Tag Archives: methodology

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]



[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.

Two Weeks Left in Phase Two

The final meetings of the Deep in the Burbs Research Project happen in two weeks. Here is a brief synopsis of the project and the final questions we will ponder.

A Brief Summary

We are a group of Upper Mid-Western Suburban ELCA Christians from three congregations. We came together in the Deep in the Burbs Research Team to reimagine spiritual formation in the suburbs in light of the social Trinity. We met together for four weeks in February and March, 2014 to discuss the topics of spiritual formation, the social Trinity, and the suburban context. We then met four more times in April and May to collaboratively create projects that we could do in our own contexts to engage these key topics in our lived experience between May and November. Each meeting began with a Dwelling in the Word in John 14, 15, and 16 before we engaged the specific topic at hand.

The data created in this project were in the following forms: audio recordings of each team meeting, online discussion forums in our www.deepintheburbs.com site, and personal journals. These data were compiled and processed by our lead researcher, Steve Thomason.

The projects we set out to pursue were:

  • Prayer Group for Families of Confirmation Students
  • Community Pig Roast
  • Befrienders Ministry
  • Reconfiguring Adult Formation Curriculum around Trinity
  • Sunday S’mores in Church Parking Lot
  • Building Haiti Mission Teams
  • Small Group to Study the Book 7
  • Leadership in Men’s Ministry
  • Connecting with Neighborhood around and Service Issue/Project
  • Regular Group to Serve at Feed My Starving Children

We experimented with these projects with various levels of success and modification from May through the end of October, 2014. We journaled our thoughts, feelings, and experiences and either shared them on the discussion forum and/or emailed them to Steve Thomason.

Now, we come to the end of our journey.

We must now prayerfully consider the following questions:

  1. In what ways, if at all, did the conversation about the social/relational/entangled Trinity change the way you think about and/or practice spiritual formation?
  2. What part of the Deep in the Burbs Project surprised you, and how?
  3. What have been your significant take-aways from this project? In other words, what have you learned from this experience?
  4. How did Dwelling in the Word either enhance or deter from the project?
  5. If we were to do this project again, what would you do differently?
  6. What advice would you give to suburban ELCA christians regarding spiritual formation in light of your experience in this project?
  7. What advice would you give to suburban ELCA pastors and ministry leaders regarding spiritual formation in light of your experience in this project?
  8. What questions do you think should be asked about the project that have not been asked in questions 1-7?

Four Sessions Done, Two to Go

The first phase of this research project is comprised of six consecutive Monday night meetings where all the Team members, from all three congregations, gather for a two-hour conversation. We completed our fourth session this past Monday. Next Monday we move to the third and final church building to meet for our final two Monday night sessions.

This has been a very good experience so far. I’ve been transcribing each session as they come, photographing any artifacts created during the session, and uploading everything to Dedoose. This way  I won’t have an enormous pile of data to enter at the end, and I’ll be able to focus on the coding process. It is intense, but good.

The next two sessions are designed to allow the team to dream new possibilities for spiritual formation in the suburbs and to create a project that they can lead in their own context. I can’t wait to see what they cook up!

The Art of Hosting

1I spent a good part of my day exploring The Art of Hosting. This is a collaborative process in which a host invites a group of people to gather around a set of questions and then facilitates a co-creative conversation that leads toward the harvesting of wise decisions. This is important for my research methodology as it will provide the chaordic ((a term that blends chaos and order together: Chaos + Order = Chaordic)) process that is needed for the cohorts to be fruitful.

This article is a crash course on the Art of Hosting by Chris Corrigan.

Key voices in the Art of Hosting (from my first run-through):

Toke Moeller

Deborah Frieze

Chris Corrigan

Jerry Nagel

Tuesday Ryan-Hart

A Very Helpful Reading List

A Library of Videos Worth Watching

Some key points regarding Hosting:

Four-Fold Practice for Art of Hosting

  1. To be Present
  2. Participate – Practice Conversations
  3. Hosting Conversations – How are we going to go into the community and invite people into conversations. “What we practice is what our future will be like.” – Toke Moeller
  4. Co-Creation. Not hero-based leadership. Creating spaces for co-creation.

Four Faces of one practice–The Art of Hosting

Peer Circle

Inviting people into a circle helps connect the space between people. This concept connects to relational ontology and the heart of the social Trinity. This is an important connection to why my methodology is as important as my theoretical and theological frames.

Rules for Circle Host in Art of Hosting

  1. Speak with Intention
  2. Listening with Attention
  3. Take care of the group (good to have a circle guardian along with the host. There can also be a harvester.)