Rev. Joe D. Elenbaas

Class of 1972
Career Pathway: Human Services


Joe Elenbaas

Joe Elenbaas - GHS

Joe attended Central Michigan University and Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, earning a bachelor of arts degree in history and theology in 1978. From 1980 to 1984, he attended Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, where he graduated with a master of divinity degree with an emphasis in New Testament Greek and Classical Studies. After he graduated from the seminary and was ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church, Rev. Elenbaas and his family moved to the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area, where he served churches as a senior pastor for 16 years.

Rev. Elenbaas is a 1983 graduate of High Road Wilderness Leadership School in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. And, while in the pastoral ministry, he led numerous wilderness adventures that included backpacking, canoeing and teaching survival skills to youths and adults. Also, during this time he received advanced training as a humanitarian mission teamwork trainer, program developer and trip leader. He organized and led more than 25 trips for adults and high school students to locations throughout the world, including Haiti, Mexico, Africa, Cuba, the Appalachians, inner-city Los Angeles and China. His groups undertook projects such as the creation of community development programs, clean water projects, soccer and sports clinics for youths, literacy and hybrid crop management. He also led trips and traveled to India, Nepal, Greece and Turkey with educational research teams to study Hinduism, Buddhism, Ancient Greek mythology and religion and indigenous religions in Papua New Guinea.

In 1994, he completed his doctorate in theology, graduating summa cum laude from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. His dissertation, "Recovery from Shame," explored the spiritual and psychological abuses suffered under toxic shaming theology and methodology in fundamental religions. In 2007, he earned a degree in TESL, Teaching English as a Second Language. From 2008 to 2010, he studied sustainable natural resource management and agro-forestry and the potential for sustainability in developing nations through Oregon State University.

Rev. Elenbaas is currently completing a second doctorate degree in comparative mythology and archetypal psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpenteria, California. He presently is focusing on primitive mythologies and has a keen interest in the emerging relationship between neuroscience and religious-mythic constructs.

He assisted each of the four churches he served during his career with capital fund campaigns and building programs. He is a member of the Summer Institute of Linguistics and of Wycliffe International Associates, which works with indigenous language development. He also served on numerous community boards, including those dealing with domestic abuse prevention, food and housing needs, medical and financial concerns and substance abuse.

In July 2010, after 26 years as a pastor serving local churches, Rev. Elenbaas retired and now teaches part time for Baker College Online in the fields of philosophy and English composition.

Joe and Mary, his wife of 37 years, have two children -- Adam and Heidi. The Elenbaases live on 80 acres near Cadillac and say they love the solitude of northern Michigan. His sister, Dianne (Elenbaas) Broker, also graduated from GHS.

"I consider it a real honor to be nominated by my hometown peers at CASD to be a part of an ongoing legacy of excellence in education and service to the world," said Rev. Elenbaas. "I am a dyed in green and white Viking to the core."