary Society (YPMS), – the youth organization that spanned the age-range from twelve through age thirty-five avoiding “adolescent isolation” in the community. Using Roberts Rules of Order, YPMS created highly vocal debate on programs, special events, or conventions. The youth held their own service on Sunday evenings and thus by age twelve sponsored teens up front reading Scripture, singing, offering devotional encouragement to other youth, etc. Joy held elected offices in his local group and by his junior year was president of the YPMS West Kansas Conference. However, World War II was in progress that year and Joy witness the immediate induction of his friends who turned eighteen. Joy too applied for acceptance via the navy’s V-12 program that would allow him to move from his junior year immediately into college to complete a year before entering officer training. Thus, YPMS was faced with securing his replacement. Joy suggested another farm boy named “Tom” Griffith, but the nominating committee regarded him as very shy. Joy knew better, recessed the committee, drove thirty miles to where Tom was plowing, walked across the field and recruited the young man for the YPMS presidency. Later, Dr. Claude “Tom” Griffith would become a leading pastor in the denomination, serving with distinction as superintendent of the Great Plains Conference.

Joy thus began Central College a year younger than most freshmen. A special event at the college caused him to write home, seeking advice from his parents regarding what he should do. Avoiding the expense of long-distance phone rates, his mother wrote back: “Your Dad and I have discussed all of this, and we agree that you are there and we are not, so whatever you decide will be the right choice.” Suddenly he felt abandoned, but then realized that his parents trusted him to make choices based on his own knowledge of the issues involved. This “crisis” defined Joy as an adult, and led subsequently to a faith crisis the following spring whereby he discovered that his own commitment to Jesus had to be separate from the community and family faith in one radical dimension: “I needed to personally surrender everything to Jesus.”

This new grasp of personal responsibility and freedom soon expressed itself. Through involvement with the a cappella choir at Central College, Joy became part of a traveling men’s quartet that traveled on weekends with the college president and vice president in fund raising. Further, having been awarded several honors in earlier educational competitions for his writing and dramatic readings, Joy entered an anti-tobacco original oratory contest. His winning address became the front-page feature in the next issue of the sponsoring abstinence newspaper. Shortly thereafter, cousin Rex, without Joy’s consent, circulated a petition that recruited necessary signatures to put Don in the race for student body president. Abused at home, Rex was frequently in trouble on campus and so filled the petition quickly with others in pain and in trouble who Don had befriended. Reminiscing about his political non-career and remembering occasions where he turned down different appeals to become a YPMS regional manager and a college president because they contradicted his own values, Joy notes that “Nothing really visible that I’ve ever been involved with came because I dreamed of or pursued the position. Somebody had to run me down and get my attention. I was tracked down and recruited specifically for my executive career and my Seminary teaching career. I had invested no time dreaming of either.”

The election as student body president dropped a heavy load on Don. While he had been well served by the familial and parochial contexts of Fowler and of the Cave Church, now there were wider and more global events shaping his vocational identity. Embedded in dormitory life in his sophomore year, he lived and breathed with newly returning WWII veterans as well as with younger non-veterans – many with their own versions of pain. Joy’s high respect for the value of persons and his firm conviction that each one of them could rise above trouble, gave form to an innate sense of optimism. Preoccupation with finding a positive path in response to stories of confusion and pain became a hallmark of Joy’s vocational influence. Don recalled a wise saying his college English teacher, Mildred Mihills Owens, wrote every week in the top right hand line of her chalkboard, “What I am to be, I am becoming.” With the campus leadership on his shoulders and facing an overload of course hours, Joy came to grips with his calling and realized that if he was not ‘doing ministry’ right here and right now among people in confusion and pain, he would never take up the vocation. The night of his calling resurfaced: commitment to those who, for irrelevant reasons, have resisted coming to faith in Jesus.

Love, Marriage, and Education

During the spring of 1946, Joy was asked out for a “date” by Robbie Bowles during Saddie Hawkins week at Central College. Don had moved mostly in a mixed group of students who were not dating and Robbie was interested in dating around, so Joy was a suitable Saddie Hawkins date. Having met as freshmen during registration, Don and Robbie were easily aware of each other on campus. After Saddie Hawkins, Robbie continued to date around until being ensnared by an athlete who announced to his basketball teammates that he and Robbie Bowles were going steady. Don heard the rumor, and continued hanging out in the group pattern. Robbie’s tour of dating was suddenly over. When the athlete left school to join the U.S. Marines late in Joy’s freshmen year, he began writing to Don asking for help in getting Robbie to respond to his letters. Ever the advocate, Joy contacted Robbie and found that she never knew she was “going steady” and furthermore never intended to continue the relationship, and was glad he had joined the Marines and left campus. By the time school opened the next fall, Don had written to ask Robbie to a Friday 13th date for the opening of school where he was, as Student Council president, Emcee for the new student reception. Don appreciated the way Robbie presented herself on campus and was thankful for her healthy family experiences reflected especially in her admiration for her own father.

Don and Robbie graduated together at Greenville College with junior college Associate of Arts degrees. With the financial challenges Robbie’s family faced, she dropped out of school for one year to plan and underwrite the bride’s traditional expenses for the wedding. Don went on to Greenville College majoring in philosophy/religion as a foundation for his seminary study. Finding a vacancy again in a traveling singing group, Messengers Quartet, Don continued to be put in places of leadership with platform experiences. On July 15, 1948 Don and Robbie married and sealed what has remained a remarkable comradeship. Don graduated in 1949 and that summer was appointed assistant pastor, and a year later as the pastor, of his home church, Cave Community FMC near Ensign, Kansas. The appointment continued through the summer of 1952, affording Robbie the opportunity to complete her degree and enabling them to save money for the graduate school years. During these years both Don and Robbie also taught at Minneola Grade School on “emergency provisional certificates.” Robbie taught third grade and Don taught public school music directing numerous choral groups through annual operettas, choral and solo competitions - and initiating a basketball program for fifth and sixth grade boys. Don picked up Conference responsibilities again for the West Kansas Conference YPMS, and with a neighboring Conference secured property to establish the “Glory Haven Youth Camp.” For three years Don chaired the planning sessions, recruited speakers and counselors, and bought food supplies for nutritious meals. The experience convinced Joy that a full day’s program with abundant teen activity sets the scene for drawing teens to a walk with Jesus.

