Talking to those who remember: an interview guide

Our most important resource for finding out the story of our church or group - or family - is people. We must talk to those who remember. Practice with someone you know and develop your confidence!

Interviewing usually has a two-fold aim:

  1. To obtain information and impressions of life at specific times that are of interest to the interviewer.

  2. To allow the person being interviewed to express the memories  feelings, concerns, etc that are of importance to them.

 How to go about it.

 The person conducting the interview should:

      1. Explain in advance the purpose of the interview, the use that will be made of the information and the method of procedure. Discuss any requests for anonymity.

      2. Obtain permission to use a recorder if that is intended.

      3. Sometimes it is a good idea to give a person time to think over the general area before conducting the more `serious’ interview. But often they will want to say some things straight away which need to be noted for follow-up.

      4. Go over the questions beforehand and think of the areas which are likely to be of most mutual interest.

      5. Remember that the aim is not only to find out about things that of concern to you  but to allow the person being interviewed to express the things that are of importance to them - they will probably be of interest to you also.

      6. Be sensitive to what a person is trying to say. 

      7. Do not talk too much.

      8. Remember that the questions here are a guide only and are not a substitute for working out your own or for following through issues that you pick up by sensitive listening.

      9. Ask people what they did and what happened as well as what they thought and what they felt like.

     10. Afterwards: write up the interview  note questions you would like to pursue further. Decide where a copy of your notes should go for safekeeping.  

Questions you might ask

(Be sure to follow the flow of the conversation - listen to what people are saying.)

 1. What is your name? How do you prefer to be called?

 2. Where were you born?

 3. When did you come to live here ?

 4. Why was that?

 5. Were your parents Christian? How would you describe their Church involvement?

 6. If they became Christian, how did this come about?

 7. If they were not/are not Christian, how do they feel about your being a Christian?

 8. What happened at home when you tried to talk about being a Christian?

 9. What are you first memories of the Church?

 10. Which Church was that?

 11. What did people think of those who went to Church?

 12. How did you become a Christian? Can you remember some particular event, or was it not like that?

 13.What did your friends and family members say?

 14. What experiences did you have when you joined the church? What did you have to do?

 15. What church organizations have you been connected with?

 16  Which person made the most impression on your early Christian life? In what way? What did they do?

 17. What positions of responsibility have you held?

 18. What are some of the most important events you recall?

 19. What happened on a typical Sunday at some specific period? (Eg when you were a child, in youth group, during the war, when you had a special visitor etc.)

 20. What religious practices did you follow in your home? When was that? Who took part?

 21. Do you remember a time when the church appeared to be really going well? What was it like? What were some of the things that helped this to happen?

 22. Do you remember times of crisis/difficulty in the congregation? What happened?

 23. Do you have any photos, newspaper clippings or mementos of you or your family’s church involvement?  For example: Sunday School outings, the opening of a new building, your parents’ bible, a letter from the minister? Can you tell us about them?

 24. Do you have memories of:

 25. What has been the greatest strength/ good point about the church during your lifetime?

 26. Is there something in the life of the church that you think is important which needs to happen but is being neglected?

 27. If a young person was just starting out in their Christian life, what advice would you give?

 28. How did you find it being a Christian where you worked? Did you have any discussions about Christian standards or Christian beliefs?

 29. What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a Christian today?

 30. Is there some special thing you would like to thank God for?

John Roxborogh