Thoughts

The Rise Of The Church Consultant

consultant2

IT Consultants

I’m a software developer.  I’m usually involved from the design through delivery of my projects.  If a design decision, or technical issue falls outside my expertise we will find someone who can answer it.  That person will probably be a consultant.

A consultant is someone who’s been there and done that.  Someone who has felt your pain but was triumphant and overcame.  Someone who knows all there is to know in their chosen field and studies hard to keep fresh.

A consultant is also a position that I’m sure many developers at my level have aspired to.  We are attracted to the aura that is associated with it.  We are attracted to the money involved.  We like the fact we can impart knowledge and advice and not actually partake in any of the work, or feel responsible for any of the consequences.

It also seems anyone can be a consultant these days.  I’ve met many consultants who did not know what they had claimed to know.  They amounted to nothing more than a waste of company time and money.

Talking about money, the idea from this post came exclusively from Mich 3:11 as I was reading through it recently.  When I read this verse, the rise of the church consultant was what came immediately to mind.

You rulers make decisions based on bribes;
you priests teach God’s laws only for a price;
you prophets won’t prophesy unless you are paid.
Yet all of you claim to depend on the Lord .
“No harm can come to us,” you say,
“for the Lord is here among us.”

Micah 3:11 (NLT)

Before I continue you need to know I have no experience with dealing directly with a church consultant.  I only know of churches that have used them.

The Church Consultant

The Church Consultant

I have noticed recently that more and more people are launching themselves as church consultants.  Why is this suddenly an in-demand service that is being consumed by churches all over?  Are church leaders not able to acquire quickly enough the information they need to operate?  Does it take too long to read a book these days?  We want to know how and we want to know it now – so we hire a consultant…

Why become a church consultant?  Apart from the obvious demand for consultants, are some people stepping into consultant shoes for purely lucrative reasons?

I believe Micah 3:11 stands as a warning to not only consultants, but all church leaders and even christian music artists.  We have a duty to build the Kingdom of God, not to line our own pockets.  I’m not saying taking a income is wrong, but allowing greed to creep in is.

Think about Paul the apostle, probably the earliest ‘church consultant’.  He totally relied on God’s providence.  Some churches did not look after him the best and put him in a shoddy Best Western instead of his preferred Holiday Inn Express. Still, he continued to impart encouragement and knowledge wherever he went.  He did not write a single invoice.

I’m not sure how I managed to write so much off one verse, or even if I managed to properly express how it made me feel, but I’d like to hear your thoughts and maybe through discussion things will become clearer.

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21 thoughts on “The Rise Of The Church Consultant

  1. I’ve got a thing for “consultants,” and it’s not a good thing! I deal with them a lot in business, and find most of them to be folks who just can’t get it done.

    “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” seems to be their motto. Not to say all consultants are incompetent – just most of them.

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  2. Andrea says:

    Interesting post Alastair. I’ve had similar thoughts as of late that have stemmed from reading blogs and tweets of many pastors, church leaders, pastors turned church consultants and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, I understand networking and I think it can be used for great things in the Kingdom, but when everything you write on your blog or tweet becomes all about what your church and essentially you are doing, you’ve crossed a line in my book. Great leaders to me are doing great things for the Kingdom, but they’re doing it b/c it’s their passion, b/c they love people and they are serving in secret. They don’t have a NEED to let EVERYONE know EVERYTHING they are doing for the Kingdom…where they are traveling for the Kingdom…I think you get the idea. I do think it’s great to share what God’s doing, but it shouldn’t feel like an advertisement or competition w/ other church leaders and all too often, this is what I’m seeing. I think pastors…true pastors should be blogging and tweeting a lot more about what God is speaking to them in their time with Him.

    As for church consultants, it’s all about the heart. Also, they are consulting from experience that they’ve gained from working in the local church long enough to see the good, bad and ugly. They are working from a heart and a calling to help pastors do things that they know how to do b/c it’s something that maybe they’ve failed at before.

    I could go on for a while about this 🙂

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    • You’re right Andrea, it is all about the heart. I know there are consultants out there that don’t even call themselves consultants. They just speak into people’s lives as God calls them to do so.

      I could have written way more too. I had to edit this post to make it a lot shorter. 😉

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  3. Hmmmm. I think I see where your thought process started, but I think it may have been misguided a bit. I’m part of a consulting firm and I can tell from personal experience of engaging a consultant and being a consultant, that it’s primarily a positive thing.

