The relationship between the Church and Indigenous peoples in what we now call Canada has a long and storied history. At one point, particularly in the late 20th century, Canadian evangelical Christians were passionate about sharing the Gospel with their Indigenous neighbours. However, in recent history, this momentum has somewhat lost its way. In the era of social justice, post-Christianity, contextualization, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ministry is more complicated than it once seemed. Christians find themselves second guessing age-old philosophies and models of ministry that once seemed sure, and, in the face of passionate voices that critique and challenge the Church from inside and out, find themselves uncertain how to proceed.

This project hopes to help the church regain its footing and once again locate its place in the story. Acknowledgement of an imperfect past should not be an inhibitor of current and future ministry. Rather, it should be the force that drives such ministry, arising out of a conviction that we need to take responsibility for the past and to do better in the future, guided by better understanding. Much can be learned by engaging with the story of our past. Although the current relationship between the church and Indigenous people is charged, our current situation does not need to be as confusing as it appears. An honest look at history may not be comforting or uplifting, as mistakes have been made. However, telling the story of our past yields a clearer picture of our present, which can then open up a path to a better future in which we walk side-by-side with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

Description of the Research Problem

The purpose of this project is to tell the Story of Indigenous Ministry in Alberta (SIMA), particularly in relation to the evangelical church. The project has two main objectives: The first is historical, to preserve what has been done before, and the other is networking, to connect together what exists now. The overall goal is to make this story accessible to anyone who is interested. As such, the aim is to provide a collection of knowledge that will serve as a foundation or jumping-off point for others working in the space. The data gathered will be made available in the format of both an official report, and a website that is accessible to the general public. The website will host both the written story of Indigenous ministry in Alberta, as well as a collection of directories.

Context of the Project

The SIMA Project is a qualitative research project created by Vanguard College Library in collaboration with FACTS (Family and Community Twining Society) through Canada Summer Jobs and Young Canada Works funding. It was born as a pilot for a program intended to provide summer employment in research to Vanguard College students. The basic components of the project were chosen based on the communicated needs of the Indigenous ministry community. The team chose to design the project as a qualitative research project, utilizing narrative analysis methodology, in order to give the project more credibility; however, the publicly-accessible web project component is also essential.

The research method being used is narrative analysis, and the primary data collection method is semi-structured interviews, using snowball sampling. Data primarily came from interviews that were held with people actively involved with an Indigenous Ministry or who were identified by their peers as experts in the field. Where necessary, a survey of what has been published on the internet was also used, as well as the use of histories and other archival materials. Primary sources were used where possible, but budget limitations and closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented visitation to and usage of archives.

The project was designed in such a way that it can be easily replicated. Ideally, this project would encompass all denominations, and it would have a counterpart for each province and territory of Canada. If you are interested in doing something similar for your province, area, or denomination, contact info@thesimaproject.ca and we can help you get started.

The SIMA Project is a qualitative, APA-style research project. Read the full research methodology here.