The fall of 1952 landed them in Wilmore, Kentucky where Don entered Asbury seminary and Robbie began teaching school at Nonesuch, Kentucky. Don was recruited to fill a vacancy with The King’s Men quartet, a professional-quality group that sang unaccompanied and without printed music. Weekend speaking and singing engagements with the quartet expanded Don’s exposure to religious traditions and he found himself at home in diverse settings far from his rural roots on the plains of Kansas. With Don gone weekends and Robbie teaching, they worried that the child-care available at the time was less than needed for young John. Thus, Don crunched a 90 semester hour program into two academic school years and one summer, graduating with a divinity degree at the age of twenty-five. Dean W.D. Turkington’s, The teaching of Jesus, and Harold Mason’s education courses were especially noteworthy during Don’s Asbury years as solidifying his vocational calling as an “educator.” In spite of the pace, Don discovered that his life experiences in ministry and public school made him eager to wrestle with ministry implications from every lecture and to squeeze wisdom from every assignment, unlike many of his classmates who had been in school every year for most of their lives eager for professors to cancel a class so they could take a break.

Upon graduation, Don transferred to the Texas Conference and was appointed to serve the Rockwall FMC, casting his lot near the turf of Robbie’s extended family in the Dallas area. While serving this appointment and becoming established as effective servant leaders in the congregation and community, Don and Robbie continued their education. Robbie earned a Masters degree in education from East Texas State University in 1957 and Don earned an M.A. in Counseling from Southern Methodist University (1960) where his research thesis addressed “Opinions, Attitudes and Experiences of High School Students in the Free Methodist Church. In 1956, a second son, Michael was born.

Executive Responsibility

In the summer of 1956, Don served as the youth director for the Louisiana Conference, which began the day after the Texas Conference closed at Baytown, Texas. Discovering that Bishop Leslie R. Marston, a Ph.D. in child development, was scheduled to preside in Louisiana during the youth and family conference week, Don offered a ride. In the four-hour journey, Bishop Marston spoke of writing From Age to Age a Living Witness, a new Free Methodist history. In the spontaneous conversation that ensued Joy spilled out some findings he had read recently in his SMU developmental and counseling studies, related to some patterns of Free Methodist social concerns. Two years later, by the summer of 1958 and at the age of thirty, Joy was startled to find himself moving to Winona Lake, Indiana, the world headquarters of his denomination; Bishop Marston had effectively orchestrated his installation as the seventh Executive Editor of Church School Publications for the Free Methodist Publishing House. Recognizing that he now held responsibility for oversight of the teaching tools that that could enrich theological and social ideals of his denomination, Joy saw the need for developing his skills in curriculum development and negotiated an agreement with denominational officials to begin doctoral work upon completion of his master’s thesis. It was 1966 before the challenges of the new office could be tamed enough for Joy to begin this pursuit.

As editor during the turbulent times of the 1960’s, Joy kept abreast of the changing secular culture. He was regularly reading from The Saturday Review and The Chicago Tribune, as well as authors like John Howard Griffith, James Baldwin and John Updike. In a denomination born in 1860 with slavery as a major moral challenge, and with the “Free” language of his denomination denoting their outrage at slavery, Don grew up in the west Kansas Conference with several African-American congregations. The Free Methodist church was often the only church in “freedman’s societies,” villages established following the Civil War across Kansas as former slaves migrated north. Joy still groans remembering that eventually all of the African Americans he sang with and enjoyed during his annual conference camp weeks are now gone. They left as so many other Kansans did, because of the dust bowl years, the Great Depression and the general flight to urban jobs. As an executive, Joy and his editorial staff wrestled with questions of African American survival, with civil rights and the gradual racism developing in their culture and in their denomination. Curriculum and magazines in the early sixties featured stories and studies and articles confronting the conscience of Free Methodists on issues of discrimination against African Americans.

Despite the rigors of executive editing, Don and Robbie continued to follow their special calling and Don’s graduate research interest in youth ministry. They were recruited to accept volunteer co-teacher responsibilities for high school Sunday school classes; a responsibility that soon expanded to evening and weekend responsibilities for the Free Methodist Youth (FMY); a new name for the former YPMS. Soon the Joys were orchestrating Sunday evening events, Wednesday night interactive Bible studies, and directing six youth choirs, including an acoustical praise band and a teen ensemble.

In 1963, the week John F. Kennedy died, C.S. Lewis also died. Joy had just begun reading Screwtape letters when the announcement came regarding the death of Lewis. Joy immediately dropped everything and bought a copy of every Lewis title on the Publishing House store shelf. Having faced his own need to wrestle with the basic tenets of orthodox faith, he found that Miracles displayed an exemplary mind, carving out a faith that had intellectual integrity. Struck by Jesus’ declarations that “I have come that you might have life” and that “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” Joy lived under the overwhelming sense that “Jesus was not afraid of any question I might encounter in the journey.” This conviction allowed him in his executive and academic careers never to be afraid to examine anything; to ask where things came from; to surface unresolved conflicts and admit uncertainties; to seek anchor points and connections in the grand miracles of Creation and Redemption; to suspend judgment until all valid witnesses to truth begin to cohere; and to let truth “stand on its feet and walk” without having to defend it or grow mean protecting it.

By virtue of immersion into the spirit of the sixties, coupled with the resourcing of his educational training in quality Christian colleges, Joy grew troubled by an apparent vacuum of research-based teaching and writing coming from religious doctoral programs. Whereas professors at prestigious seminaries and graduate theological schools, including the Ivy League, might be effective in the classroom, he had met none there are trained there who seemed attentive to current careful research – they were not producing fresh knowledge, fresh examination of issues which matter to God and which throw light on issues which matter in eternity. Joy was restless as he went in search of a place to pursue technical study about “curriculum development,” He ruled out all of the theological graduate programs offering doctoral studies, and found three university programs marked by strong publication and teaching in the field: Columbia in New York, University of Chicago, and Indiana University in Bloomington. Professor Shirley Engle at Indiana looked over Joy’s application for degree study in curriculum and commented on the difficulty of placing a forty year old if he was unemployed and only adding another degree. Discovering that Joy was an executive editor in search of competency, Engle soon became a remarkable mentor and chaired his research and dissertation.