    I can tell you that my team is very passionate about building the Kingdom of God and working with leaders to share our past experiences. Many people who get into church ministry get in over their heads. They begin with the best of intentions, but are simply ill equipped as leaders to move beyond where they started. That’s where a good and knowledgeable consultant comes into play.

    As far as getting paid, why shouldn’t they? If they are doing their job, then they’re worthy of their hire. I’m not leading worship for free. I’m not leading a church for free. Why should a consultant consult for free?

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    • I’m not saying consultants should work for free at all. I said that above. For me the verse is warning purely against greed coming in to it.

      You know I get frustrated about the influence the business world has on the church (remember ‘hire tens?’ ha!), and now we’re seeing an influx of consultants and other business-type roles being filled in the church world.

      I’m glad your consulting team is Kingdom minded, and I believe you because I know and respect you. If I feel the need for a consultant in the future, you and your team would be #1 on the list.

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  4. You bring in a church consultant to “suggest” things that need to get done/changed/whatever when no one in the church has the nuggets to stand up and suggest the changed themselves without getting booted/fired/whatever.

    it’s the pastor’s scape goat… and I’m a pastor.

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  5. Ouch! As a former pastor who is now a church consultant I read this and the responses with interest. I left the pastorate because I felt called by God to do what I do. My prayer is that we will also have ministry first and business second. However, too many have lost sight of that and therefore sadly what you have said needs to be said. I do think that there are more out there consulting with good intentions than we get credit for. The old adage applies that even though there are a few bad cops does not mean that when someone is breaking into my house I don’t call the cops! Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath!

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    • Hi Mark, Thanks for visiting and taking part in the discussion. I use my blog to throw out thoughts and was not trying to give all consultants a bad name. I like your approach, where ministry is first and business is second. I think that’s how it should be.

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      • We just completed a research project on church consulting and found that the increased interest is impacted by the continued decline in churches, a greater desire these churches have to bring in outside help, more team and specialized consulting, and better available consultant training.

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      • Here are quotes that help illustrate what’s going on in church consulting:

        Chuck Lawless:
        “More churches will need outside expertise. Let’s face it: most churches are unhealthy. More than 3,700 churches in the United States close their doors each year, and thousands more probably should. Leadership is lacking, and laity are unequipped. Few churches are really making a kingdom difference in the darkness of society. That trend is not likely to change significantly in the next five years. In fact, it may get worse as another un-discipled generation takes its leadership position.”

        Will Mancini:
        “There has never been a more viable time for the role of the consultant, and the need is dire for more of us. In 1995, Lyle Schaller wrote that there would be a five-fold increase for the need of consultants in the next 25 years. This has been true in my experience and is the motivator behind my interest and role in the Society of Church Consulting.”

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  6. Interesting. As a former church worker now consultant. I do it because I love the church and see it needs help..lots of help. God has gifted people in the body for business and industry and we should use everything that we have available to be the best we can be.One thing I do find interestinmg is how a church will hire a consultant and then begin the process of telling them how things should and shouldn’t be. If you hire a consultant do your homework and at least be open. Watch Gordon Ramseys Kitchen Nightmares or Supernanny or any other show where an expert is asked to go in and help only to be met with great resistance, ego and pride that hinders there ability to help. If you hire a consultant be engaged in the process, learn from them. I believe a good consultant is a good teacher.

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  7. Hey, Vance – maybe this is an old post of no current relevance, but I thought it interesting enough to offer an entirely different paradigm of how this might be done.

    What if we really did operate as Paul – allowing those who have been set free by the Truth of our Life in Christ to fund (or not) the ministry we do with other churches? In this way, the “Church Consultant” becomes a missionary of spiritual renewal and a real coach of transformational Truth from an objective perspective.

    I and a group of supporters are seeking God in just such an endeavor: nothing to gain personally from those we serve, and nothing to lose by sharing objective Truth from a seasoned, objective, biblically sound perspective to leaders at any level, churches of any size, and believers AS the Church.

    It’s been interesting to see how leaders and congregations receive an “expert” who wants nothing from them. In fact, it strikes me as pretty ironic – given the very nature of God’s love and grace – and ours with Him – is to give it all away, all the time, to everyone.

    I appreciate your concern over the mercenary. At the same time, I see most church leaders struggling with the responsibility/success/performance cycle, too, not just the consultants and coaches.

    Just two more cents 🙂 Keep up the challenging discussions!

    ridiculously graced…
    -mike.

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