2.0 How Do I Start?

How Do I Start?

#1 Thing to Remember: 75-80% of your time should be spent researching and taking notes. The other 20-25% will be for writing your paper.

  1. Select which field of ministry you plan to work in in the future (children’s ministry, head pastor, youth pastor, etc.).

OR, consider an eye-opening course you took at THS. 

ORconsider a topic that sparked your interest which you would like to delve into deeper. 

ORconsider what kind of mentor you would like to be to a future pastoral leader and what kind of research you could look into based on that.

(If you chose #1, you do not have to end up working in the field you chose, but you should select an area that interests you.)

  1. Brainstorm. Ask yourself questions about this field. What problems do you see in this area of ministry? Don’t ask yourself questions you already know answers to. Your goal through this project is to educate yourself. 

For example, if for your project you choose your future ministry field, children’s ministry, these are questions you might ask:

  • Is it just “babysitting?”

  • How do I get more people to participate in children’s ministry?

  • What are ways to encourage children to bond with one another and create lifelong friendships?

  • How do I take care of my staff?

  • How important is children’s ministry long-term, on a young person’s faith?

  • Are there teaching practices within children’s ministry that are more effective? 

  • Are there harmful teaching practices within children’s ministry that make it more likely for young people to leave the church?

  • Abuse in children’s ministry. How to prevent this and protect children.

  • Gender roles: Are women better suited for this position? Why are there more female children’s directors than male?

  • How should children’s ministries operate? Financially, and organizationally? What structures should be in place?    

  • What role do parents have in children’s ministry?

In this point of the process, you need to brainstorm many different kinds of questions and explore various channels of thought. Don’t try to come up with “the perfect question.” Write down anything and everything that comes to your mind.

  1. Organize your questions into categories. This will help you know what kind of broad categories to look for when you begin your research. Search engines usually will not bring you the specific and “perfect” articles you are looking for, but if you pinpoint the right categories, it will help you find the sources you need. The above questions can be organized into categories such as: 

  • marketing/participation

  • engagement

  • staff care

  • short-term/long-term effects of ministry

  • harmful/beneficial teaching practices

  • abuse

  • gender roles

  • financial/structural organization

 

  1. Select a category or two that most interests you from your list. Decide which questions from that category are the most compelling. Dive deeper into these questions, add additional comments or subquestions. 

The categories that these questions are part of are “long-term effects of ministry” and “harmful/beneficial teaching practices.”  For each question, additional sub-questions/comments have been added below.

How important is children’s ministry long-term, on a young person’s faith?

  1. What’s the ratio of young people who stay in church when they become adults vs. those who leave?

  2. What role does children’s ministry play in retaining long-term dedicated believers and church members?

Are there teaching practices within children’s ministry that are more effective? 

  1. What do the best teachers and directors do? How do they engage differently with kids/young people than less effective teachers?

Are there harmful teaching practices within children’s ministry that make it more likely for young people to leave the church?

  1. What kind of teaching practices have the opposite desired effect, and actually drive young people away from the Gospel when they become adults? 

At this point, you have a clearer idea of which direction you want to take in your research.

  1. Look back over your questions and highlight and/or add keywords and phrases. This will help you find relevant articles and books in research search engines.

How important is children’s ministry long-term [effects], on a young person’s faith?

  1. What’s the ratio of young people who stay in church when they become adults vs. those who leave?

  2. What role does children’s ministry play in retaining long-term dedicated believers and church members?

Are there best teaching practices within children’s ministry that are more effective? 

  1. What do the best teachers and directors do? How do they engage differently with kids/young people than less effective teachers?

Are there harmful teaching practices within children’s ministry that make it more likely for young people to leave the church?

  1. What kind of teaching practices have the opposite desired effect, and actually drive young people away from the Gospel? poor teaching practices.

6. Start your research. Head to ProQuest and login into your account or utilize other search engines. Gather a minimum of 15-20 different sources. You won’t use all of them in your paper, but you need to peruse many different sources. You are encouraged to use sources from classes and instruction you’ve received during your time at THS.

