01.11: Cultural research

An important part of preparation is beginning to build an understanding of the context into which you will be going. In general, the more you understand about the host country’s culture, the more effective you will be. Thanks to the vast amount of information available today, you can begin to get a glimpse of the place you will visit before you get there, and with that information begin adjusting yourself personally to enter the culture. (Remember, though, that knowledge about a culture is only a start and deeper understanding will come as knowledge is filled out through experience). As you research and study the following areas, look for ways to creatively impact your host culture with the message of Jesus Christ. Utilize nationals from the host culture, the internet, resources such as Operation World, travel brochures, and periodicals. Specific areas to research include:
  1. Religious background – Study the religious beliefs of the people. How do these beliefs differ from Christianity? How devout are the people? What are creative ways to communicate the message of Jesus Christ?

  2. Political background – What is the primary political system of the culture? How long have they operated under this system? What are the major differences in political thought from your home culture?

  3. Social background – How is the social structure set up? Family? Male roles? Female roles? How do men and women interact? How should your team adjust to honor their social structure?

  4. Geographical background – What is the basic geography and climate of the country? How does the climate affect the culture? (For example: A hot culture often shuts down during the afternoon and has events late into the night.) What can you expect to experience as a result of the geography, and what adjustments will you need to make?

  5. Historical background – Research a historical overview. Has the country been war‐torn? Stable? A strong world influence? How does the history affect the way the nationals view themselves? Recent changes?

  6. Economical background – What drives the culture’s economy? Industry? Agriculture? Tourism? What is the standard of living? Average income? What can your team expect of the culture’s living conditions?

  7. Cultural background – Investigate the country’s cultural celebrations. Holidays? Arts, drama, music? Is their culture tied to religious beliefs? How do they celebrate?

  8. Church growth or impact – What has been the church’s impact in the country? Church growth statistics? Prayer needs for the church? (Operation World is a good source of information for this area of research.)

  9. Statistics and other facts – Population? Crowded living conditions? Racial mix?