What are the indicators that you do not need a church consulting firm right now? We hear all sorts of talk about the newest tool a pastor of our church can use. Sometimes you’ll read a blog post about the three, five, or seven best of whatever to fix a certain area of your church (Yes, I know. I’m guilty). But how often do you find resources that tell you when you should NOT work with an outside consultant? My guess is not that often.
Let me explain my motivation for writing this. We have learned to be more careful with which churches we will work with in order to best steward our time and best serve the church. In the past, churches have contracted with us to work with them and we find out later it was not the best time for them to hire an outside church consulting firm. Sometimes we encourage a pastor or other church leader to delay bringing in a consultant because other things need to be fixed before we come in. My guess is that every church consulting firm has seen this happen at least a few times. If they take on anyone willing to pay them money, you may want to ask yourself what that says about the company, the team, or their leadership.
So before you speak with us or any other church vision consulting firm or even one that has connections inside of your church, make sure that none of these indicators that you do not need a church consulting firm apply to you or your church (or at least make sure that very few exist).
5 Indicators That You Do Not Need a Church Consulting Firm
1) The leadership wants a rubber stamp
Sometimes your church leaders or even just the pastor wants an outside group to lead in ways the pastor isn’t willing. An outside group that simply supports all the pastor or other leaders say without challenging their thinking is not what you want. You will end up getting more of the same and waste large amounts of money and time.
(Note: I’m not saying the outside church navigator or consultant should tell the pastor what to do or assume the role of pastor. But things should be challenged and most things should be fair game for questioning other than the theological foundations of the church. Growth is painful and often requires doing things differently than you have done them.)
2) The pastor is not willing to change
Churches, like any other group, organization, or business, are profoundly affected by their leadership. Pastors often see issues in their church that need to change but I’ve never seen a pastor who doesn’t need to grow. Before a church should work with an outside church consulting firm, they should ensure that its leaders are willing to hold the pastor accountable to make tangible changes to lead and serve differently. The pastor should also lead this change by expressing and preferably demonstrating that growth needs to occur in everyone.
3) The church is in debt (with exceptions)
Sometimes churches want to start a new capital campaign for a new building or other initiative. These can be exciting times. But it isn’t usually very wise to start a new capital campaign if you are already strapped with a heavy amount of debt. You may find an exception to this but in general I think we need to be careful leveraging debt to deal with debt.
One notable exception is launching a capital campaign to address your current debt in order to free your church to give more to local or global missions. Rather than paying huge amounts of money in interest annually to a bank, you can free your church from the burden of debt so that it can focus more on the future than the debts of the past.
4) The church prefers talk over impact
In one sense I hated writing this one. But I’d be dishonest if I said it wasn’t a major issue. In the short-term it is almost always easier to talk about vision clarity and multiplying disciples than it is to actually do it. Do you really want to hire someone to come have discussions that don’t lead to real results?
The problem with results is that they require action, usually a degree of conflict or at least what some call crucial conversations, and hard decisions that will likely upset someone. Decide as a team to engage in these crucial conversations so that when you bring someone in from the outside, things will be much more healthy and primed for change.
5) The church rarely deals with conflict honestly
Conflict occurs in churches. In all reality, it occurs in all relationships and organizations. But the problem isn’t that conflict exists but more how it is dealt with usually. In your experience, does your church deal with conflict honestly and gracefully?
If conflict is usually avoided, an outside church consultant will likely make little progress. The church’s leaders will probably meet many times and then make few changes in order to “keep everyone happy” and “not offend anyone.”
Please don’t misunderstand me. Our goal should never be to offend people or hurt anyone. But if progress and impact is routinely hindered by avoidance of conflict, you may find it more beneficial to initiate a discussion about how conflict is handled than it is for you to bring in a consultant. (One obvious exception to this is if you bring in an organization to help your church navigate conflict. This clearly requires an enormous amount humility and honesty in order for everyone to admit they are part of the problem and that they all need to grow. At the end of the day, conflict can become and often is a blessing from God IF it is handled well and treated as an opportunity to glorify God humbly. For some helpful resources related to church conflict, take a look at Peacemaker Ministries or get a copy of The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict)
As you prepare for the next year, assess your church, and look at your own leadership, do you see any of these indicators that you do not need a church consulting firm in your church? If so, take a second to pray about what you should do. Taking initiative now to prepare for change will only increase the likelihood that your church’s readiness for change is where it needs to be when the time comes.