Be sure to locate a variety of sources: articles, textbooks, videos, magazine/newspaper excerpts, etc. Don’t just use one type of source.

7. Keep an organized note-taking system and bibliographic citation for each of your sources to avoid plagiarism (see attached note-taking guide). 

Keep in mind:

  • Write down biographical information & make citations as you go along (saves lots of time!)

  • Many search engines offer automatic citations for you.

  • Only use quotes for statements that are powerful, well-written, or if you were to paraphrase them, they wouldn’t sound as moving.

  • Use page numbers for quotes to avoid plagiarism.

 

8. Develop a thesis statement. Your paper should have one cohesive argument that it is presenting. Someone reading your paper should be able to say “I agree with what the author is saying” or “I disagree with this.” Your thesis should be a compelling idea that offers a new perspective or method, supports or critiques previously established ideas, or argues for a particular approach. Your thesis synthesizes and reflects all the research you have done. When writing your thesis statement, you should ask yourself the question, What has all my research taught me? What do I wish we were doing differently? Don’t write your thesis using those words “All my research has taught me that we should do x,y,z,” but instead, use those questions to form your statement. Your statement should be broad, not specific as it needs to encapsulate your whole paper.

Bad Thesis Statement: Children’s ministry is an important component of Christian ministry. Every church should have a children’s ministry that parents feel comfortable sending their children to, where staff are friendly and welcoming, and where children can enjoy fellowship with each other. Also, all staff should use the Think-Pair-Share teaching method as it is the most effective.

Why is this a bad thesis statement?

  • no one would really disagree with the importance of kid’s ministry.

  • too specific on the teaching method.

  • no real cohesive argument.

Better Thesis StatementChildren’s ministry plays a pivotal role in the faith development of an individual. Studies demonstrate that there is a correlation between effective and beneficial teaching practices and the long-term commitment of adult individuals to the evangelical faith. Additionally, these studies show that children exposed to harmful and ineffective teaching practices become adults who are infrequent church attendees or ones who leave the faith altogether. Therefore, directors and organizers of children’s ministry should _____, _____, and ____, to ensure they are raising a generation of committed believers.

9. Create an outline and add room for a reflective or application component to your paper. Never begin writing a paper without creating an outline, which acts as a map for you. If you just start writing without following an outline, you will waste time and energy and it will be clear to see that your paper lacks organization. While your paper is a research paper and should avoid a narrative form, towards your conclusion, you will need to add a few pages where you are reflecting on the research you have done.

    Reflective Component:

  • 2-3 pages before or as part of your conclusion

  • Discuss what surprised you in your research

  • How your newly acquired knowledge is different than the expectations you had when you began

  • Tie in your research to what you learned in class, or experienced in your apprenticeship

  • How you will apply newly learned skills and knowledge to your future work (be specific!)

(See Basic Outline examples).

10. Write your first draft. Follow the steps of your outline as you write your draft. Be sure that when you are writing and citing your sources you are putting footnotes on the bottom of the page according to Chicago style formatting. Once you have finished, go over your draft for basic grammar.

(See How to Write a Paragraph).

11. Edit and peer review. Meet with your Supervisor or your Instructor to look over your first draft and ask for their feedback. DO NOT bring them a paper full of half-sentences and spelling errors. You should read your paper through several times and correct as many errors as possible. Their job is NOT to correct any sloppy errors on your part, but instead, offer constructive feedback on how to improve your paper.

(See attached Feedback Form).

12. Finish editing and adjusting your paper based on feedback you received. Read over all instructions for the paper again, and make sure you’ve formatted it correctly and included all the necessary components. 

  • Use the Feedback Form you received along with the copy of your paper that feedback was written/drawn on.

  • Use the Transitions Guide document to improve the flow of your paper.

  • Use a Thesaurus to replace words/phrases you used frequently.