Over the course of the last several weeks, we have both conducted field research for our dissertation work. Between us, our travels have taken across Pennsylvania, as well as to New York and Ohio.
In our last D.Min. update, we announced our topics. Joleen is studying integrated small groups and Randy is studying how leader/communicators shape a missional culture.
We each visited four churches. The first churches we visited were pilots — opportunities to work out the bugs and hone our interview questions. Randy’s plan was to interview the lead pastor at each site plus 2 or 3 other core leaders. Joleen’s plan was to interview a small group leader plus 3 or 4 small group participants at each location. We both developed interview guides using a research method called Appreciative Inquiry (AI) (watch for a post on AI, and its implications for leadership, a little later).
Randy conducted his pilot at Faith UMC (Bellefonte, PA), and Joleen conducted her pilot at First Presbyterian Church (Beaver, PA). Randy chose Faith Church because that’s where his mentor, Doyle Klinger, serves; Doyle is a leader who is shaping a missional culture. Joleen chose First Presbyterian because their pastor, Jeff Arnold, wrote The Big Book on Small Groups, which was central to Joleen’s research.
After our pilot interviews, Joleen traveled to Living Word Community Church (Red Lion, PA), The Bridge (Shillington, PA), and NorthPointe Community Church (Limerick, PA). Randy traveled to Morris UMC (Morris, NY), Bethany UMC (Latrobe, PA), and Ginghamsburg UMC (Tipp City, OH).
We are grateful for the churches who worked with us and made themselves available to us. We plan to spend the next 2-3 weeks analyzing the data we’ve gathered at these sites and writing about what we’ve learned as we enter the last leg of the dissertation-writing journey!