The Research Focuses

In the process of honing the direction for his doctoral research, William Lynch, hand-picked by Joy to serve on his dissertation committee, suggested looking at Jean Piaget’s Moral judgment of thecChild. Joy found in Piaget’s focus on moral reasoning an understanding of humanity that resonated with what he saw in Jesus and that interpreted his own life experiences around a pattern of high fidelity (Cf. Joy’s two chapters in Moral development foundations). Sam Guskin assured Joy that if he could define his research target, he would guarantee a way to quantify the study and verify the findings statistically. Thus, his dissertation research, grounded in Piaget’s findings about the growth opportunity at age ten, plus or minus two years, in moving from objective responsibility to subjective responsibility and from external conscience to internal conscience, explored children’s learning and change in Sunday school classes. The dissertation carried the title “The Effects of Value-Oriented Instruction in the Church and in the Home” and continues to be tracked down by educators as a rare replication of a piece of Jean Piaget’s informal research in Switzerland in the 1930’s. Joy completed his degree in 1969 centering on curriculum development with minors in Educational Psychology and English Linguistics. Immediately spinning out of his research base came a lay training manual entitled Meaningful learning in the church. That manual was the introductory field text for the Aldersgate group of denominations just as the Aldersgate Graded Curriculum went into their congregations. Joy served as general chair of the project and served ex-officio on all age level committees, typically investing as many as 52 days each year in conferences with editorial and writer teams.

Joy’s tenure as executive editor for the Free Methodist Church curriculum ministries extended from 1958 to 1973. During this time he would design and facilitate denominational planning for the Aldersgate Graded Curriculum serving seven different denominations. At the Free Methodist Publishing House alone he would supervise as many as 32 quarterly, monthly and weekly publications; and his name and values would become widely recognized in circles across the nation and around the world. Writing about the history and future of the Free Methodists, Dr. David McKenna named this period of educational vitality within the denomination as the “the era of curriculum development.” McKenna cites Joy and the editorial team as providing formative leadership among the Aldersgate partner denominations. McKenna also cites the peak years of Aldersgate curriculum investment as evidence of the denomination owning the conviction that the Great Commission includes the educational imperative: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…(Matthew 28:19).

Seminary Professor as Calling?

In December 1970, Joy took a phone call from Dr. Frank Bateman Stanger, president at Asbury. He reported that Christian Education professor Dr. Paul Wood had suddenly died following surgery over the holiday and asked if Joy could provide weekly instruction every Monday night and Tuesday morning for a semester in order to allow students the necessary classes to graduate. Joy recalls Stanger’s confidence in him, believing Joy surely had everything in hand needed – philosophy, history, contemporary movements, ministry with adults, etc. Taking a deep breath and wondering if indeed he had the quantity of information needed to fill four semester time slots, yet realizing that as an educator he would be providing leadership to graduate students focused on getting to the core and substance of those courses, he accepted the challenge.

In May of 1971, as that first semester was ending, Dr. Stanger requested a conference and offered Joy the vacant tenure track position in Christian Education. Having read Don’s excitement every Tuesday night when he got home, Robbie knew long before that if such an invitation came, “we were ‘out of here.’” So Joy accepted the position as “Associate Professor of Christian Education,” a position that became focused on human development, moral development, Christian education and family studies. Joy would expand across those areas for twenty-seven more years.

Joy worked tirelessly to create quality course work, bringing to the classroom experimental learning opportunities including interviewing children as a means of analyzing their moral reasoning. Professor Ted Ward at Michigan State University was applying the research findings of Lawrence Kohlberg who had established the Center for Moral Development at Harvard. Ward invited Joy to a collaborative retreat where MSU doctoral students and Joy, along with students Dennis Wayman and Karl Wolfe, identified challenges to the theoretical foundations of the Harvard based research as well as challenges facing the Christian community which might be served by insights from the overall findings. Subsequently Joy orchestrated three day conferences on the Wilmore campus during January term classes in which top researchers in the field including Ted Ward, Thomas Lickona, Mildred Wynkoop, John Stewart, and several Ward protégés would address the ministry implications of the Piaget and Kohlberg findings pertaining to the innate moral sense with which humans are born. These working conferences, focused in applied Christian nurture and spiritual formation, provided an arena distinctly different than endowed lectureships. The conferences drew registrants from college and university offices of “student development;” many would, in turn, recruit Christian Education graduates from Asbury to their student development and student life staffs.

By the mid seventies, Joy’s students were pressuring him to write. They wanted his insights and findings in articles and books to pass along in their ministries. He had written The Holy Spirit and you as a lay-study guide in 1965, serializes ahead of publication in Light and Life Evangel. Then Meaningful learning in the church followed in 1969, again as a local church and U.S. military chapel training text – a by-product of his doctoral studies. Joy wrote one entire manuscript while on a spring sabbatical in 1978. Joy would write several hours every day and teach a weekly, intergenerational family bible studies at First United Methodist Church in Arlington, Texas. The book was originally called Basic life intimacies offering a positive alternative to a popular youth “conflicts” movement. Both Word and Abingdon rejected it, and Joy himself came to regard it as “pure academic mud.” In the early eighties he revisited it with a view to editing the manuscript, but after a few days gave up, and started over. This time he wrote no more than ninety minutes every morning while in the grasp of daily teaching responsibilities and while meeting with brown bag cohorts of students. Working with people every day, Joy found his stride at writing clearly and produced Bonding: Relationships in the image of God, his most widely circulated book. By 1983, Joy was publishing prolifically, sometimes writing two books in a single calendar year.

As Joy’s teaching career was starting at Asbury, he realized an urgency to establish contact with other professors at work in the same field and so responded to routine invitations to register for annual NAPCE and APRE conferences. In his first experiences, Joy found NAPCE encouraging, with a relaxed schedule including a half-day for recreation, and situated in a suburban hotel; quite a contrast to the tight program of APRE focused on serious challenges in the world and situated in downtown Chicago. But the real difference, Joy mused, is that he was so charged with energy – often by uneasiness that APRE agendas were inadequate for meeting the needs they defined so clearly – that the experience created an agenda of issues to address, fueling both his teaching and his writing. It surprised Joy when APRE recruited him to serve as Vice President in 1982-83. Responsible for the program for the fall of 1983, Joy orchestrated the first Sunday morning worship service at APRE. Ted Ward and Thomas Groome were recruited to explore the ‘walk to Emmaus” text in back-to-back homilies, a key illustration in Groome’s praxis model of Christian education. With that convention, Joy ascended to his year of service as President, and delivered the presidential address in Toronto, “Toward a Symbolic Revival: Creation Revisited.” Joy continued putting in occasional appearances at NAPCE especially when Ted Ward began to show up and enrich the programs. In October 1999, NAPCE honored Joy as the “Outstanding Christian Educator of the Year.” Dr. Timothy Kidd, a former student, delivered the citation. Among the banquet participants were many students Joy had mentored in many exposures across the years.

