A Brief Overview of the Data

The RT consisted of eighteen people: four women from Calvary Lutheran, four men from Bethlehem Lutheran, and ten people from Ascension Lutheran—seven women and three men. The team members share several characteristics. First, they are all white, middle-class, and have at least some college education. Most of them are college graduates. The majority of the team started life in a rural context and moved to the suburban context; either in adolescence or early adulthood. Most of them report that they had a small town and small church experience as a child and have found the suburban context to be a big change. They are all either gainfully employed, a homemaker in an economically stable household, or are retired from a successful career and are financially stable in their retirement. Many of them have been Lutheran their entire life. Some of the group began life in either a different Christian tradition (Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist), or had no church upbringing. Each of them currently actively participate in one of the three congregations represented in the project.

Table 1. Demographics of Research Team

Ascension Lutheran Bethlehem Lutheran Calvary Lutheran Combined Team
·   10 members: 7 women, 3 men.

·   1 member age 30-40

·   5 members age 40-50

·   4 members age 50+

 

·   4 members: 4 men.

·   4 members age 50+

 

·   4 members: 4 women.

·   4 members age 50+

 

·   18 members: 11 women. 7 men.

·   1 member age 30-40

·   5 members age 40-50

·   12 members age 50+

 

The project ran from February 24, 2014 – November 17, 2014 and spanned three phases. Phase One began on February 24, 2014 and ended on May 4, 2014.[1] It included eight meetings, each two hours in length. I audio recorded each meeting with a digital flash recorder, transcribed the recording using Express Scribe, and typed it into a Scrivener document. I distributed a PDF copy of the transcription to each team member via email so that they would have access to the data and review them as desired. During these meetings we discussed the topics of Spiritual Formation, the dynamics of suburban life, and the Trinity. The goal of these meetings was to imagine projects/activities that the team members could do from May – October that would serve to embody a reimagined spiritual formation in the suburbs in light of an increased awareness and understanding of the social Trinity.[2]

Phase Two began on May 5, 2014 and ended on November 9, 2014. The team members engaged in various projects of their own design and produced qualitative data through the following media. First, they journaled and either posted their journal entries on the team forum on our website, or they emailed their journals directly to me. Second, they interacted with each other via the online discussion forum on the project website. Third, we held one meeting on August 24, 2014 to provide a check-in and an opportunity to update the team on each member’s individual progress. This meeting was audio recorded, transcribed, and distributed to the team in a PDF document via email.

Phase Three consisted of two final meetings and some emails sent among members between the meetings. The first meeting was on November 10, 2014 and the second was on November 17, 2014. The group discussed its final reflections on the project. The conversation was guided by seven questions that I distributed to the team prior to session 10. We tried to discern what God was doing in the midst of the project and what we think the next steps should be for each congregation.

I received and compiled the data throughout the course of the project and initially entered it into Scrivener. In August, 2014, I purchased a twelve-month license for NVivo for Mac and transferred all the documents into this program and organized them into the following folder structure. The main folders were: Phase 1.1, Phase 1.2, Phase 1.3, Phase 2, and Phase 3. Each of these major folders contained subfolders. Each session had a list of subfolders that contained the correlating session transcripts and personal notebooks. There was also a separate subfolder for the discussion thread comments and the emails that occurred during the time frame of the corresponding Phase.  I spent September, 2014-March, 2015 carefully reading all the data and following the qualitative coding guidelines in Charmaz,[3] looking for themes that might emerge from the data.[4]

 

Footnotes

[1] This was a change from the original design. The RT chose to meet two additional times. This extended phase one into the beginning of May.

[2] It is important to note that the four women of Calvary Lutheran dropped out of the project at this point. One simply disappeared with no explanation. Two encountered health issues and felt they could not continue. One was intimidated by the online discussion forum and felt discouraged by the direction of the action projects. I will discuss this dynamic later.

[3] Charmaz, Constructing Grounded Theory.

[4] The eleven two-hour meetings produced 470 pages of typed transcript. The emails and online discussion forums produced over one thousand pages of data.