Your religious community produces a lot of written and recorded materials each week. Between bulletins, newsletters, sermons transcripts, church school and bible study literature, attendance and financial records, congregational constitutions and meeting reports, and denominational or diocesan reports, there is a lot of literature that can provide clues to your community’s history, processes, and resources.
For example, take a look at the community’s budget. What sorts of expenses are highlighted? Clergy salary, building maintenance, office supplies are likely on most religious communities’ budgets. But what about tithing or regular philanthropic donations? What does the budget for outreach and evangelism look like? What about the budget for spiritual development and new educational resources? How can you use the budget as a way to examine the important values of the community?
You can use all sorts of documents and files to delve deeper into your religious community. Perhaps you’ll want to examine sermons for theological concepts about community or family; perhaps you’re interested in using administrative council minutes to examine how decisions are made and who key leaders are (or, perhaps more precisely, how key decisions are reportedly made — you may want to compare the reports to your own written accounts of what really happened at the meeting).
For more suggestions in implementing a document analysis, see the content analysis protocol.