Professor Beyond the Classroom

Joy served in the Ray and Mary Jo West Chair of Christian Education. At age 65 he wrote a memo to his divisional chair asking for complete candor in watching his competency, clarity, and usefulness as he stepped beyond the boundary age for tenure and chair positions. “Do give me the luxury of retiring without the embarrassment of overstaying my time,” he pleaded. So, when facing age 70 in the summer of 1998, he notified Catherine Stonehouse that he would leave the daily classroom at the end of June. He continues his professional post and mentors doctoral students at the seminary. He now finds greater freedom to accept “on the road” invitations and to commit to more time-intensive events. He continues a rigorous speaking itinerary with lectureships in colleges and universities, conferences and consultations for local churches, and other agencies. He continues teaching in the Family Ministry track he helped design years earlier within the Doctor of Ministry degree at Asbury Seminary, and he occasionally teaches graduate inter-net courses via Asbury’s extended learning program. He continues to write and to consult via e-mail with people who track him down and want him to coach them on a range of complicated issues in development and Christian faith.

By 2003, Joy’s books total eighteen. Five have been revised and re-released. He has been a frequent guest on Dr. James Dobson’s radio talk show “Focus on the Family” and has served as consultant to the Office of Adolescence Pregnancy Prevention at the US Department of Health and Human Services. In 1993-94 he worked with the Christian Embassy inside the Pentagon and on Capital Hill where he was a consultant hammering out policies on sexual issues. His work with key military leaders in the Pentagon and his suggestion that they revise the Uniform Code of Military Conduct to call for integrity they applied to all personnel, without designating one sexual preference group, was taken seriously and the conflict then brewing across the services dissipated. With his keen interests in the arts and humanities, Joy also served a full term as director of the Kentucky Humanities Council. He has lectured on more than thirty college and university campuses and conducted numerous training conferences for counseling professionals. Across the decades Joy has served as guest professor at Princeton Seminary, Rosemead School of Theology, Talbot Seminary, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, Wheaton Graduate School, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Indiana Wesleyan University, and at Fuller Seminary in both Pasadena and Phoenix.

With their sons in effective careers and grandchildren well into adulthood and pursuing their own graduate degrees and careers, Don and Robbie can often be found at home with three great grandsons who arrive on all school days to catch their school busses and to return for after-school snacks. Now in 2003, they have celebrated the birth of their first great granddaughter. Joy continues to extend the legacy he so faithfully gave to students to a wide network of graduates, callers, and to fourth generation children bearing the Joy genes and names.

In an interview from which much of this anecdotal material was gleaned, I asked Dr. Joy what his plans were for the future. Citing his temperament type as introverted-intuitive- feeling- judging, he said he has never focused much on the “next step.” He confesses that he prays daily that “God will give me a sense of what I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing, just as I daily fell on my knees in Estes Chapel as I arrived and found myself asking God to ‘help me know why I am here, and what I need to be about.” Joy says that instead of always looking ahead, he tends to go through life as if rowing in a canoe, facing backwards under the peaceful realization, “It has all been good.” In a reflective mood at the end of our interview, he offered a John Greenleaf Whittier stanza from a hymn he grew up singing from the Free Methodist Hymnal. He quotes it often as an affirmation of God’s faithfulness to him throughout his journey:

I know not where [God’s] islands lift their fronded palms in air,
I only know I cannot drift beyond His love and care,
I dimly guess from blessings known of greater out of sight,
And with the chastened Psalmist own, “His judgments all are right!”

Contributions to Christian Education

Thirteen years ago, as a student at Asbury Seminary, navigating my way through the book of Proverbs, I came to chapter 20, verse 5, “…the heart of a man [sic] is deep waters, but a wise man draws it out.” I found in that verse, what has remained for me ever since, an apt description of the living legacy of Donald Marvin Joy. The human heart is indeed “deep waters;” full of moral conundrums, tainted aspirations, disordered affections, fears, hidden grief, and paralyzing shame. Wise is the woman or man who with Christ-like eye can see within those quiet desperations a vestige of the imageo dei, a yearning for love and for meaning; and who with God as his or her Helper can order an exodus to freedom. It is this hallmark of redemptive wisdom that everywhere characterizes Joy’s writing, compels his attentiveness to the lives of people and concentrates his criticisms of ideologies and practices.

In his book Models of religious education, Harold Burgess (1996) classifies Don Joy as a representative theorist of the evangelical/ kerygmatic model of religious education. A contemporary and colleague of Joy, who also taught at Asbury Seminary, Burgess depicts theorists of this prototype as those who: (a) emphasize a divinely ordained message as the essential factor in Christian education; (b) regard the learner as reflecting the image of God yet distorted by sin; and (c) purpose Christian maturity by facilitating an experiential and continuing encounter between a learner and God. Indeed, Joy’s inveterate conviction for value-oriented instruction centered in the “Big Ideas” of Christian faith weaves through the concern of his doctoral work, the curricular designs he fashioned as executive editor, and his culminating vocation as author and professor. Likewise, Jim Wilhoit’s (1991) Christian education and the search for meaning appreciates Joy for his exemplary pedagogical approach to teaching that reflects his [Wilhoit’s] call for an evangelical theory of Biblical instruction. Wilhoit references one of Joy’s earliest books, Meaningful learning in the church as one of the “clearest presentations of the importance of teaching life-encompassing concepts in Christian Education,” (p. 168) especially as it promotes attaching facts to the “Big Ideas” of the nature of God, humankind, sin, salvation, and the world. Locating Joy in the evangelical/kerygmatic tradition rightly acknowledges the determinative aspects that theological considerations exert in Joy’s writings and properly accounts for the redemptive wisdom reflected in his thought. Synthesizing rigorous appropriations from the social sciences with the grand miracles from this evangelical tradition, Joy’s lasting legacy to Christian Education may well be the profundity and depth by which he understands and appropriates the developmental, pedagogical, philosophical and theological implications of Creation, Incarnation and Redemption.

