insideout: Dispelling the Myth of Best Practices

This episode of insideout explores the essential role of deep listening in fostering true innovation, and what that means for a church often fixated on ‘best practices.’ According to Rev. Dr. William (Bill) Gibson, “it’s a mistake to think that a best practice is a silver bullet answer for a declining church that lacks innovation and creativity.”

Transcript:

Over the last fifteen plus years, the Church has tried to embody innovation through the phrase best practices.

In the business world, best practices were about maintaining quality and establishing benchmarks. In the Church, we’ve had a tendency to see best practices as a program option to ensure success. If they worked in that church, then surely they’ll work in our, right?

But here is a major problem. The church is not as adaptive as corporate America. Often, by the time we implement a best practice, we are behind the curve in a world that is changing before our very eyes.

In 2011, Stephen Shapiro wrote this valuable little book entitled Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition. Now before you claim that I am hating on best practices let me offer some clarity. Neither Shapiro or myself through this video are saying that we should ignore best practices, not at all.

It’s important for us to know what is working in a particular context, and why it works. But it’s a mistake to think that a best practice is a silver bullet answer for a declining church that lacks innovation and creativity. Rather than a plug and play approach, we should be focusing on contextual problem solving. Instead of trying something that will attract people in our doors, we need to step outside of our walls and engage in deep listening with real people, not just guessing what they want.

Think about this. Jesus was innovative in how he talked. He engaged the cultural language while also, likely, having the ability to speak three languages: Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. This allowed him to draw upon a number of cultural methods in order to convey his message. Jesus captured the attention of his populist audience through overstatement, hyperbole, pun, metaphor, proverb, paradox, poetry, irony, and the use of questions. Through these devices Jesus connected with people in very powerful and personal ways. He used every tool in his toolbox. He helped people to unlearn and relearn what they have been taught their entire lives. See the Sermon on the Mount.

In fact, in Matthew Chapter 5, de demonstrates this unlearning and relearning activity by saying things like you have heard the law that says this, now I say this. I love verses 43 and 44. Jesus says, “You have heard the law that says ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” Now that’s a verse that some Christians just simply want to ignore.

We sometimes forget that innovation is about change. The late Steve Jobs was famously quoted saying, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” The next time that you’re tempted to plug-and-play a best practice, what if, instead, you learned from it? Then, stepped outside your doors, engaged the very people you want to reach, and listened carefully for what they don’t know they want. And then you show it to them.

That is innovation. What if you simply showed them faith, hope, and love. Faith, hope, and the greatest of these, love.

What if?


Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Strategic Faith Community Development for the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church.

This episode of insideout was e-filmed and edited by Rev. David Valera. Valera serves the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church as Director of Connectional Ministries.

Insideout: Discover, Claim, Live

Transcript:

Have you ever experienced a tradition or activity that you thought was weird?

Or, simply found yourself saying things like, “I just don’t get it…”

Our tendency is to think that our perspective is the norm for society.

In these moments, we are not acknowledging the lens through which we see the world. We are not taking into account the vast cultures and subcultures of our world, country, region, and neighborhoods.

But this “weirdness” actually represents an inability or an unwillingness to realize that our way is not the only one. But you knew that; right?

We have to be willing to see the world from a different perspective, while checking our own.

In Matthew 13, Jesus teaches about understanding the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who listen to his teaching are going to be given greater understanding. He goes on to say “Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.”

Several years ago I was introduced to the teachings and work of Mikhail Bakhtin whose work connects our approach to intercultural competency.

He said, “In order to better understand a foreign culture, one has to step enter into it, forgetting your own, and view the world through the eyes of the foreign culture.”

In other words, we have to be willing to intentionally look at the world around us from a completely different perspective while checking our own biases.

In fact, that is what insideout represents for me. If you haven’t noticed, the “insideout” logo is backwards and that’s intentional.

Think of the logo being printed on the outside of a t-shirt. And as you put that t-shirt on, you look outward through the front. The logo is going to appear backwards. You’re looking from the inside-out.

It’s a reminder that we have to be aware of the lens through which we view the world — those voices and experiences that have shaped our identity — parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, bosses, peers, enemies, etc. And we replay those voices over and over in our heads, don’t we?

To acknowledge and teach through this, I use three simple moves, Those moves are: Discover, Claim, and Live.

1) Discover — which refers to an intentional move to intersect and engage culture — maybe one that seems weird, different or foreign to you.

2) Claim — which asks us to rediscover from Scripture; from the gospels, ways of understanding our world, while claiming Jesus’ example.

And 3) Live — which challenges us to answer the “So, what?” question; a challenge to change and become a living example of Hope and Love to those around us.

Believe it or not, these simple moves, can help you find grace in the strangest of places

Are you interested in making the world a better place? Then that has to start with you and with me…

What if we intentionally looked from a different perspective in order intersect culture, elevate the gospel, and challenge to change?

What if?


Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Strategic Faith Community Development for the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church.

This episode of insideout was e-filmed and edited by Rev. David Valera. Valera serves the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church as Director of Connectional Ministries.

Special thanks to Rev. Craig and Sharon Parrish.

Recovering Vision: Getting to why?

By Rev. Steve Ross

Vision is the word I use to describe why a congregation exists. The big huge purpose of the church is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But that mission statement is a purpose bigger than any congregation can fulfill on its own. Vision is the particularization of the mission in a specific community of Christians at a specific time. It deals with two questions that have real, but constantly evolving answers.

  • Who are the specific people we called to engage in the life of discipleship?
  • What is the specific transformation we are called to bring now?

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Creating Space

By Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson

Most of us desire a sense of belonging and purpose in the world. And during difficult seasons, such as our current political climate, we long for safe spaces to find hope. This season presents a unique opportunity for the church.

Many, if not all, church leaders and laity I encounter across our church hold a common thread: A large majority would love to have more young people in their churches. But does our corporate desire translate to creating space within our church families for these long-lost siblings?

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Important Steps: A Coaches Perspective

By Dr. Neil Tibbott, Executive Director of LeadershipOnRamp

One of the most famous coaching references you may have heard is the story about legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, who spoke to his team at the beginning of a season about the basics. At the first practice, he lifted a football for the entire team to see and said, “Gentleman, this is a football.”

In training for ministry, we sometimes skip important steps that help facilitate growth. If we miss those basic steps, then churches struggle to gain a foothold in the very communities they hope to serve.

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