Secrets of a Church Consultant: 5 Realities About Church Consulting

Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 105

Ever wondered what it takes to be a successful church consultant? Many pastors and church leaders think that consulting would be fun. They could travel around the country, give advice to churches, and earn some extra income. But the realities of church consulting may surprise you.

Having a successful church consulting ministry depends on certain skills, abilities, and commitments. Not every church leader has the necessary skill set that it takes to be a good consultant. In fact, some pastors struggle because they want to fix the problems themselves rather than guide and coach churches towards fixing their own problems. Church consulting also takes serious commitments. If you want to become a church consultant, you’ll need to invest time, energy, and resources into networking with churches and serving them well.

Here are five realities of church consulting that you should keep in mind if you want to start a church consulting ministry (or become a Malphurs Group Certified Guide).

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You need to be able to think strategically and act relationally

Good church consulting is not about telling churches what to do; it’s about helping churches discover God’s vision and plan for their church. Good church consulting empowers leaders with the tools and processes they need to discover God’s best for their church and leads them in the ability to implement those plans. 

Too many church consultants think that they can simply run a few assessments, write out some recommendations, and trust that the church will follow through. This does not work. Primarily, good church consulting hinges on your ability to build a solid relationship with church leadership teams. They must trust what you say, which means you must listen to them. 

Obviously, you need to be able to think strategically and have a track record of success. You cannot lead where you haven’t been yourself. If you’ve never led an organization from decline or plateau into health, why would anyone trust your advice? While every good consultant has experienced both successes and failures, it’s important to show partnering churches that you can be a helpful guide. This is why at The Malphurs Group, we use the term “Guide” rather than “Consultant” when working with churches. We see ourselves as partners, empowered to help churches take their next step in living out the mission to make and mature disciples.

You can’t be the expert on everything, but you need to find answers

A good church consultant needs to be able to say, “I don’t know,” or “let me think on that”. It’s far better to admit when you aren’t an expert on a topic than to give bad advice. At the same time, you should always go above and beyond to get an answer to a church’s questions.

A good consultant stays on top of new research, new resources. He or she is willing to facilitate connections to the tools needed to help a church thrive. There’s a natural desire to always want to be seen as the “expert”. But if you fail to give useful advice, it only diminishes the perception of your effectiveness. Instead, having the ability to connect people to good information reveals your humility and reinforces the value of having you as a partner. The next time they have a question, they’ll feel confident coming back to you, because they know you’ll either have an answer or be able to connect them to someone who does.

You must be consistent

We often tell churches that the ones that keep meeting will keep working. It’s totally true. The difference between success and failure in church strategic planning is this – the commitment to show up month after month, and follow through with the simple tasks between meetings. All of this hinges on your consistency.

You must stay on top of scheduling meetings, show up on time, and come to in-person and virtual meetings prepared and ready to serve. The more you model consistency, the more likely the church is to succeed.

Church health is the byproduct of doing the right things, the right way for a long time. All of that starts with you. The more consistent you are, the church will respond and benefit from your guidance.

You cannot do it for them

Assuming that you follow the advice in the point above and do everything you can to be consistent, at the end of the day, the church has to choose to do the work. You cannot make them show up for meetings. You cannot demand that they complete their tasks. 

Fundamentally, a church has to want to be healthy in order for consulting to work. This is a reality you have to accept if you want to be a good church consultant. In all my years of working with churches, I’m proud to say that all of them benefited at least partially from the work that we did. But it would be untrue to say that they benefited equally. Some churches worked harder than others, and followed our process more closely than others. The ones that leaned in have experienced the most growth and health.

One of the most disappointing aspects of church consulting is realizing that there are limits to what you can do to help a church. Rather than become cynical, a good church consultant embraces the truth that every church can change. No matter how small or how difficult the challenges, every church has the capacity to be healthy and grow. When you lean into that hope, it gives you the fuel you need to approach each church with the enthusiasm and optimism that is needed to do a good job.

You need to count the cost

Church consulting is hard work. It can take months for a church to agree to work with you. Often, your work with churches will pull you away from family over a weekend. The schedule and finances can be very inconsistent. I’ve had seasons where I had to travel 4-5 weeks in a row and others where I’m home for 4 weeks. At the end of the day, church consulting isn’t a job–it’s a ministry. Therefore, you must have a calling to do the work.

If you think church consulting is just jet-setting from coast-to-coast and telling people what to do, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Church consulting ministry can be filled with seeing new places and meeting new people. However, it’s also filled with flight delays, long nights, red-eye travel, and difficult conversations with people. If you can envision yourself doing anything else, you probably should. 

The work is incredibly rewarding. I love seeing churches find hope, reach new people, and grow in their disciple-making mission. But it isn’t without its costs.

If you read all of this, and you sense a call into church consulting ministry, consider the Strategic Envisioning Guide Certification from The Malphurs Group.

Certified Guides are added to our Guide Showcase where churches are able to find you and connect with you. You’ll be trained in all of our tools and processes to help churches discover their vision, embrace their Great Commission mission, and develop strategies for success. You’ll receive ongoing training and support from our team, as well as access to a community of like-minded consultants that share your passion for serving churches.

To learn more about the Guide Certification process and submit an application, click here.

BONUS: Get a free Team Discussion Guide in the video description on YouTube.

Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

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