In his understanding of Creation, for example, Joy incorporates a keen understanding of moral development, arriving at the touchstone for much of his instruction. Being created male and female, in the divine image, he regards human beings as indelibly imprinted with the marks of divine justice/righteousness and attachment/love. Relational and aspirational as a result of this design, Joy sees humans as having the capacity to turn these potentialities toward ennobling and enhancing ends or to become corrupted and turn them toward the exploitive or destructive. Social myths abound that far too easily propel one toward the latter, and yet grace makes it always possible to choose a pathway back to good, fidelity, integrity and self-respect.

Further, Joy sees sexual differentiation in Creation reflecting relationship and mutuality within the Trinity, establishing the bonding mystery of “two become one.” From this conviction he derives a working hypothesis that permeates much of his thought and passion. Namely, that every healthy person emerges with a deep hunger to know and be known, to share their secrets with someone who will join them in facing the future. Further, in addressing marital issues Joy opens his own discovery that he and his wife were unwittingly living out a Genesis three ideal of marriage whereby the husband as “benevolent dictator” functions as head of the house, taking care of and “ruling over” a dependent, “submitting” wife whose “desire is for her husband.” Turning instead to Genesis one and two to discover God’s intended meaning for marriage, Joy sees the Creation accounts endowing every human being with sovereignty; head and body to be essentially and mutually linked to each other forming a mystery on the model of the Trinity; and relationships rather than predetermined roles serving as the basis for ordering gender relations.

Drawing again from the best of human science models as they resonate with the truths of the Biblical witness, Joy distinguishes among family systems along the dimensions of mutual respect and distribution of responsibility. Recognizing that the increasingly early onset of pubescence, coupled with culturally sanctioned deferred adulthood, often results in a moratorium of compulsive experimentation and perpetual adolescence; he provides a strategy for “risk-proofing” teens. Again, his response is not drawn from a few representative, flatly interpreted Scriptural texts that yield easy imperatives for prohibitions. Rather, drawing from his deep comprehension of Judeo-Christian systemic hope and historical analysis of sexual patterns within nations, Joy develops strategies for families and congregations that promote self-restraint, exclusive bonding, and meaningful work.

But whereas Joy’s penetrating grasp of the human through the lens of the narrative of Creation contributes much to Christian Education, it would not be complete without linking it to his equally profound appropriation of Jesus, the incarnation, the Holy Spirit and redemption. “The God who created all things good can make all things new in Jesus!” Joy would offer, eager to clear a hopeful pathway through any jungle of moral failure. In fact, in Modern masters of religious education (Mayr, 1983), Joy describes his primary vocational role as that of an “evangelist”- entering into the perceptions people had of their given situation and helping them pry windows open that would lead them to moral integrity and liberation. Joy derived this vocational self-understanding foremost from the prototypical evangel Jesus, but developed it further from his reading of personality theory. Personality theory maintains that every person behaves as they do because of their perception of available choices. Thus, with countless students and adults who entrust their stories to him, Joy revisits scenes of sexual and emotional trauma and through the spin of this perceptual window helps them release what is evil, reclaim their sexuality and the goodness of their created being, and establish a pattern toward hope and high fidelity as a viable option.

Reflecting a similar commitment to finding redemptive patterns for men, Joy advocates for and creates support networks of truth-telling, confidentiality and accountability whereby developing teens and fully-grown men can name childhood pain and loss from a failed connection with their own father. Describing patterns such as the macho façade that feeds an appetite for multiple sexual partners, social exchanges between husbands and wives that lead only to episodic fathering, and social paralysis that disable men from accepting full adult responsibility, Joy locates isolated men, debunks cultural myths that drive them, and reestablishes the value and worthy pursuit of self-restraint, responsibility and integrity.

Throughout his vocation, Joy’s commitment to fidelity and redemption compelled not only aggressive care for individual persons; it also thrust him into challenging abusive and destructive practices and policies of organizations. Joy’s ordination is with the Free Methodist denomination. Offended that clergy and laity alike were being cross-examined about divorce and remarriage issues in a way that violated Jesus’ ways of dealing with divorced people, Joy saw the abuse inherent in the practice and questioned the hermeneutical distortions that supported the misunderstanding. Calling Free Methodist faculty colleagues together, Joy orchestrated a search for biblical foundations dealing with divorce and remarriage. Eventually he drafted a General Conference resolution filed with the Wabash Conference where his clergy membership had been placed upon his arrival at denominational headquarters. He circulated a copy to graduates whose leadership had won them elections as delegates within other Conferences, suggesting that if they concurred that the church needed to clarify its grounding in Scripture in all things, that they also file separate resolutions through their own Conferences. The committees of the General Conference then wrestled with the issue and changed denominational polity, a credit both to Joy’s compassion and fearless willingness to challenge issues even when there is little precedence to do so and the challenge is formidable.

In as much as Joy’s passion for integrity could compel a challenge to his denomination, it could also be turned inward with equal vigor in self-critique. Early in his Asbury career, Joy realized as he graded exams and projects that students he knew “outside of class” got the benefit of the doubt and were awarded points on the confidence that these students knew more than they had expressed. Thus he instituted a policy of blind grading, having students submit assignments with an identification number that allowed for recording a grade and providing a return address via the seminary post office. (It was Joy’s printed policy and practice that all graded work be returned no later than the next class period.) Upon breaking the code to enter the grades in his book, Joy discovered two biases he had no idea he carried. First, the two perfect exams in his class were men with deep regional accents. Joy confessed that had he read their exams with that regional accent in his head, he would have likely found defects in their responses. Second, and more painful to discover, Joy found that using blind grading elevated women’s grades by what looked like a full grade point. Admitting to himself that “I am a dangerous person,” Joy let the experience serve as part of a larger awakening to the plight of women throughout history and everywhere.

Other “turning points” that served as redemptive measures in his teaching career included constantly revising course objectives until they became “one version of the final exam.” Joy thoughtfully structured learning experiences across a semester so they accomplished Jerome Bruner’s belief that “concepts could be experienced in intellectually honest ways within the grasp of the wide variety of learners.” He orchestrated the practice of letting students rewrite parts of the exam they had missed and return them for credit. In so doing Joy asked for two additional student identification numbers indicating that a student would be consulting with two other peers who had won full credit on the items missed. Joy also devised a final page to the syllabus that detailed all the tasks, due dates, and weighted values of assignments followed by appropriate blanks where students could record their grades throughout the semester. That page would be turned in with their final exam, and then returned to the students the Monday following final exams. The sheet not only ensured that grades had been recorded accurately, but also provided immediate semester feedback to the student. Innovative and redemptive teaching methods such as these became the center of faculty workshops that Joy would conduct in conjunction with his appearance as a Staley lecturer at many colleges and universities, the most popular of which has been “The Joy of Grading Students.”

