I’ve been doing some level of church consulting for over 25 years. If you’re a consultant (or one studying consulting through Church Answers), maybe these reflections will be helpful to you:
1. Assessing a church’s health requires much more than analyzing numbers. We can’t ignore numbers, but the factors that contribute to church growth or decline are numerous. That’s why most churches I’ve consulted have sought a comprehensive consultation.
2. Doing your homework about the church, its denomination (if it is affiliated with one), its website, etc., is important. Doing the research will show the church your commitment to this task for this particular church. In addition, it will help you to make the wisest, most-informed recommendations.
3. An honest relationship with the pastor is critical to the process. If the pastor is not on board, the church won’t do much with the report you write. At the same time, developing a good relationship with the pastor will help him trust your input.
4. Churches want to know the bottom-line financial cost. At least, they don’t want to be surprised by unexpected expenses—especially as they’re sometimes still dealing with the anxiety of the COVID situation.
5. Churches want prescription more than diagnosis. They need to know how you reach your conclusions, but they want to know what to do next. If they knew the answer to that question in the first place, they likely wouldn’t have sought a consultant.
6. Quick, easy wins for the church are important. The sooner they can see something positive as a result of the consultation, the more likely it is they will try to implement more difficult suggestions. In fact, I usually try to give a church an easy win long before I write the final report.
7. Church leaders will be overwhelmed by a report that is too long. You might see much the church needs to address. Nevertheless, giving them too much to do—or even too much information to digest—may well result in their doing nothing. Even taking the first steps in climbing a mountain becomes intimidating when you can’t see the top of the mountain.
8. A consultant team is usually better than an individual consultant. I realize that working with a team is more complicated and time-consuming, but having input from more than one person can help refine the consultant’s suggestions. And, having a team helps us recognize (and overcome) our own biases, preferences, histories, etc., that might influence our view of the church.
9. Enlisting a prayer team for each consultation is important. After all, outside consultants are seeking wisdom about congregations they’re just now studying. Ideally, the prayer team consists of an inside group of church members and an outside group of prayer warriors who pray for the consultant.
10. Helping a church move in a healthy direction brings a lot of joy. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.