5 Problems with Church Consulting

My father is a great pastor and leader.  After 30 years at his second church plant, he was looking to set up the next generation of leadership for success.  His natural thought was to bring in a church growth and leadership consultant.  He’s a humble leader who’s ready to listen and learn at every turn.

The consultant reviewed the staff, leadership, and various ministries.  He and his team held focus groups and compiled findings.  In the end, he presented a long, nicely formatted report with hundreds of observations and conclusions.  Some of his insight was helpful but the bulk of it simply was not.  It was largely a waste of time and effort.

Here are some of the reasons I think the report was not useful or impactful.  These thoughts have shaped Intentional Churches’ (IC’s) approach to serving churches with a plan and process to double their Kingdom impact.

Limited Knowledge.  No matter how thorough the consultant and his team are, they will never get to know the church like the church leadership team knows the church. This is why IC invests significant time in recruiting and training experienced church leaders and will only sign six to twelve month initial engagements. Every church has unique nuances that are profound when it comes to great growth planning.

Isolated Discovery.  The consultant typically will gather the facts from documents, spreadsheets, focus groups, individuals, and a dose of personal experience.  He or she typically will then look for threads of continuity around core challenges and attempt to draw conclusions.  It’s rare the conclusions are spot on and are often in left field.

Lack of Conviction.  The process naturally leads to a lack of conviction on the part of the team.  The very team that must now go and decide what to do about the “findings” questions the report.  Imagine the fractures that can and do occur when half the team believes the opinions and findings, and the other half of the team does not.

Unclear Priorities.  Now, a team is loaded with a ton of options, and maybe even some direction from the consultant, but there is often no sense of what’s most important to moving the church forward.  Which is the right problem to fix first?  What is the biggest issue?  Should we start there or bang out the easy stuff first?  And by the way, regardless of the approach there’s a good chance half the team won’t agree!

Unhealthy Dependence.  Most consultants are first and foremost expert advice givers.  This is how and why they created their consulting practice.  They may have written a book or two, spoken at a conference, or had some ministry success.  But you run the risk of of becoming dependent on them for the solutions.  And trust me, they will sell you the solution or next package in a heartbeat.

Most consultants have great hearts and a passion for the local church.  And most are really smart.  If you’ve worked with one, I bet you experienced a punctuated shift of equilibrium.  They knocked you back a little bit or woke you up to something you would not have otherwise noticed.  This is a good thing.  But in the end, it’s not that helpful for most.

At Intentional Churches we simply don’t believe in traditional church consulting.  We don’t believe it leads to profound results or meaningful change.

We believe in a different way.  We call it Intentional Growth Planning and Coaching and its rooted in a process that leads a team to “the truth of their situation” and with conviction, decisions about what’s next.  Self-discovery is so much more profound than reading the latest book or attending the latest conference.  It’s the difference between good counseling and a self-help seminar.

Don’t get me wrong. We provide practical solutions from the trenches for all kinds of leadership and growth issues but only after your team has together clarified vision and determined the right, prioritized path forward.  Our team is the most experienced church leadership team in the country.  It’s our passion and we love to help.  We are determined to carve a different path.

What’s been your experience with church consultants? Comment Below

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