Why Best Practices Fail

Most church leaders are on a continual search for “best practices.” We want the simple, straight-forward, plug-and-play solution to move the ball ahead. So, we pursue blogs, attend conferences, read books, and ask our pastor friends what they are doing that works so well. These “best practices” are brought to our teams and distributed for action. They can experience a push back from our team and be hard to implement. Or, they can be put into play quickly, receive positive results, but run out of steam.

What makes a “best practice” truly best? In my, opinion a “best practice” is only “best” when it is consistently repeatable. Behind each “best practice” you will find some core principles. The truth is, the principles are often what needs to be repeated as opposed to the practice. The practice is simply a result of several underlying factors. So, if you are in a place of chasing “best practices” and can’t quite figure out why they are not working as well at your place, here are some tips. Then, you can create your own set of “best practices.”

  1. A best practice arises from the uniqueness of the team. Not every team is wired with the same gifts, experiences, skills, or passions. However, every team will always default to lead out of their particular habits, strengths, and successes. Do not seek to import the gifts of another. Discover the unique power of your team and release it.
  2. A best practice is cultivated uniquely by its culture. Not every church responds the same way to every initiative. Not every community needs the same kind of ministry. As a matter of fact, every community definitely needs a variety of ministry flavors. Know what your congregation is uniquely wired to contribute both globally and locally to the mission of Christ. If every church looks the same, we will only reach one kind of person. The kingdom is big place. Know your culture and build practices from your unique strengths. Measure your success by your calling, not the perceived fruits of another.
  3. A best practice is the result of principles, processes, and system. The dependability of a system is unbeatable. It saves time, creates less friction, and produces more consistent results. When we sit in our cars and turn the key we have a long list of unspoken expectations. Simply stated, we expect every part in every system to do its job immediately without incident so that we can move down the road successfully. It all happens with a simple turn of the key. When we chase a best practice, we are really chasing the result and not understanding the engine and all its connected parts.

A “best practice” is the result of a unique team leaning into their strengths, fine tuning their culture into an unstoppable engine. When you see a result you like, do not try to repeat the result. Let it drive you to take a look under the hood and behind the wheel. Do not try to repeat step-for-step what has worked for others. Mine out the principles, processes, and system, then practice your unique version until you have created your own “best practice.”