Tuesday, August 09, 2011
data, data everywhere: an emerging picture of an emerging church 10 years on
Babies become toddlers, toddlers head off to school, children become teenagers, teenagers become young adults, who ponder the dilemna of getting a hair cut and a real job.
Ten years ago I did some research on a toddler. More specifically, a group of people, Cityside Baptist Church. With a great tagline – Cityside: thinking allowed; thinking aloud allowed – they were exploring the shape of faith in contemporary culture. They graciously let me join their worship, then survey and interview them (individually and communally.) The research ended up being a major part of my PhD and sparked some ideas which became a book (Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change).
Ten years later you begin to wonder what happened to that toddler. Has time been kind? How has it survived being a teenager?
Again, graciously, they let me return. Again, to join their worship, then survey and interview them (individually and communally). (I think it’s a world first, a (longitudinal) study of an emerging church over time.)
Today I’ve been wading through some of the data. This includes 47 completed survey forms, with 22 questions, that explore the shape of their spirituality. The same questions as I asked 10 years, ago, so this allows some fascinating comparisons, to a time before 9/11 and iPhone’s and fears of global warming. There’s so much information, so much really interesting things to probe and ponder.
Ten years ago, this piece of the data alone became two chapters of 20,000 plus words. So after one day of analysis there are no clear trends.
But an intuitive sense – that this community has changed. And that part of the change is a faith that is more integrated, with a greater depth, that is more willing to express Christian faith in word and deed.
Which is a pretty encouraging thing to say about anyone, whether toddler or teen.