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Understanding Your Community’s Culture

How do you best understand your community’s culture? When thinking about culture, people often think about social or racial heritage. People within the community will speak the same language, with the same accent. The people in your community likely have the same levels of educational background, occupational status, and socio-economic status.

These similarities can lead to similar views on what type of worship and experiential worship styles should be used in the community. Cultural differences in ethnic and status characteristics often affects the type of music in worship, the cultural and literary references cited in the sermon, the expectations of involvement in decision-making, and appropriate decorations within the worship space.

One of the first things you should do to better understand your community’s culture is to take an inventory of the important cultural characteristics of the community. A survey of the members of the community might be a good way to ask information about education, ethnicity/race, occupation, and residence. You could also ask questions about what sort of social and cultural characteristics they share. What do the members of your community have in common versus what are their differences?

You’ll quickly notice that people are quite different — there are likely distinct subcultures within the community, small niches of individuals who align themselves together. A subculture can be aligned around commonalities — it could be a group of older woman who have attended the community for years, or a network of young professionals, or a group of parental activists. Different groups may see different parts of the building, worship experience, or weekly schedule as important and sacred. There may be significant variations in the views of these different subgroups.

About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at