July 25, 2014

Getting Down to Business

It is almost zero hour, and I am behind on my ethnography project for school. I have everything ready to go, I have just not been able to focus on the tasks at hand. I know what I want to do, and I know how I want to do it -- it is just that I have been distracted this week, and I have not wanted to focus on the necessary details. I purposely planned my week -- I had scheduled one task for each day. In theory, I would have completed the following by today:

-Interview transcription
-Field Notes
-Literature Review

I should begin my findings today. However, I am still not finished with my transcription, and while my field notes are pretty much done, I have not completed my Literature review. In a perfect world, I would be panicked right now. I would feel overwhelmed at trying to finish a 25 page research paper in one week. I am feeling squeezed, but I am not panicked -- well -- not yet. I feel confident that between this weekend and all of next week, I will get my paper written.

I am determined to take a BIG BITE out of the elephant today -- since it is now Friday -- and I have exactly one week to complete this project (due by midnight on 8/1). My goal for today is to begin writing my paper, without my transcription work finished. I am bucking the system, Dr. Fraser's system, which said that I had to write my paper in order. I have never written papers in order. I have always started from the end and worked my way back to the beginning. I think (*THINK* in big BOLD words) this is why I have not liked this project. I think it is because I was being forced to write, to process, to examine this research using another person's method. Don't get me wrong, I think my Professors are brilliant. They are published scholars, experts in their field, and they have conducted over 30 years of research. I respect them. I should follow their advice. It is just that my brain doesn't work that way. My brain doesn't want to go the way they have said "this is how YOU must go!"

It was like how I chose to conduct interviews. I followed their pattern, I created a guide, and I setup interviews just like I was instructed to do. However, when I got into the interview, I didn't feel comfortable with that method. So instead I asked a basic starter question (How long have you been at Paradise Church?) followed by a second basic follow up question (What made you decide to make Paradise Church your home church?) In two questions, I got all the information I needed for my study. I learned about the individuals personally. I learned their reasons for coming to Paradise and staying at Paradise. Moreover, these open questions allowed them to share their story with me. My third and final question (I originally had six) was to ask about our current crisis and their experience. This question was the most involved and the interview took close to 45 minutes to cover this point.

I did ask the staff one more question, and that was if they had experienced crisis (organizational crisis) before in any other church or organization. It was important for me to have a baseline on experience, and since I was interested in the staff's perception of the crisis, it was good to know how experienced they were in dealing with it.

My interviews lasted anywhere from 1-2 hours. They were full and satisfying, and I got what I wanted from them. I think I probably went into this project all wrong because as an ethnographer you are not supposed to go in with precognition, with a gut feeling, and with intention to clarify your own point of view. I tried very hard to be objective, and I phrased my questions as such. The answers were what I had hoped, and the results will be good, very good, should any church leaders listen to me. Overall, I feel that I know what I need to write. I just need to write NOW and not put it off too much longer.

My prayer is that my professor, who will be reading my paper, will like what I have done. I pray that he will see my story, and that he will say it is OK. So many of my colleagues are writing on significant topics, important or interesting ideas. I am writing about one small church in crisis, and I am worried about what the ramifications of this study will bring.

Will I pass this class? 
Will I get an "A" on this paper? 

In the big scheme of things, what I have learned is significant to the church at large. My research may be minor, a tiny little blip on the big radar screen of research, but to God, my research matters. My research is about people, people in a church going through crisis. My research is about how we treat people in a church during a crisis. My research is about restoration communication, about how we can salvage damaged relationships and speak to the heart of the matter without causing more pain and sorrow. Yes, my research is significant when you think about how often the Church hurts its own members, how often Church leaders crush the minds, the hearts, and the spirits of those who call that particular ministry their "home." This type of behavior, this type of attitude needs to be changed and checked. We must stop destroying lives in the Name of Christ, and we must start to realize that our words do matter. Our words have meaning and they bring life or death.

Prov. 18:21 - Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. 

Eph. 4:29 - Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Matt. 15:18 - But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 

Prov. 12:18 - There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 

I think I have found my communication niche. I think I see what the Lord wants me to preach and teach. I didn't get it at first. I thought He wanted me to teach crisis communication to church leaders. I still think this is what He wants, but now I see that while it is important to understand the nature of crisis, crisis response, and communication strategies -- what the Lord is most interested in -- is how we use communication to restore relationships. I think restoration communication is what I am to study, to create -- because it doesn't exist -- not from the standpoint of the Church. I have not seen this term used for any church communication before so it is a possible new area of research and study. This will be my focus on this paper. I will use my interviews to speak to this issue, and to suggest ways to develop strategies that will build up the Church, and create avenues of communication between hurting and broken ministries and the individuals they enfold.

Dear Lord -

Thank you for clarifying my purpose today. Thank you for showing me how my research can benefit the Kingdom of God. Thank you for helping me to see that I can play an important part in the road to recovery and restoration through communication. I ask now that you would bless my time, my day, my weekend, and my week ahead. Let your words flow through me so that what comes out on paper is what you want said. I give you all the praise, all the honor, and all the glory for this research project. I trust that the outcome will be pleasing to you. I pray it is blessed and favored as worthwhile. I ask for your grace as I approach the results, and that I would intently listen to your voice as you speak through me and inspire my fingers to write down your words. I look to you today, and I lift up my eyes up to focus on you as my Source, my King, my Savior, and My Lord. May you receive all the praise this good day. I ask all this in the matchless, merciful, and Most High Name of Jesus, my King. Amen. Selah!

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