Saltley Research and Evaluation

Supporting a Learning and Changing Church

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  • Want help with researching some aspect of your organisation’s mission or ministry?
  • Have a project or initiative you are looking to evaluate?
  • Seeking a research/evaluation partner who understands your aims/organisation but can also be a critical friend?

Saltley Research and Evaluation can help you.

We’re passionate about bringing insights from social research, evaluation and theological reflection to bear on Christian discipleship, mission and ministry, for the benefit of church and world.

We bring wide-ranging experience in social research and evaluation in a Christian context to the service of local churches, denominational bodies and other organisations.

We can help you design a research or evaluation process, partner with you in collecting perspectives and other data, reflecting on its meaning, and clear reporting which will help your organisation clarify its mission and make the difference you are seeking.

Interested? Click on the tabs below to read more.

What We Do

Saltley Research and Evaluation undertakes theologically aware social research and evaluation, to inform and resource the life and work of the churches and their contribution to their communities.   Saltley Research and Evaluation exists to enable the church to learn from what it is already doing – to understand its impact and clarify its practice. It also undertakes more open-ended, experimental enquiry which might sharpen Christian vision and open up new possibilities.

In practice, we can support you through research in a variety of ways, including:

• Developing participative research projects

• Designing and conducting research interviews

• Conducting focus groups

• Project monitoring and evaluation

• Developing online or paper questionnaires

• Congregational studies

• Community research

• Upskilling your staff or volunteers in research skills/reflective practice

• Acting as a critical friend/accompanier to your project

Saltley Research and Evaluation Is based in Birmingham. We can accept commissions anywhere in the country.

Our Values

Our Values

Faithful – we work at the interface of Christian theology and social research. To quote: ‘theology cannot appear after the data has been collected as if it were simply “the icing on the cake already baked in the oven of social analysis”.’ All research data is potentially ‘theology… as faith seeking understanding’ (Cameron et al, Talking about God in Practice, p. 51).

Trustworthy – we will do our utmost to show respect for people, to seek justice, to maximise the good and minimise harm, to cultivate honesty, integrity and trust – both within ourselves and for those we operate with.

Collaborative – we seek to build constructive partnerships with others in order to undertake research and evaluation. As far as possible we will involve and consult with individuals and organisations we are researching so that they are partners in shaping the field of enquiry, not just the ‘subjects’ of the research.

High Quality – we are committed to evidence-based research which really makes a difference, and will put in the hours, the discussion and the hard thinking to do that. We keep abreast of new developments in our research areas, and in relevant research methodologies.

Non-Partisan – whilst there is no such thing as entirely neutral or value-free research, we operate as an independent research organisation and do not toe any particular denominational, theological or church party line. We actively seek to work with partners across the ecumenical and theological spectrum.

Christian Faith and Research

When asked for a sign from heaven, Jesus responds to his hearers: ‘You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times’ (Matthew 16:3). Along with what we learn through scripture, tradition and direct experience of God, we are given a mind of our own and strength to love and follow him, and the responsibility to watch, listen and discern the path of Christian discipleship within the world around us. Reading the times and cultural context has always been a key missional skill, but is particularly urgently needed in a time of apparently rapid cultural and institutional change, and in the midst of a shift from Christendom to post-Christendom.

In this context, missiologists Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch write that: ‘every church should have a research and development department – that is, a forum for dreaming, where nothing is impossible, and no thought too outrageous. And every authentic missional church will experiment like mad in order to find new and accessible ways of doing and being the people of God’ (The Shaping of Things to Come, p. 189). We do not seek to do this work of discernment on behalf of the churches, but commit to collaborating with others to strengthen the churches’ research and development capacity, enabling them better to read ‘the signs of the times’ for the growth of the Kingdom of God and the benefit of others.

Our Work

Christians in Practice (2016-17) – a partnership project with the Church Urban Fund, Arthur Rank Centre, Church of England Ministry Division and the Dioceses of Birmingham and Lichfield, to explore the relationship between Christian discipleship and community engagement, through interviews, focus groups and a questionnaire survey. Due to report: summer 2017. Read more on the Christians in Practice website.

What Helps Disciples Grow? (2014-)– St Peter’s Saltley Trust’s own research into how members of local churches understand their own calling and growth in Christian discipleship. Launched in April 2016, the report has since been picked up by many churches and dioceses across the country as a resource to help them think further about discipleship development.

What Difference does A-Level RS Make? (2009-16)– Research on A-Level Students’ experiences of A-Level RS study, undertaken by Prof Leslie Francis (University of Warwick), Prof Stephen Parker (University of Worcester), Dr Andrew Village (York St John University) and St Peter’s Saltley Trust’s Ian Jones. Resulted are published in a series of papers in the Journal of Beliefs and Values. Funded by St Peter’s Saltley Trust and the Culham St Gabriel’s Trust.

Stoke Archdeaconry Online Pastor Initiative (2015-) – St Peter’s Saltley Trust’s Simon Foster is part of the reference group for this project, helping evaluate and reflect upon the initiative.

Evaluation of Growing Younger Scheme (2015-17) – An 18 month project to develop a baseline of the Church of England Birmingham’s engagement with children and families, against which to evaluate the progress of the diocesan Growing Younger initiative. Being undertaken by lead researchers Heather Buckingham and Andy Wooding-Jones, with additional research/input from Saltley Trust’s Ian Jones.