The relevance of Joy’s work, attested to as well by his continuing popularity on speaking circuits and republishing of books in second editions, may also be attributed to the high regard he has for concrete experience as the primary source of any theory or theology. This conviction seems to derive from theoretical persuasion, theological conviction, and from preferred temperament. It becomes clearly evident by connecting Joy’s own biography to the themes that find import in his writing. One revealing example occurs in Modern masters of religious education (Mayr, 1983), whereby Joy was asked to provide an autobiographical account of his professional odyssey. The chapter ends with an apology to the editor for failing to accomplish the task without referencing his personal odyssey, a stipulation in the instructions they had given. Likewise, Joy’s model for education, finding it’s exemplar in Jesus, begins with an insistence that for teaching to become relevant it must first “intersect” with the felt needs of the learner. Indeed, many of the assignments from Joy’s syllabi require students to process their reading and learning through a format whereby theological insight emerges from, interprets, and shapes one’s developmental pilgrimage. Most chapters in Joy’s books begin anecdotally, inviting the reader to reflect on their own experience in the move toward shared reflection, abstract reasoning, and experimentation.

This same penchant for concrete experience served as Joy’s method in mentoring students. During any given semester Joy met with several dozen students clustered in small groups. In those brown bag lunch groups the agenda was simply sharing aspects of one’s developmental pilgrimage, disclosing hidden fears, raising questions that could not be asked without high trust, and finding discernment for one’s vocational dreams. It seems Joy preferred this educational setting more than individualized, therapeutic counseling, though the latter was always available for those who sought his guidance. Mentor groups, however, reflect Joy’s Trinitarian theology, recognizing that people were created for relationship and thus most often find healing and wholeness in community. Telling and revising the narrative of one’s life, surrounded by peers and under the guidance of a mentor, created a dynamic matrix for transformation: stories from one student would trigger parallel experiences in another; students could observe and practice the intentional care of persons, and people were brought to live in wide circles of support and accountability. His book Unfinished business: How a man can make peace with his past (1989), contains in its dedication the names of over two hundred and twenty men who sojourned with him during seminary education through such experiences. When the publisher called for a revision for a new printing, Joy added more than a hundred more names in Men under construction (1993).

Upon arriving in the professorate, Joy inherited classes focused on outdoor recreational ministry. With no syllabus, not even a text list, he designed a July course for an air-conditioned classroom – the usual seminary setting. But after one season, he appealed to the dean to let him re-design a field course. “Í was quite sure that none of my air-conditioned students were going to change the world through Christian camping,” Joy quips. Concrete experience again proved the order of the day as “Joy the practitioner” was meeting “Joy the theorist and professor.” Thus he developed hands-on curricular experiences both for backpacking and cycling. In these classes seminary students served as trail family leaders for groups of teens recruited from surrounding states. Seminarians studied developmental issues of adolescence; prayed together; underwent CPR and first aid certification; planned and designed curriculum; functioned in teams to coordinate food, worship and equipment needs; and then sojourned with teens through an adventuresome hike or cycling tour. Yet, these classes were more than just training in outdoor ministries. Joy had come to recognize the difficulty and confusion many teens face in their journey toward adulthood surrounded by a culture that perpetuates a prolonged and indulgent adolescence. Trail camping and cycling created microcosms of communities centered in mutual respect that could promote much of what was deficient or wounded in a teens’ development. Symbolizing one’s childhood history, entrusting one’s story to a group, and sharing adult responsibility toward group ends worked magically through the process, allowing pain to be revisited and redeemed. By taking on a variety of roles and responsibilities, teens were given status and value in their trail families, moving them toward a hopeful embrace of adulthood. Today, Asbury grads are scattered on several continents carrying forward “trip based” experiences for camping and mission trips, and work camps.

At the conclusion of an interview conducted with Joy for this project, I posed the question of what he would like to see in future generations of Christian educators. His response reaffirmed his passion for redemptive wisdom and the living legacy his life continues to promote. Paraphrasing, he said that he believed there was no alternative to standing within culture and dipping into the best evidence there is regarding how we understand people and culture. At the same time however, it is imperative that one be even more deeply grounded in the revelation of God and Jesus and Scripture. Experience taught him that there are no formulas, but that with steady formation the educator can be adequately ready to address what no one can easily predict. Further, Joy observed that the method of God seems always to be to call people into ministry who bear the marks of their culture, transforming them by the blood of Christ and the grace of Jesus, and then enabling them to speak authoritatively to that culture in which they were wounded. Again, Jesus is the prototype. Joy likes to point to Jesus who appeared after the resurrection to the disciples in the grip of fear. He spoke peace to them, then showed them his wounds in hands and side, and the disciples were overjoyed. The credentials for Jesus’ authority, noted Joy, were the showing of his wounds. He spoke as “one having authority,” because he spoke out of his own life experience as a wounded healer. As Christian educators it is our privilege and stewardship to offer our own wounds as a symbol of our authority.

Works Cited

  • Burgess, H. W. (1996). Models of religious education: Theory and practice in historical and contemporary perspective. Wheaton, IL: Bridgepoint.
  • Mayr, M. (Ed.) (1983). Modern masters of religious education. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
  • McKenna, D. L. (1997). A Future with a hope: The Wesleyan witness of the Free Methodist Church. Indianapolis, IN: Light and Life Communications.
  • Wilhoit, J. (1991). Christian education and the search for meaning (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.



