IMER was initiated in 1979 when the 20th century missionary movement in the Dutch Reformed Church had already started to unravel. IMER conducted a comprehensive study on the unfinished task in the 1980’s, from which a variety of other projects followed. However, as the missionary movement of the 20th century phased out, IMER had to redefine its role and its own resource base. Over the past decade or two, the focus on Church planting broadened to include the Church’s responsibility to the whole of life, with faith in Christ at the center. IMER’s role became the developing of resources for a congregation to involve itself in the local community in a meaningful way, and IMER’s name changed to the Centre for Sustainable Communities. This is done in an entrepreneurial way.
Prof Dionne Crafford and Prof JJ (Dons) Kritzinger were Directors of IMER while they were full-time professors at the Department of Science of Religion and Missiology. Dr Attie van Niekerk became a part-time researcher in 1997, and Director and only staff member when Prof Kritzinger retired in 2002. Dr Van Niekerk is also the Director of the Nova Institute, an independent organisation that focuses on improving the quality of life in low-income households. Through this partnership the Centre for Sustainable Communities has been able to expand its capacity and output.