Does research really matter?
The last time I did anything research related was back in college. This was the first thought that crossed my mind when I saw the word research recently.
Afterall, research to me was this scary thing that involved hours of time, data analysis, numbers, and worst of all—math. (I know math is important, but the last math class I took was in 2013.)
You could say I was happy using and expanding the right side of my brain with creative writing.
But then I heard something that shifted my entire perspective on what research really is.
I was at the launch event for the Meros Center which is a new research and training center for Christian health ministry. It’s a joint venture between Kingdom Workers and Wisconsin Lutheran college.
While I was there documenting the launch event for social media, Dr. Jason Paltzer, Executive Director of the Meros Center said, “Research is how we connect with different people from different walks of life. Research is storytelling.”
I stopped for a moment—was research really a form of storytelling?
If there’s one thing I’m all about, it’s the art of telling a captivating story. Perhaps I had been viewing the point and purpose of research all wrong. I know numbers and data are still part of it, but maybe I was missing something.
In today’s blog, I’m going to explore the idea of research as storytelling and in that process I’ll explain what the Meros Center is, and how you can be a part of its unique approach to learning about our neighbors to better understand their physical and spiritual needs.
What I thought research and data collection looked like prior to hearing Dr. Jason Paltzer speak at the Meros Center launch event.
Research as storytelling
The online dictionary definition of research is, “the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.”
While this sounds scientific, I think the Meros Center is looking at research in a much more approachable way. Like Dr. Paltzer said, research—telling a story about the things we learn—helps us better understand and connect with people from around the world in new ways. It helps us come to new conclusions. And it’s because of those new conclusions that organizations like Kingdom Workers can find new ways to improve their work for even greater outcomes.
The stories we share at Kingdom Workers are how we show the people behind the numbers. It’s one thing to say thousands of people are served by our programs around the world. It’s another to actually read or hear a person’s real story.
So, what if we started viewing research as a way to tell a better story, as a way to learn with others and educate people on new ways of caring for and showing God’s love to our neighbor?
Now, some of you might be reading this and thinking—research is all good but is it really necessary? Shouldn’t we instead spend our money on doing work and leave the results up to God?
To the people who think this, let me challenge your assumptions for a minute with a single sentence.
Research is in the Bible.
In Daniel 1:11-16 we see that Daniel and his friends did not want to eat the meat and rich food required by King Nebuchadnezzar. They instead proposed a research experiment, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” (Daniel 1:12-13)
At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his friends were far healthier and looked better than those who had eaten the King’s food. Through their boldness and willingness to stand up against King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel and his friends were able to prove that living according to God’s rules leads to a better life, a healthier life. They show us that research is part of proper planning and that using the information we gain can help us do things even better than before.
But that’s not the only example.
We don’t have to wonder about the kinds of miracles Jesus performed or what the impact was. We know there were at least 5,000 men at the famous feeding recorded in Matthew 14:13-21. We can read all about how God’s mighty actions changed the lives of people in the Old and New Testament.
The author of Luke says, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you too may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Without the careful investigation and storytelling of people like Matthew, Mark, Paul, David, Moses, and Jesus (to name a few), we wouldn’t have a complete picture or understanding of how knowing Jesus can change a person’s life both physically and spiritually.
And that’s why the Meros Center is so excited to be doing work in the areas of health and gospel proclamation. Why we as Kingdom Workers are so excited about this work.
Dr. Jason Paltzer speaking at the Meros Center launch event at Wisconsin Lutheran College.
Introducing the Meros Center
If you remember from earlier, you know that the tagline for the Meros Center is “a research and training community for Christian health ministry.” But what does that mean?
At its core, the Meros Center is working to provide students, health professionals, organizations, and curious minds with a place to gain new skills (through their community health and research certificates) and add to the existing body of research surrounding the intersection of community health and evangelism (through research work).
Right now there’s a serious gap that exists. According to the Christian Journal for Global Health, 70% of smaller Christian health and development organizations are interested in learning more about how to improve their work but many of them lack the resources and time to explore different models and strategies.
That is a massive percentage of organizations that are missing out on being better, at truly meeting the needs of the people they want to be serving, and contributing to a more complete and accurate story.
Through the Meros Center, research will be done with organizations to explore different ways of increasing their impact and ministry.
How to get involved
At the time of me writing this, the Meros Center has been launched for only a few weeks. But there are ways you can get involved right now. You can join their social media pages to stay up to date. You can visit their website to learn more. You can consider signing up for one of their upcoming online certificate classes.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about, or be part of a place where research, storytelling, and faith come together, the Meros Center is it. And if that’s not your thing but you still want to support the work you can either give a donation to the Meros Center, Kingdom Workers, or Wisconsin Lutheran College.
My biggest hope for all you who are reading this is that you would start to see research as an exciting way to rewrite a story. Research doesn’t have to be something we fear or back away from because we “aren’t qualified” to do it. Instead, we can be excited to use the curiosity that God gave us to better understand the world around us and our role in helping share the gospel in new and far more impactful ways.