  • Joy, D. (2002). Two become one: God’s blueprint for couples. (With wife Robbie, revision of 1988 title Lovers: What ever happened to Eden?) Nappanee, IN: Evangel Publishing House.
  • Joy, D. (2000). Empower your kids to be adults! A guide for parents, ministers, and other mentors. Nappanee, IN. Evangel Publishing House.
  • Joy, D. and Venable, S. (1998) Transformation through Christian camping: How to use camping experiences in religious education. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • Joy, D. (1995). Risk-proofing your family. Pasadena: US Center for World Mission. (Revision of Parents, kids, and sexual integrity, Word, 1988)
  • Joy, D. (1993). Men under construction. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1993.
  • Joy, D. and Hagar, D. (1993). Women at risk: The real truth about sexually transmitted disease. Anderson: Bristol House, Ltd.
  • Joy, D. (1994). Celebrating the new woman in the family. Bristol House, Ltd.
  • Joy, D. (2001). Becoming a man: A grandfather’s blessing for grandsons. Evangel Publishing House (Originally Regal Books/Gospel Light, 1991)
  • Joy, D. (1989). Unfinished business: How a man can make peace with his past. Victor Books. (Revised as Men Under Construction, 1993).
  • Joy, D. (1988). Walk on! Life as pilgrimage.
  • Joy, D. (1988). Parents, kids and sexual integrity. Word, Inc. (revised as Risk-proofing your family, U.S. Center for World Mission, 1995).
  • Joy, D., with wife Robbie (1987). Lovers: Whatever happened to Eden? Word, Inc.
  • Joy, D. (1996). Re-bonding: Preventing and restoring damaged relationships. (Revised: Nappanee, IN: Evangel Publishing House, 1996).
  • Joy, D. (1996). Bonding: Relationships in the image of God. Nappanee: IN: Evangel Publishing House. (originally Word, Inc., 1985).
  • Joy, D. (1983). Moral development foundations: Judeo-Christian alternatives to Piaget/Kohlberg. Nashville: Abingdon.
  • Joy, D. (1969). Meaningful learning in the Church. Light and Life (revised 1989).
  • Joy, D. (1969). The Holy Spirit and you. Beacon Hill Press (originally Abingdon, 1965).
  • Joy, D . (1962) Palms B. Aldersgate Biblical Series, Light and Life Press.
  • Joy, D. (1957) Genesis: Book of beginning. Bible Quiz Text, Free Methodist Youth. Winona Lake: Christian Youth Supplies.

Video and Audio Tapes

  • Joy, D. (1996a) Beyond adolescence! Hope for teens and families. Phone 800- 2-ASBURY, Office of Continuing Education at Asbury Seminary. (8 video and work sheet sessions).
  • Joy, D. For parents only! Risk-Proofing your kids! Anderson: Bristol House. (Video assisted adult study unit).
  • Joy, D. (1986) Bonding: Human relationships in the image of God. Word, Inc. (six video-tape or six audio sessions)

Journal Articles

  • Joy, D. (1994). Marriage Counseling. Journal of Psychology and Christianity. Vol. 13, No. 2., 143-150.
  • Joy, D. (1985). Toward a Symbolic Revival: Creation Revisited. (Presidential address, Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education, October 26, 1984.) Published first in Religious Education, Vol. 80, No.3, Summer, 1985. Revised and expanded, Asbury Seminarian, Vol. 40, No. 2, Winter.
  • Joy, D. (1985). If I Could Change One Thing … Light and Life, July 18, 18-ff.
  • Joy, D. (1981) Premature Puberty: Advice to Parents. Christianity Today, March 13.
  • Joy, D. (1980). Kohlberg Revisited: An Evangelical Speaks His Mind. Asbury Seminarian, No. 1, 6-17.
  • Joy, D. (1980). Moral Development: Evangelical Perspectives. Religious Education, 75, No. 2, 142-151.
  • Joy, D. (1976). Human Development and Christian Holiness. Asbury Seminarian, 31, No. 2, 5-27.
  • Joy, D. (1978). View from an Empty Nest. The Herald, Asbury Theological Seminary, Vol. 90, No. 6, September-October.
  • Joy, D. (1972) Children, Salvation and Drop Out. Asbury Seminarian, October, 20-35.
  • Joy, D., Gordon, W.M. & Whitesell, P.A. (1970). ImPALLA--A New Approach to Secondary School Language Arts. English Journal, 59, No. 4.

Chapters in Books

  • Joy, D. (2003). Faith of my parents? Reflections on structural developmental strengths of adult missionary kids. In Leslie A. Andrews (ed.), The family in mission: Understanding and caring for those who serve.
  • Joy, D. (1996). Foundational understandings in marriage counseling. In E. Worthington, Jr. (Ed.), Marital counseling: Eight approaches to helping couples. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • Joy, D. (1995). Who’s in charge here? In L. and L. Parrot, Becoming soulmates. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Joy, D. (1995). Development in the Family. In J.C. Wilhoit and J. M. Dettoni (eds.), Nurture that is Christian: Developmental perspectives on Christian education. Colorado Springs: Bridgepoint.
  • Joy, D. (1995). Religious, Moral, and Faith Development of Young Adults. In Harley Atkinson (ed.), Handbook of young adult religious education. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • Joy, D. (1983). The Formation of an Evangelist. In M. Mayr, (Ed.), Modern masters of religious education. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • Joy, D. (1983). Fathers, Theories of Development. In R.S. Taylor (Ed.) Beacon dictionary of theology. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1983.
  • Joy, D. (1983). The Contemporary Church as 'Holy Community.' In Wesleyan perspectives on the church. Andersen: Warner Press.
  • Joy, D. (1974). Response to a Theology of War and Peace as Related to Perfect Love--A Case for Non-Participation in War. In P.H. Hostettler (Ed.) Perfect love and war. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press.
  • Joy, D. (1965). The Biblical Idea of the Confirming Presence. In K.E. Geiger (ed.), The word and the doctrine. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press.
  • Joy, D. (1975). Why Teach Children? In R.E. Clark and R.B. Zuck (eds.) Childhood education in the church. Chicago: Moody Press. (revised 1986).
  • Joy, D. (1978). Adolescents in Psycho-Social Perspective. In R.B. Zuck and W.S. Benson. Youth education in the church. Chicago: Moody Press. 91-106.
  • Joy, D. (1977). A Christian View of Death and Dying and Living and Growing in Christ. In L.H. Knox (Ed.) (??) Winona Lake: Light and Life Press.
  • Joy, D. (1965). Adolescence. Celibacy. Pubescence. Entries in Baker's encyclopedia of psychology, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
  • Joy, D. (1985). Some Critical Adaptations for Judeo-Christian Communities. In Sohan and Celia Modgil, Lawrence Kohlberg consensus and con-troversy, Sussex, UK: Falmer Press Limited.
  • Joy, D. (1965). Some Biblical Foundations and Metaphors of Vocational Ideals in the Wesleyan Tradition. In T. Runyon's (ed.) Wesleyan theology today: A bicentennial theological consultation, Nashville: Kingswood Books.
  • Joy, D. (1960). Boy Meets Girl. In Fellowship Times. The Graded Press, Spring, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Joy, D. (1960). Who’s Boss? In Fellowship Times, The Graded Press, Nashville, Tennessee, Summer.
  • Joy, D. (1978). Will Our Children Become Human? In Arnold’s commentary, Light and Life Press, 1978-79.