Death-Confident Congregations (2015) – Working with Revd David Primrose, Director of Transforming Commmunities in the Diocese of Lichfield, we developed and analysed the results of a questionnaire to clergy, readers and licensed ministers in the Diocese of Lichfield, to evaluate levels of confidence/competence around issues of death, dying, bereavement and funerals ministry, in advance of a programme of training.

Birmingham Mission Apprentice Scheme (2012-) – Evaluation of a pioneering diocesan ‘mission apprenticeship’ scheme in highly urbanised parishes, one of 29 Church Commissioners funded projects focusing on ‘mission in deprived areas’. Evaluation was led by Saltley Trust’s Ian Jones, working in partnership with the Scheme’s steering group. The evaluation enabled the Scheme to make helpful adjustments to the programme as it progressed in the light of feedback from participants, and informed the case for a second round of Mission Apprentices and a further application for strategic funding by the Diocese.

Growing through a Vacancy (2011-13) – The development of a reference guide to nurturing healthy churches during vacancies between clergy. A partnership project between CPAS, St Peter’s Saltley Trust and the Dioceses of Birmingham and Lichfield. The Trust’s Ian Jones was part of the research team, conducting interviews with clergy and church members. The final handbook, authored by project team leader Bob Jackson, is now being used by dioceses and local churches across the country.

Evaluation of the Faith Guides Training Programme (2007-09) – The Faith Guides Training Programme is a pioneering collaboration between the Birmingham-based Faith Encounter Programme, and the Institute of Tourist Guiding, to develop accredited training for volunteer educational guides at places of worship in Birmingham. An evaluation of the first training programme was undertaken by Saltley Trust’s Ian Jones. This gave FEP evidence on which to apply for further funding and develop faith guides training courses in three new locations around the West Midlands Region.

Evaluating the Learning and Training Needs of Birmingham Churches (2008) – this evaluation was commissioned by Birmingham Churches Together Training and conducted by Saltley Trust’s Ian Jones.

Social Protest as Formation for Prophetic Ministry (2007-9) – this research, based on interviews with ministerial formation students at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, explored experiences of students’ participation in a programme of action and reflection. The research was conducted by Revd Dr Peter Hammersley and Saltley Trust’s Ian Jones, and contributed to the development of further work focused on formation for prophetic ministry.

Who We Are

Ian Jones

Experience?
Ten years as Director of St Peter’s Saltley Trust, travelling alongside a wide range of projects with a focus on religious and theological education, mission and discipleship, supporting them with research, evaluation and critical friendship. Previously Research Associate at the Lincoln Theological Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, University of Manchester.

Research Highlights?
• My PhD, now published as The Local Church and Generational Change in Birmingham 1945-2000, is one of the first historical studies of local church life since the war, and combined oral history interviewing and archive research with social science techniques including participant observation and questionnaires.
• Women and Priesthood in the Church of England: Ten Years On used a large-scale questionnaire survey of churches and interviews with clergy and congregations to explore attitudes to women’s ordination as priests a decade on from the historic vote.
• Mission Apprentices Evaluation Report was the result of a two-year evaluation of a pioneering Church Commissioners funded Mission Apprentice Scheme created by the Church of England Birmingham.

Research Inspiration?
As a student I was lucky enough to do some research on the chocolate manufacturer Seebohm Rowntree. Rowntree’s Christian faith inspired him to undertake a series of pioneering social investigations into poverty in his home city, York. Reading Rowntree’s personal papers was the lightbulb moment which led me to realise that I could apply something I loved (research) for the benefit of church and society.

Favourite aspect of research?
Interviewing people. With around 300 social research or oral history interviews to date, I’m endlessly fascinated by the richness of people’s lives and opinions.

Simon Foster

Experience?
Twenty years working in health and social care on complex projects in mental health, dementia, learning disabilities, family carers and stakeholder engagement. Those years taught me that – despite all the resource and the professionalism of the care sector – there are still many things that only the church and a life of faith can achieve.

Research Highlights…

• What Helps Disciples Grow?, a Saltley Trust investigation into how Christians view their own calling and growth in faith, mainly using self-completed questionnaires.

… and some that are more R&D
• Care Fit for VIPS – scoping, researching and developing a project to help care homes and other services to develop person-centred for people with dementia using evidence-based practice. The online toolkit is used by over 3000 registered users.
• Dementia Friendly Dudley – public consultation and stakeholder engagement which shaped the development of an online app to give shopkeepers, public officials and members the first steps towards creating a dementia friendly community.

Inspirations
Reading Belbin’s Management Teams: Why they succeed or fail showed me how attentive, critical and open-minded observation can eventually create a model that that empowers and guides thousands of individuals and organisations.

Favourite aspect of research/evaluation?
Using the information gathered and the space provided by the process of research and evaluation to help people see a situation afresh, and to act with confidence. It’s a privilege to know that I have made a contribution to a handful of really important community organisations.

Our Learning Community

In 2017, we’re beginning our learning community – a network of people interested in helping the Church learn from and through social research. We’re starting small, looking to invite around a 12-15 people (some experienced, some aspiring researchers) to join us.

Each member brings different theological perspectives, skills in evaluation and research, and practical experience of church life in a variety of settings. All of us will have an appetite to learn within the church, and a collaborative approach, with the potential to learn from and work with each other.

The SRE Learning Community is offers an opportunity to gain new perspectives, learning and connections at a time of dynamic change and growth in the church.

To find out more, please contact us for a conversation.

To discuss how we might work with you, please contact us for a conversation.

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