Learning your culture - Part 3

Attempting to enter a culture that is not your own is alot like running the white water rapids: It will be bumpy, exhilarating and emotionally thrashing.

You might have assumptions concerning a people group, but doing the actual legwork will either verify your instincts or lead you in a completely different direction. Either way, you will end up gaining additional confidence that you are better equipped.

A fly fisherman will look at local insects before determine what he will present to wary river trout. Learn from him.

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Mke the survey short.

People in a public setting will not take a long time. We generally were positioned at a crosswalk where passers-by needed to wait for the light to turn. When they were given a signal, they were gone.

You are gaining information, not evangelizing.

Do not mixed your responsibilities. You are asking for information, not leading them on a rhetorical journey towards conversion. Stay focussed and get information that will position you to shape environments and gain opportunities in the future.

Address felt needs.

Not philisophical interests.

Use multiple choice.

Using this method allows you to check a quick box, rather than write out an answer. Economize in time.

Stay anonymous.

You will want answers. If they are allowed to answer as to their insights about a segment of society, they are more likely to give their opinion. If you ask them why they feel certain ways, they are most likely have not analyzed their motives.

Sample questions:

What is the greatest struggle of people in our city: Finances/Debt, Jobs security, Stress, Criminality, Lonliness, Family fighting, Education, Time Management

How much free time does a typical parent (in your target group) have per day: two hours, three, four, five. etc.

What do (people in your target group) do to relax and rebuild energy: Sports, Television, Visit friends, Music, Bike, Sleep, Etc.

How many times per year do (people in your target group) attend church: Weekly, Monthly, Events, Annually.

How many times per week do (people in your target group) meet with friends: one, two, three, four, etc

Which word best describes people (in your target group) in this city: hopeful, depressed, busy, outgoing, anxious, happy, fulfilled, dysfunctional, etc.

Note general info about your responder.

You might want to consider noting gender, general age, etc. That way you can begin to see trends within generational categories.

Tomorrow: One further source of information at your fingertips.

Learning your culture - Part 2

Knowing your audience is absolutely the basis of what we do. Universal axioms like: "Everyone has the same need, Jesus" is so shallow, that it is hardly applicable for ministry purposes. We do well in having graded-ministries for age categories and various needs of life experience. Somehow that begins to break down when we go cross-cultural or even make the assumption that everyone after 18 years of age can be put into one worship experience.

Understanding felt needs does not dumb down the gospel (unless you allow that to happen), it creates thirst. Be salty. And pure.

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Gathering information for demographic studies can be accomplished with various methods:

1. Use your eyes.

Take walks through the community and take notice of commonalities. Where do family units spend their time? What businesses draw interest among your target audience? What colors are popular? Are houses clean and well kept? Does that indicate that people place more emphasis on things or on relationships? When do people gather?

2. Local authorities.

Within German communities your local governmental offices (Rathaus) will have community breakdowns along demographic lines. Reference these. If your strength is young families, then you would certainly want to count the number of young families within your area. If there has been a trend for young teens to move away to find jobs, then what demographic is staying in your area? What is their educational level? - which will determine what language and intellectual level you will need to use.

Don't forget to search out school authorities and ask them about their greatest needs within younger families. They will generally share their expertise, insight and opinion if you ask at a convenient time.

3. Relationships

People are proud of their city. Ask them to inform a foreigner as to the strengths of their city. Ask them why they have stayed so many years. Ask them what you should know about the city. What changes have they observed in the past couple of decades.

4. Surveys.

Processing lots of information will be necessary. So here are a few tips: Use multiple choice answers, not essays. Ask about the felt needs. Get a survey that will take around 30 seconds to complete. If you need further information, do a second survey. Go to a public place, where lots of foot traffic will generate a ton of answers. You might want to consider a database to process those answers. If you are in a western society that is internet literate, you might even consider an electronic survey.

In the next issue I will provide some questions to consider for a community survey.

Learning your culture - Part 1

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Successful fisherman know what bait to use. And where to fish. They do not control if the fish bite, that is out of their control. They have surveyed the water, looked at available food supplies, checked temperatures, well ... the list goes on.

At the same time, you might know someone (be someone) who was taught to fish by sitting on the bank waiting for something to attach itself to the line. That is called: One jerk waiting for a jerk.

The point being - some wait for something to happen, others plan for something to happen.

Jesus called us to be fishers-of-men. He knew that his audience could extrapolate from their life experience to apply that to kingdom life.

For those ministering in a cross-cultural setting, for those working in a demographic that is not their own age, you must know what type and needs of the fish you desire to target. Comprehending felt needs is not reducing to gospel to consumerism, it is showing the relevancy of Jesus.

Unfortunately, in church after church it has often been my experience to witness a group that is answering questions, that no one in their society is asking. And we wonder why the seats are empty.

To understand your audience, you can go about that in a couple of different ways:

1. God's Word won't return void.

Just bait a hook with a verse and toss it out. Does anyone believe that words of God are spoken accidentally without relevance to a particular happenstance? Then let's exposite Revelation 17-21 in the preschool Sunday School class. And then just wait for the phone calls from parents whose kids are having nightmares to arrive, thanking you for your biblical expertise. Just wait.

2. Ignore the felt needs,

because church is for believers and worship of God.  You have no believers as a start-up. While a church is exclusively made up of believers, a church service is not to be used as a synonym. Any church service is not exclusively called-out sanctified followers of Christ.

3. Intuitive ministry.

Some have never really given analytical thought to the process of fishing; they are intuitive in their skills. It is nonetheless a good proposal to add another skillset, moving from doing something intuitively to doing it intentionally. That means that we understand the process involved. Only then can it be conveyed to others.

4. Gather information pertaining to the target audience.

Perform demographic studies, gather intrinsic information based on relational gatherings, ask questions, read widely, check in with local officials - politicians, city officials, school representatives, etc.

In the next couple of days I will further develop the process of doing demographic studies.

Keith Gandy - GermanyKeith Gandy - Germany

Keith, originally from the desert of Phoenix, Arizona, has been planting a church in Aschaffenburg, Germany for over thirty years. Daughter churches have also been started and missionaries have been sent out of the congregation. Annually, he participates in encouraging other European church-planters and frequently travels to visit them in their respective field of service.

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