What are you practicing?
There is a saying that says, “Practice makes perfect.” This mistruth has been one reason congregations which are struggling continue to struggle.
To risk using a sports reference in a church leadership post, Tim Tebow, the great University of Florida quarterback, was inadequate to playing in the pros because of this. He had practiced throwing for so long, and his release took too long. There was no way to overcome the fact that he had learned to throw incorrectly and he could not unlearn it! His throwing motion was too long, his release too slow. As a result, he had practiced himself so deeply into something that wouldn’t work in the pros. Despite great talent, he was unable to play NFL football. He had practiced doing it wrong too long to be able to relearn quick enough to make it.
I share this, not because this blog is about sports, but to remind us that what we do over and over is what we do most naturally. If we have bad habits that we have internalized, it will be very difficult to unlearn them. And continued practice without intervention will actually make us better at doing the wrong thing. We will, in effect, discover that practice make imperfect.
Congregational life has been like this. We have decades of practices that seem natural and normative for us. We do them over and over and over. As a result, we have learned to do many things very well that are not helpful. It is very hard work to unlearn them.
Almost all of us have an advantage over Tim Tebow. Experts estimated that it would take him 3 years to learn to throw another way, and he didn’t have that luxury. No team would pay him that long to see if he could relearn to throw in a new way.
That same truth is true for most congregations. It will take you three years to relearn new habits. So, if you think your congregation will be here in three years, you CAN make the shift. But you will never be stronger than you are now if you don’t get started. Find someone to help you see where your issues are and help you start practicing new habits. You may find that three years from now, you are doing things in new ways and practicing in ways that do help you do better ministry.
So WHAT are you practicing? And how can you practice something new?