CONTEXT & When Analyzing Context is a Hypothetical Case-study Preferable?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/24/15.

Students in most of my courses are asked to study their ministry context and suggest strategies and plans that are applicable.  That is why their papers are called “application papers.” And, I tell my students it will be a plus if their leadership is “amenable and receptive” to the suggestions they generate as a result of their course work.

But sometimes students have organizations where the leaders are not generally “amenable and receptive” to the student’s ideas.

What should the student to then?  Should they use a “hypothetical” case?

While it is preferable to utilize an amenable and receptive context, as noted this may not always be possible.  It may be in some students’ situations that their input may be regarded as unwelcome, too belated, too schismatic, or even overly hasty.  However, even if one or more of these circumstances may be the case, I still encourage students to consider this organization as their contextual laboratory if feasible instead of a hypothetical case for several reasons:

1)  The students know the real-life situation systematically and intimately. Subsequently, they may be better able to address in this scenario growth and management dynamics than if they choose one a hypothetical case.

2) A hypothetical case-study usually takes more time to create.  If students choose a hypothetical case, then they must work hard to ensure the hypothetical case resembles closely a real case.  In other words, the student must study similar cases and build a hypothetical case carefully. This usually requires more time.

3)  Leaders of a non-amenable organization can have a change of heart, and over time become receptive.  I’ve seen this happen many times.  Then, is a student has been studying an actual case, they have homework that is immediately helpful.

Now, it is not absolutely necessary for students to use their real-life situation. They can use a hypothetical case if they choose (and with the professor’s approval). But, in many scenarios it may be more productive not to do so.

Finally, if a student senses they do not at present have the social capital to effectively tender ideas generated in this course, their organization may be going through the Process Model for Group Exit (i.e. group polarization) that I describe in the book, “Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change, and What You Can Do About It” (Abingdon Press, 2003; ISBN 0-687-06680-8).  If any reader is encountering polarization over change, they may want to read this tome to understand the dynamics that may help them eventually implement their good recommendations.