Book Reviews of Books by Donald M. Joy

  • Daniel, E. (1988). [Review of the book Parents, kids, and sexual integrity]. Religious Education, 83, Fall, 630-632.
  • McGuire, R. (1989). [Review of the book Bonding: Relationships in the image of God]. Religious Education, 84, Summer 89, 468-469.
  • Miller, D. (1989). [Review of the book Parents, Kids, and Sexual Integrity]. Fundamentalist Journal, 8, no 6, June, 42.
  • Rubingh, E. (1986). [Review of the book Bonding]. Calvin Theological Journal, 21, no 1, April, 117-119.
  • Steward, D. (1986). [Review of the book Bonding]. Religious Education, 81, no 2, Spring, 91-92.
  • Wilson. J. (1993). [Review of the book Men under construction]. Christianity Today, 37, April 26, 38-40.

Excerpts from Publications

Joy, Donald M. (Ed.) (1983). Moral development foundations: Judeo-Christian alternatives to Piaget/Kohlberg. Nashville: Abingdon Press. (pp. 23-24)

“It requires little imagination to observe that there are centripetal patterns in human perspectives which move from fear toward love. That adventure tends to follow step by step from taboos to laws to principles rooted in values. What is more, the pilgrimage that leads from infancy to maturing is met by the inward-rushing centrifugal revelation by which love seeks to incarnate Logos into principle, willingly being transposed down a key into law, or even into the gross terror of mere taboo. In Christian theology, the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is explicitly such an adventure of reverse transformation, calculated to find all humans in the even the most desperate conditions and to bring them back again to the intended design for meaningful existence… So we can trace the rising aspirations of humans for better, more adequate structures, their rushing toward meaning and love. And we can contemplate the probability that it is the intrinsic image of God’s appetite for love and justice that we are observing. The Judeo-Christian understanding, then, of God who is both transcendent and immanent, and whose character is righteousness and steadfast love, is calling us into intimate and holy community constructed around that divine character. …Hence, life is pilgrimage.”

Joy, Donald M. (2000). Empower your kids to be adults: A guide for parents, ministers, and other mentors. Napanee, Indiana: Evangel (pp. xv-xvi).

“It is clear that our young deserve the full attention of parents, ministers, and other mentors. Not every “village can raise a child,” especially if the village is sick and lacks appropriate commitment to the vitality and maturing of its young. But it is true that families deserve support communities of faith and nurture to join them in the challenge of launching kids in a world that has essentially sold its children to the slavery of perpetual adolescence.”

Joy, Donald M. (2002). Two become one: God’s blueprint for couples.. Napanee, Indiana: Evangel ( pp. 49, 50, 73, 115, 116).

“A benevolent monarchy is the most efficient and generous arrangement in any human society. The recipients have little responsibility but large reward, depending on the fortunes of the king and on his wisdom in judgments affecting their wealth and comfort… But the vertical marriage works well primarily because it matches the fallen configuration of man’s and woman’s personality structure and instinctual aspirations….It matches our symbiotic deformities and we feel “normal” together.Clearly, what is not necessarily what ought to be. In Eden, the miracle of “two become one” denoted forever the ideal of full complementarity…the physiological metaphor …is the continuous concept of Creation, Jesus, and St. Paul…. Here we confront a basic principle that undergirds the Creation gift of our mutually dependent sexuality and that must also form the foundation of our continuing relationship in marriage:…whole persons form mutually interdependent relationships with those whose gifts differ from their own.”

Joy, Donald M. (1988). Parents, kids, and sexual integrity: Equipping your child for healthy relationships. Waco: Word ( p. xiii).

“Because our sexuality is at the center of personality, it is also the “first morality.” Thus everything having to do with sexual feelings and behavior is colored either with the ecstasy of “ultimate good” or with the tragedy of “ultimate evil.” Simultaneously, this mysterious gift is the source of (1) personal identity, (2) pleasure, (3) reproduction, and (4) the glue of pair-bonding by which two people are almost literally laminated into one body, one mind, one energy, and one vision.”


Joy, D. (2000). Empower your kids to be adults! A guide for parents, ministers, and other mentors. Nappanee, IN. Evangel Publishing House.

This book is directed toward parents and other mentors seeking effective strategies for guiding young people out of the epidemic of “perpetual adolescence” into desired adulthood. Especially helpful is a comparison of how culture exploits teens’ innate yearnings for status, value and role and how faith communities can create redemptive rites of passage as alternatives.

Joy, D. (1993). Men under construction. Victor Books.

A book that both men and women would find helpful in understanding the mystery of what being born and growing up male means. At critical points across the lifespan Joy describes typical problems men encounter and suggests healing agendas for recovery and integrity.

Joy, D. (1996). Re-bonding: Preventing and restoring damaged relationships. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Publishing House.

Joy’s best-selling book, Bonding: Relationships in the image of God, focused on intimacy reflective of creation design. In this book Joy addresses fornication, adultery and/or divorce by providing a theological understanding of each and providing distinct strategies toward wholeness and hopeful recovery.

Joy, D. (1989). Meaningful learning in the church. Light and Life.

A book of encouragement and instruction for those eager to share the “grand ideas” of the Christian faith in ways made meaningful through attentiveness to the ways people learn. Important concepts include: person focused teaching, clustering facts to teach concepts, chaining, and developing a living curriculum.

Joy, D. (2002). Two become one: God’s blueprint for couples. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Publishing House.

In this text, a revision of their earlier and best-selling book Bonding: Relationships in the image of God, Don and Robbie Joy trace their own journey from a traditional, hierarchical pattern of marriage to one of mutual equality. The book treats directly various misrepresentations of texts that have been used to support marriage as a benevolent monarchy and establishes instead relationships built from the creation gift of sovereignty.

Other Sources

Archival information is held at Asbury Theological Seminary. Donald M. Joy can be contacted at

Author Information

Chris Kiesling

Chris Kiesling (Ph.D., Texas Tech University) is Associate Professor of Human Development and Christian Discipleship at Asbury Theological Seminary where he teaches courses related to human development, family issues, campus ministry, teaching, and camping. He has a M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary.