On Monday, I posted 49 decisions you’ve made – perhaps by accident – about your weekly Large Group Meeting.
Besides (hopefully) being a fount of ideas, a post like that is also meant to emphasize something I find very important to understand: There are actually very few true “Best Practices” in the world of collegiate ministry.
It’s been awhile since I posted this argument, so here goes…
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 definitions I’m using here are important: The Wikipedia article on “Best Practice” says,
A best practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. Best practice is … used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use.
When I first posted these thoughts, it said something similar:
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.
Popularly, Christian 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 necessarily mean it’s the only good way; it doesn’t mean there couldn’t be exceptions. But as a general rule, a Best Practice IS a go-to method, a “technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means.”
And so, of course, campus 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 found obviously great methods that would clearly be valuable on most other campuses. 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.
There are a few 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 here’s the kicker: The way we do, learn, AND teach college ministry should reflect a lack of actual Best Practices.