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Religion shapes human behaviour. It affects how people relate with each other and also with their surroundings. It provides values. Religion ensures transmission of morals, idealism and beliefs and thus forms a viable case for conducting an ethnographic field study (Labanow, 2009).
I expected the following observation in a church setting: a) there is a time frame and plan for the service (when the church service starts and when it ends). The church service lasts for about two hours or less because the preacher has to go to another church within his parish or a second service within the same church; b) high attendance of followers since the church is located in a central point of a town; c) the population of the old to be higher than the young; d) music to be conducted by the church choir and other groups based on age; e) offering of the holy communion daily; f) proportion of female to male to be higher; g) the congregation of the church to be of different ethnic backgrounds, and hence the service to be conducted in a language all people understand. Although the use of other languages may be practiced; h) audience participation during preaching to be low; i) a fulltime preacher who has undergone theological training; j) there is a specific sitting arrangement where children sit in a specific area, and the choir also sits in a designated area k) most of the people arrive as a family; l) the preacher dresses in a particular way, i.e., he wears a gown; m) collection of tithe to follow a particular order; n) low chances of recognition of a stranger in the church; o) members of the church treat each other with a lot of respect within the church compound; p) people enter the church before the preacher arrives. If after, they enter immediately at the end of a particular event, i.e., not at the middle of a certain ritual; q) people dress decently, and the choir sometimes wears robes; r) after the end of the church service people great each other and socialise; s) participation of members of the community in the church errands where they volunteer or get paid; t) people participate in various events organised by the church, the basis of which may be an age group or a certain interest. This kind of a setting is found in mainstream churches, specifically in a catholic church set up.
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The following were the observations in a Pentecostal church. There were some slight variations as expected, and they include: high attendance of people since the church is located in a highly populated area; the population consisted of a higher number of the middle age people as compared to other age groups; the old were few because most of the old people retire to rural areas; people entered the church before the arrival of the preacher, if after, they entered immediately at the end of a particular event quietly.
The time frame of the service was not defined because in one occasion it lasted longer. It was defined by the needs of the people. In this evangelistic church, a minister usually works in one church only. The music was conducted by various groups during praise and worship. The music is known by most people and there was no use of printed music materials. Another observation is the tendency of each follower to carry a Bible.
The preacher dressed like other people in the congregation, i.e., no use of robes. The praise and worship team wore uniforms. The offering of the Holy Communion occurred after a certain period of time; not daily as in a Catholic Church setting. There are usually children services, but children can also sit with their parents in the main church. Such children observe silence. The assumption is that their behaviour has been shaped through positive or negative reinforcement.
On the two occasions there were two different ministers: one was female and the other was male. There was participation of the congregation during preaching through applauses, amen, hallelujah, clapping and standing. The service was conducted in English because the members of the church belonged to various ethnic tribes. However, during praise and worship songs from different tribes were integrated to create harmony; and everyone was involved. There was no specific or organised plan of doing things. This is characteristic of most young evangelistic churches. The class difference was not noticed (differences between the rich and the poor).
Finally, visitors were called upon to introduce themselves in church, and they were welcomed with a cup of coffee after the service. Moreover, after the service most of the church meetings were held within the compound of the church. The possibility of holding another service in the afternoon was predetermined by the scheduled events anticipated to occur in the afternoon. Such events included a couples sessions for counselling.
There was only a slight difference between the two occasions in that the proportion of the young age group and the middle age group increased. This was because schools had closed; hence, students who go to school away from home were in attendance. This was also attributed to the fact that this particular period marked the beginning of the festive seasons, and as such, more family members were expected to be at home.
Churches are social institutions, and hence they provide a guideline of how people should behave. A church has a history of how it works and how members relate with each other. It has a system such as a board, that makes decisions and communicates to members the specific time when worship begins, the way worship band begins, the length of the worship section, use of small groups, coffee time after services, communion once per month, and outreach programs for the various groups in the church. Church also defines one’s role, i.e., what he/she should do or not do in the church (Roxburgh, Boren & Priddy, 2009).
Assumptions and theories
People tend to compare their abilities in relation to other people. This leads to uniformity, especially where one compares himself/herself to those socially above or below her, i.e., upward and downward social comparison. Hence the distinct classes in the society could not be recognised.
As per the community organisation theory, members of the society are viewed as elements or agents of change. Hence their interaction has brought changes.
The assumption is that reinforcement is applied by the church and parents to bring good behaviour. Positive reinforcement includes providing gifts to children while negative reinforcement includes punishment. Negative reinforcement in churches may include excommunication from churches.
The assumption that what happens in a catholic church setting also happens in a Pentecostal church was proved wrong after the observation.
Further studies on human behaviour can be done through observing people in a church in a rural area where people belong to only one ethnic group.
Social psychology is a scientific study that involves examining how people behave, think or act as a result of the presence of other people. The presence of other people may be real, imagined, or implied. Human behaviour can be measured objectively. “Because behaviour can be observed, hypothesis about the possible interaction between factors can be tested and the results/data can be collected and analysed which gives this area of psychology credibility” (Brown, 2006). In this study social psychology is applied where people behaved correctly to avoid judgement from other people. For example, presence of parents made children to respect the church and obey other rules to avoid scolding and other forms of punishment. Members of the church were friendly to their fellows to show obedience to the scriptures. To some extent, others behaved accordingly because they were in the presence of other people. A follower of a church will behave properly when the minister and church elders are present hence the people around determined how people behave.
Styles of research
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Research can either qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative research involves description, and it seeks to describe and analyse the culture and behaviour of humans. It uses the natural settings, and it includes the case studies of communities. Quantitative research relies on verification and it focuses on measurements.
Ethnography is a qualitative method of research which tries to investigate social groups. It provides the description of the culture of a particular group by providing an inside-out perspective (Labanow, 2009). Hence it is ideal for such a situation.
Research designs in social psychology includes: case studies, use of questionnaires, correlations, observations, and focus group discussions. Case studies in social research focuses on how a unit thinks, behaves, feels and also on personal experiences. Correlations measure the strength of a relationship between variables. Questionnaires are used to evaluate people through use of open ended or/and closed questions. Observations involve looking at how the participants behave in their immediate environment (Brown, 2006). Observation can be structured, unstructured, or participatory. First of all, before conducting a study one should consider how cognitive theories affect how people think, e.g., people use their memory, attention and perception to process information about situations. Therefore this study is qualitative in nature because qualitative researches include ethnographies which are observations of groups. I think direct observation is ideal for this study because it does not take a lot of time as compared to participant observation (the observations of this study had a duration of one hour). Also, direct observation is not biased as the participant observation. Thirdly in direct participation the observer tends to be more focused than participant observation. Finally the observer is in a detached perspective i.e. he is not taking part but watching what people are doing hence he can make relevant observations.
In this study the use of unstructured interviews was also useful. The unstructured interview involved direct interaction with the church people. This enabled me to get more on the behaviour of people in church. Hence a combination of both unstructured interviews and direct observation can be used in this study.
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