DISCUSS THE APPROPRIATENESS OF QUANTITATIVE AND/OR QUALITATIVE METHODS FOR A STUDY OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A SPECIFIC CHURCH’S MINISTRY TO CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

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DISCUSS THE APPROPRIATENESS OF QUANTITATIVE AND/OR QUALITATIVE METHODS FOR A STUDY OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A SPECIFIC CHURCH’S MINISTRY TO CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

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    DISCUSS THE APPROPRIATENESS OF QUANTITATIVE AND/OR QUALITATIVE METHODS FOR A STUDY OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A SPECIFIC CHURCH’S MINISTRY TO CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE INTRODUCTION The focus of this essay will be the appropriateness of Qualitative  Methods. We begin with a working definition of ministry thus …  God is always working to accomplish his redemptive purposes both in and through his  people who live in the world.  Ministry  is the faith-filled, willing, intentional, costly  participation of God’s people in what they believe   God is doing and wanting to do in the 1 world, specifically in and through them. Therefore God is both the initiator and sustainer of all effective  ministry. (John 5:17; Eph 1:9.10; Rom 12:1; Col 1:28,29; Eph 3:7; Phil 4:13) Although on this definition, assessing the effectiveness of a churches   ministry is beyond the naturalistic   horizon  of Qualitative Research, I will attempt to show, though limited in its 2 usefulness, it is still useful to the Practical Theologian. This is because ministry  as  phenomena , takes place in this world, the realm of Qualitative Research. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH Born of a Post Positivist philosophy, inherent in Qualitative Research is a hermeneutic # 1   ‘Believe’ usually based on a combination of gifting, resources, opportunity, intuition, convictions that are 1 consistent with the God’s purposes as revealed in the Old and New Testament as a believer understands it.    Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln., The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research  (Sage, Thousand 2 Oaks, California, 2011) 3    of suspicion. It sees reality as subjective, a construct of the mind defined by individual and social human perception   and far more complex than it appears. Qualitative Research is concerned with 3 meaning and asks ‘Why?’ and qualitative ‘How’ type questions, discovering ideographic knowledge   . Within the context of a study assessing children’s ministry it may discover ' Why  more 4 girls attend than boys?', or '  How   much  the children enjoy  the ministry’. Answers to Qualitative questions will be in the form of words and explanations. Dey helpfully illustrates and contrasts the nature of Quantitative   and Qualitative data 5 through a soccer report   . 6  Though more nuanced than Quantitative Methodology, Qualitative Methodology is relativistic and denies the theological premise of absolute truth and accessible objective reality in favour of Constructivism   . This means it is bound to explain phenomena in subjective and 7 naturalistic terms, limiting its appropriateness for the task in hand. MIXED METHOD   # 2   That is not to deny the existence of reality, but rather to deny the ability to access and interpret reality 3 objectively. It holds that humans tend to approximate reality by interpreting real phenomena and constructing a subjective reality based on their perception of the phenomena in their own minds. For a short discussion on ideographic knowledge see John Swinton and Harriet Mowat,  Practical Theology 4 and Qualitative Research (London: SCM, 2013) 43   For a short discussion on Quantitative Methodology (and Positivism) see Sotirios Sarantakaos, Social 5  Research: third edition (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) 31-35 and its characteristics ibid., 50   Ian Dey., Qualitative Data Analysis:    A user-friendly guide for social scientists  (London: Routledge, 1993) 9 6   Sarankatos, Social Research , 37 7 There was more excitement in the Selhurst car park than on the pitchWimbledon 0 Liverpool 0    Social Scientists have come to realise that Qualitative and Quantitative Methods are not entirely distinct categories   . Each method produces different kinds of information, and each 8 utilises the other. The Mixed Method then is seen as “ another step forward  ”   since the strengths and 9 weaknesses of each can be used to compliment the other    and so give a fuller picture. 10    Nevertheless, though a step forward, it is fallacious to imagine that by putting together two naturalistic methods it is possible to get something other than merely a more comprehensive naturalistic method. The Mixed Method is still inadequate for the task because it is bound by its naturalism   11   THE NATURE OF A CHURCH’S CHILDREN’S MINISTRY # 3   The following scholars in various ways demonstrate the reality that Quantitative and Qualitative 8 methodology in actual fact depend on and compliment one another despite an historical reluctance on the  part of practitioners to admit it. “With regard to the latter, there is a contradiction between verbal and actual allegiance to positivist research. While many [post positivist] researchers criticise positivism, in practise most employ its methodology.” Sarantakos., Social Research , 9 Ian Dey also notes how easy it is to exaggerate the differences between the methods and to “counterpose one against another” and how this tendency can be explained historically. Qualitative Data Analysis,  3. Swinton and Mowat, Drawing on Thomas Kuhn and Micheal Polanyi also highlight the reality that nomothetic and ideographic realities are not exclusive and quotes Gorsuch (2002) “although we may theorise or even dream in a nomothetic world, we never live  in it”.  Practical Theology , 43 “These two research approaches are not bipolar opposites and, in fact, in practice need each other for the development of thorough understanding. Swinton and Mowat”,  Practical Theology , 44 For a concise historical perspective see Sarantakos., Social Research , 5-9   John W. Creswell.,  Research Design: Qualitatitve, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches  (Sage, 9  New delhi, India, 2012) 203   Ibid., 215 10   Denzin & Lincoln, The Sage Handbook 3 11    The effectiveness of any ministry is determined by the degree to which it fulfils its purpose. A churches children’s ministry is a ministry of a church,  which is a theologically defined entity. According to its biblical doctrines, it was brought into existence by the risen Jesus who is sustainer, lord and head of the church, his body which belongs exclusively to him. That is to say, he has all rights and authority over every aspect of the church (Eph 1:22). Therefore, so far as Church and Christian are concerned, all church ministry is derivative from and finds its purpose in the person of Christ. Any assessment of a ministry’s effectiveness must therefore, take account of Christ’ purpose so that the crucial question becomes, ‘ to what extent does it fulfil his purpose? ’, which bids the question, ‘ what is his purpose ?’ In answer to that question our working definition is ‘  Jesus’ purpose for all ministry, is to reveal his own glory by redeeming all his people and making them more like him   ’  . 12   Thus, the efficacy of the practise … , is not defined pragmatically by its ability to fulfil  particular human needs …, but by whether or not it participates faithfully in the divine redemptive mission   13   Being theologically defined, the question is beyond Qualitative Methods and firmly in the realm of Practical Theology. PRACTICAL THEOLOGY # 4   This definition takes into account that everything Jesus does is for his father’s glory, see John 7:18 12   Swinton and Mowat,  Practical Theology , 22 13    John Swinton defines Practical Theology as … Practical Theology is critical, theological reflection on the practises of the Church as they interact with the practices of the world, with a view to ensuring and enabling  faithful participation in God’s redemptive practices  in, to and for the world.   14 (emphasis mine) He later comments … One of the primary tasks of the practical theologian is to ensure that the practises of the church remain faithful to the practises and mission of God as revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his continuing redemptive practises.   15   Since church ministry is a ‘participation in God’s redemptive practises’, and since Qualitative Research will not take account of this aspect, it alone cannot assess the effectiveness of a churches ministry   . Rather it is the Practical Theologian who seems best placed for the task of 16 assessment. However, the Practical Theologian can utilise Qualitative Methods since she can sift and adapt particular Qualitative Methods and provide the definitions for effectiveness. Paul’s prayer for Philemon provides a useful case in point. # 5   Ibid., 6 14   Ibid., 24. 15   For the same reason, Quantitative and Mixed Methods also prove to be inadequate. 16
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