Guidelines for Christ and Culture Small Group Project (Lab #2)


This second lab is designed to help you broaden your understanding of American cultures and the Christian faith by offering you an opportunity to learn from those who are different from you.  Whether we realize it or not, all of us have a relatively narrow and provincial understanding both of American cultures and of the Christian faith. At one level, we can’t help this, since our understanding only extends to the limit of our experience and learning.  But there are ways to stretch beyond the familiar in ways that broaden our understanding and thus enrich our lives.


What this project requires:

  1. Arranging for your small group to have a conversation with a small group of people (ideally 2-3) in the local community who are in some way different from those in your small group.  This conversation should generally take place off campus and on turf familiar and comfortable to those with whom you are in conversation. This conversation can be part of a larger agenda (a visit to a place of worship, an act of service, etc.), but the focus and emphasis should remain on interacting with and coming to a deeper understanding and appreciation of those with whom you are in conversation.
  2. Engaging in research both before and after your arranged conversation.  This component is not optional. Your initial research should familiarize you enough with those with whom you will be meeting so that you can ask intelligent questions.  Your follow-up research should fill in any holes and deepen your understanding of issues that were raised in the interview.  In both instances, please do your best to find reliable information written from a perspective that is sympathetic to those you are interviewing.   If you are unsure what you should be researching for your interview, please ask.
  3. Coming up with a list of good questions to use during your visit that would offer ample opportunity for those with whom you are visiting to talk about themselves, their life experience, fundamental convictions, etc.  These questions should be respectful in tone, clearly communicating a genuine desire to learn from those with whom you are in conversation.  Remember: Your purpose for engaging in this conversation is not to try to convince others that they need to be more like you.  Rather, the objective of this project is to try to understand this group of people and to explore how their being different from you might enrich your understanding of American cultures and the Christian faith. As a general rule, opt for open-ended questions that leave plenty of room for your conversation partners to explain matters in their own terms and in their own way; do your best to avoid asking “loaded” questions.
  4. Holding the conversation. (You should probably plan for at least an hour.)
  5. Meeting as a small group to debrief about the conversation and what you learned as a result.
  6. Writing together a joint small group report (4-5 pages minimum, single-spaced, exclusive of bibliography and appendices) that explains what you did and what you learned through this experience.  Your group report should be written in narrative form rather than as a list of answers to particular questions, but your report should minimally include responses to the questions listed at the end of this document. (Please note that writing a paper together is different than dividing the work and then stapling it together.)
  7. Offering an oral presentation to the class during the last two weeks of the course that would offer the rest of us an opportunity to learn from your experience.


Possible groups of people from whom you might learn (There are, of course, lots of other possibilities):

  1. People with a different religious heritage
  2. People from a different country
  3. People who are part of a different subculture within American society
  4. People who have a different life experience
  5. People who hold different fundamental convictions regarding something about which your group feels strongly


Please note: Only one Christ and Culture small group will be given permission to interview a particular group of people, and I will approve these on a first-come, first-served basis.  You need not wait until the due date to turn in your proposal.  I will keep an updated list online of those groups who have had their project proposals approved and whom they are planning to interview.




Issues to address in your written report:

Your written report should include enough details of your planning process so that we can understand why you chose to learn from this particular group of people.  How did you come to decide on this group?  Were there others you considered? What did you hope to learn?  What anxieties, if any, did you have about taking up this project?


Your written report should be informed by your research, use proper documentation of all sources, and include a bibliography that identifies all sources you consulted both prior to and after your interview.  Your report should also include an appendix that lists the questions you planned ahead of time to ask, and some indication of which ones were actually asked in the interview.


The bulk of your paper should consist of a narrative account of your conversation and your group’s reflections on it.  Please make sure that the voices of those you are interviewing come through accurately and authentically. A good check on this is to ask yourselves this question: “Are we confident that if the people we interviewed were to read our paper that they would see themselves portrayed fairly and accurately?”  In other words, would they recognize themselves in your paper?


The questions below are not to be asked in your interview, but are designed to guide your reflection processes both before and after your interview. You would be wise, for example, to jot down your initial responses to the questions listed in #1 below before your interview.  You need not, of course, limit yourselves to these questions, but your written report should at least weave responses to these concerns into your overall narrative.  You may also include additional matters in your report that you believe are of equal depth and importance.


  1. What past experiences have shaped your small group’s understanding of this group of people you are interviewing?  How has your group tended to view this group of people in the past?  In what ways and for what reasons did you view them as “different”?  Are there specific ways in the past in which you have experienced this difference as threatening? Are there specific ways in the past in which you have experienced this difference as enriching?


  1. What are some of the most important ways in which you are similar to this group of people?  What, in other words, do you hold in common despite the differences noted above?  How has the way you perceived these differences and similarities changed as a result of this project?


  1. As a result of this project, what are some of the most important insights have you gained about: a) this group of people; b) yourselves; c) American cultures; d) the Christian faith? 


  1. What aspect of this experience had the deepest impact on the members of your group?  What, if anything, do you believe will be different in the future as a result of having done this project?



All group members will receive the same grade unless I am informed of reasons why this is not appropriate. Your grade will be determined on the basis of the project's three component parts: 1) planning and executing of the group project; 2) your group's joint written report; and 3) your group's oral presentation.  Click here for a more detailed grading rubric.