the myth of Best Practices in college ministry

Monday’s post noted forty-nine areas in which I’ve seen variation within college ministries’ Large Group Meetings. And yet here’s something that might surprise you: After seeing hundreds of ministries and examining all these variations, I would only consider five or six of those areas to involve Best Practices.

Five or six.

Out of forty-nine.

Based on everything I’ve seen and all the discussions I’ve had, I have come to believe firmly that true “Best Practices” in college ministry are few and far between.

The Wikipedia article on the term “Best Practice” says,

A best practice is a technique, method, [etc.] that is believed to be more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. when applied to a particular condition or circumstance. … Best practices can also be defined as the most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best results) way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people.

Popularly, ministers use the term “Best Practice” to indicate a method that has proven to be best in a high percentage of situations. It doesn’t mean it’s the only good way; it doesn’t mean there couldn’t be exceptions. But as a general rule, a Best Practice should be a go-to method.

And so, of course, college ministers are always looking for Best Practices. And I can’t blame us: It seems like there should be many big methods that are worth highlighting as Best Practices as we work among the campus tribes. It seems like we’ve each observed many obviously great methods that would be just as great – and just as obvious – on campuses across the country. It seems like establishing a successful college ministry could be largely cut-and-paste, as long as we’re willing to learn from how all those successful ministries function.

But it’s a myth.

Like the existence of the St. Louis University Billiken, pictured above, it’s a myth.

Maybe the title of this post is a bit hyperbolic. There are some Best Practices in college ministry. But they’re pretty rare. There are far more methods that are “good ideas” but which don’t meet the threshold of being “Best Practices.” They’re not “default,” go-to methods; they’re not clearly “more effective … than any other technique.” They’re just good ideas, and they may or may not be best on my campus, at this time, for these purposes.

And ministry in a field (like college ministry) with few Best Practices looks different.

Am I really being serious? More in the following post.

Care to comment? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Care to guess which of the forty-nine areas I’d describe a “best practice” in? I’d love to hear your guesses or own “Best Practice” opinions. I’ll probably list my choices as this week’s Fridea!

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One Comment

  1. brianbarela23

    such a great post for us to consider.

    i remember when we met in person that this was a huge passion for you, and it convicted me to think beyond Campus Crusade and to all those doing campus ministry.

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