Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stop Reading Bad Advice!

When I think of "practical advice" I have an idea of concrete, substantive procedures that you can do to help solve a problem.

I subscribe to a decent amount of blogs that offer "practical advice" (or tips) about a large number of issues, mostly a variety of aspects concerning churches and ministries.

I'm thinking of un-subscribing to about 93% of them.

Because they're crap.

"WHAAAAT?!?!", you ask. And ask you should. Here's why I'm thinking about this:

1) Some of the things listed are no-brainers

I very rarely see something that I would consider innovative, ground breaking, perspective changing, or something that I wouldn't already have come up with had someone asked me the question in passing. Maybe this is because people don't like putting "the goods" up for free, and so the real information comes in when you pay out the nose for a "church consultant" to come in and tell you a bunch of things that your congregants already know and you've never asked them about.

Or maybe I'm jealous that I'm not a professional consultant. Whichever.

2) The information is just plain wrong

I mean wrong from a foundational perspective. For example, let's say you have a problem of your bathroom being flooded. Kinda sucks. The type of advice that I see MOST times from these sites is akin to step by step procedures for mopping up the excess water, acquiring buckets, the types of material that are most absorbant for cleaning up spills, how to disinfect the bathroom, etc.

When really, though all of these things are practical, they're not solving the problem of the bathroom being flooded. Because you haven't addressed the leak...or even just gone and turned off the faucet.

I feel so much advice that I read completely misses the point.

It puts so much emphasis on 'practical' steps to helping people out in ministry, while in actuality just changes focus from big picture concepts and idea to small picture details. Don't get me wrong, details are important. They are necessary. But they're not the first thing that needs to be dealt with.

You can mop up the bathroom floor, disinfect the tiles, get a bunch of buckets, etc and still have a flooded bathroom....because you've been treating the symptoms of a problem instead of the cause.  You'll be really honking busy, and have incredibly little to show for it but a mess of frustration because you were focusing on the wrong thing.

How To Do It Wrong
  • What is the value to learning how to advertise on a scant budget if you have a church that people don't want to go to? Or leave after the first visit and never return? It's amazing how much more effective organic marketing is by people who are truly enthusiastic about their church.
  • What good is acquiring volunteers to fill areas that leave them filling unfulfilled, unappreciated and unneeded? Would you really have the same problem of not having enough volunteers if you had things that people wanted to volunteer for, instead of "ministry for the masses"? Ministries that used people's actual gifts and talents instead of seeing what particular box you could squeeze enough of them into to fulfill a pre-designed (read: superficial) 'need?'
  • Who cares about steps of promoting small groups if you don't have anyone to lead them? Or material that fits the spiritual demographic of your church? Surprisingly, people just stop wanting to try getting involved in a group if they've been in 5 that fell apart within a few weeks of forming....for the same reasons.
  • Big flipping deal if you learn how to coax people to give more, or operate better funds drives if you have expenses leaking like a seive out the other end through operational expenses and "non-financially responsible staffmembers." If you were able to operate with less, you wouldn't need as much, or even *gasp* be able to give more away!

Yes, I'm irritated. Because it's important. And if that's the best we've got...well crap.

So if you're anything like me (and I'd assume you're at least a little like me since you're reading this) then you should stop reading those blogs. Unsubscribe from the garbage advice that leads the wrong way and distracts from actually solving anything.

Don't Care About Ministry?

Fair enough. You probably don't read blogs and musings about ministry and church operation. That means you're a normal person. In many ways, I envy you.

But surely you read blogs that give advice. About something. Anything. You're looking for information on topics, about how to get better at doing things, personally, professionally, both.

The same principle applies. The same kind of bad and dysfunctional information is out there in any field. The kind of information that focuses on symptoms of diseases instead of the bug that causes them.

And I'd imagine that plenty of them popped into your head while you were reading this. Stop reading them.

*crosses my fingers that this blog isn't one of them* ;)