by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/19/15.
The following research ideas were uncovered by one of my seminary students. Cheri stated the following:
The University of Minnesota has an interesting page on how to understand the community through an service-learning style: http://www.servicelearning.umn.edu/info/reflection.html)
The general idea is to get involved in the community and walk through a series of internal/external question and answers during and after the interaction (reflection). Obviously this is designed for a classroom application in a community setting, but that isn’t that far off what would be our goal. Doing what is possible to be indigenous requires learning about the people and their culture. While learning, it is necessary to interact and reflect and take note of what is observed and experienced. This same idea works for understanding the community needs.
Talking with community offices, schools, and government agencies about what they see as the greatest needs in the community – apartment and mobile home community managers are another source for understanding needs. All theses are good – but they provide secondary feedback – its’s their view of what they see what others need. (this may give insight though to the root causes of the felt needs and addressing the root cause may have longer term transformational community impact than simply addressing the felt need – it’s both)
Real relationships – nothing beats understanding needs like building relationships. The challenge is that it is extremely time consuming. If not intentional as a church it can also become a tunnel of understanding to a specific segment in the community. Creating the DNA within a local church that greatest ministry is done in the community among the community would be far more effective in the long run to understand the felt needs as well as learn potential underlying sources/system failures.