There is a difference between law or regulation, opinion, and best practice.

For example, an issue arises and you check in with your attorney or CPA. They give you an answer and you go merrily on your way. Merrily on your way until you discover that your valued professional gave you THEIR opinion, not the law or current regulation.

“Good grief”, you say.shutterstock_283697000

As a leader in your business, ministry or organization you are paid for not only what you know, not only for what you do, but also for your judgment about what to do and when to do it.

An early boss of mine reminded me fairly forcefully that, “Bruce, we can find a lot of folks who can do the work, but very few who have the judgment to do it well.”

I never forgot that admonition.

Let’s take a look at the difference between law or regulation, opinion, and best practice.

  1. The law or regulation is the action step that we are required to follow until the law or regulation is changed by either legislative or court action.
  2. Opinion is the result of the opinion givers personal experience, education, or perception. It may be good advice, or not. Its value is your perception of the level of experience and trustworthiness of that particular advice giver. It has the weight of relationship but not of law or even best practice.
  3. Best Practice is the result of many individuals or legal entities doing a given task in a given way and each determining that “it works”. So best practice is established by the many while opinion is established individually.

As a leader then, it is important to follow the law as the President of Volkswagen recently discovered. Evading the law leads to big trouble. While that seems obvious, it interesting to note how often another path is taken. When we are about to make any significant decision it is wise to seek counsel from qualified friends and associates. Proverbs reminds us this value. We then accumulate the counsel, apply it to our situation, and make the judgment call.

Sounds easy, but we know from experience it is not.

Best Practice

Then there is best practice. It is amazing to me how often a good source of convenient input is overlooked. Either overlooked or not even considered.

In our retirement plan world there is a good example. While it goes against some of my basic inclinations, the DOL and IRS sometimes make some good calls. Most of the regulations put forth as part of ERISA are truly best practice. The premise of treating every participant fairly for example. In a Non-Erisa 403(b) church plan you can discriminate all you want and it is perfectly legal. However, that does not make it the right or even best thing to do.

I am personally amazed when we are exposed to a church retirement plan where one category of employee receives significant employer contributions, and the rest of the staff receives nothing. Certainly there is a reasonable hierarchy, but too much is too much.

We get calls from ministries and organizations where the primary goal is to avoid ERISA, as if it is a bad word or unbelievably burdensome. Most of the regulations are truly best practice. Being relieved of some of the reporting requirements has value, yet most of what “must be done” is a good thing and brings value to the plan both for the participants and for the plan sponsor. Ignoring best practice is not wise, making the best decision is the desired action plan.

In the retirement plan arena for faith-based organizations, Envoy offers online resources which are a great source of insight and best practice. Connecting with our professional team is another source of wisdom, insight and yes, great information about laws and regulations.

One last thought: When it comes to best practice in understanding retirement check out You will find great information and it may change how you think about retirement. Yes, Future-Funded Ministry is definitely best practice for every leader and those they serve.

Let us know what you think too. Is there a best practice that you think we’ve missed?

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