School Forum: Step 4. Recruiting Participants
Step 4. Recruiting Participants
This step involves thinking through the composition of the planned event(s) in terms of participants, and developing strategies for recruiting the right mix of people. The goal is to define who should be there and why, and to communicate this clearly to those who take part.
The recruiting process will depend somewhat on the type of event you have chosen. If you plan an evening forum open to the whole community, then your focus will be on advertising it widely enough. However, if the goal is more lasting institutional change, it may be best to start small and proceed gradually. This means being intentional about inviting key figures who will be able to help the wider community deal with the issue well.
Consider the following factors as you make invitations:
There should be people who represent different positions on relevant faith and science issues. This will set a context wherein respectful dialogue can be practiced, and also reduce the likelihood of the group developing into a clique of like-minded people who feel superior to non-participants.
If the school seems to have a homogeneous community, and if a more-or-less official orthodoxy has already been established in the school culture, additional work may be needed to establish some diversity of perspectives. Your school’s science and Bible teachers may know of students and families who have expressed minority opinions. Community members with careers or backgrounds related to science may also be aware of and sensitive to differences within the community. Admissions staff may have encountered concerns around faith and science issues from particular parents.
- There should be appropriate diversity in the group in terms of gender and ethnicity, both because of the concerns noted above about group-think and clique formation, and because of the underrepresentation of women and some ethnic identities in the sciences historically.
There should be attention to the diversity of roles within the group. Including at least one senior administrator signals the school’s investment in and full awareness of the conversation and allows school leaders to hear voices from their community. Including both science and Bible teachers brings different forms of expertise to the conversation and exhibits that faith and science questions are cross-curricular, and not a matter of Bible class versus science class. The presence of both science and Bible teachers may also build potential for increased cross-curricular collaboration.
Having some students in the group who have shown potential for leadership, an interest in science, and a thoughtful faith offers those students a rich learning opportunity, gives them a voice in the conversation, and invests in school culture. Student participants can apply or be nominated by teachers, and the group’s goals should be clearly communicated to their parents.
Finally, parent participants who have expressed willingness to engage in constructive dialogue amid differences should be involved. While it may be best if students and their parents don’t participate in the same group (so they can both freely participate), we have found that when a parent and student do participate in the same group, rich communication between parent and child is encouraged at home (this has been successful when students can make the decision to invite their parent into the group).
As you recruit group members, continue to clearly state the goals of the group and the characteristics of participants who will be able to contribute most constructively. Ideally, group members should have some knowledge of the Bible, some experience of Christian community, and some experience with the ups and downs of the Christian life—these groups are not intended as a primer on Christian faith. A teachable spirit, a desire to grow, and the ability to listen to others will play an important role, as will the courage to speak up and the willingness to commit to consistent involvement.
It is possible that the group discussion will generate some stress, so resilience will be needed. This may not be the right group for participants already experiencing significant fragility in their faith life or sense of self.
In sum, the key considerations here are:
- There should be sufficient diversity to generate engagement across differences.
- The group should include representatives of various roles in the community.
- It should be clear to all that participation is not on the basis of having the right view, but rather on the willingness to engage in virtuous dialogue.
Read the story of how Front Range Christian School planned and recruited for a workshop on origins.