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Let's Talk About Church Consultants...

Yeah, I know, I know. It’s a tacky mashup of Pixar and Peanuts.

But the point is: do we really need “church consultants”? I have to admit that I had “good/not-so-good” impressions of consultants during my years of pastoring.

And now I am one…and with a team of them.

Don’t get me wrong—there were key defining moments when we hired consultants and coaches. Some were good, some were so-so, but I always benefitted from having an outside perspective.

There are various times when a consultant can be super-helpful, like…

  • when you want to see your church become more effective and grow, but you’ve plateaued or are declining;

  • when you’re going through a high level transition or succession;

  • the staff has developed some chronic dysfunctional issues;

  • rapid growth—or rapid attrition—has caused organizational/leadership pain;

  • your elder board has multiple opinions on tackling current challenges and consensus can’t be found;

  • you need to raise substantial funds via a capital campaign and that’s new territory for your church;

  • facilitation is needed for some serious team-based strategic planning;

  • “mission drift” is occurring and you’re not sure how to get back on track;

  • you’re simply feeling organizationally and personally stumped and stuck...and just need some tools.

The reality is there are situations and seasons where we all need a little help.

I remember times when I needed to know “Is this normal?” with whatever we were going through or challenged by. Other times I wanted someone with data at their fingertips to let me know what other churches were experiencing. There were seasons where I wanted an experienced practitioner who I could question and get ideas from—those who had been there, done it, and got the coffee mug with the pithy quote.

Different seasons and different needs required different help. Sometimes it was just someone to lean on who didn’t have a dog in the fight, so to speak. Just an ear to hear. Or as pastors have told me: I just need a friend…and hopefully a wise one.

Here’s the problem, though: it was typically expensive. At least more than I was accustomed to consider. Because we were a large church, we had the resources and means to hire consultants.

But the average church doesn’t.

When we launched Elemental Churches years ago (now called The Elemental Group), our co-founder, Tom Thatcher, and I had one dream: how can we make consultancy and resources accessible for the average church? We felt it was time to disrupt the “consultancy”-world in a church-friendly way.

And so we first began developing assessments to measure church health that were “denominationally agnostic” and focused on the intangibles that defined church health and organizational effectiveness: Integrity, Passion, Servanthood, and Imagination. By creating beta-tested online assessments and team-based exercises that leveraged active learning and deep interaction, we created a system that required less “hand-holding” and therefore less expense.

Along with that we discovered the power of game theory for team engagement, and launched into developing a series of gamified tools that could be self-facilitated and aimed at critical organizational needs such as:

  • Strategic planning (none of the churches we worked with—from super-small congregations to megachurches—had solid processes for strategic planning);

  • Vision, mission, and values discernment and clarification;

  • Interactive, team-based assessments for discerning how “outsiders” experience your church…your services, website, and communication means.

I’ll stop here…this is beginning to sound like an infomercial. Sorry.

But the bottom line is this: all us leaders need a little outside help from time to time. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or afraid of. And to get a boost from a practitioner or someone who’s been a little further down the road makes a lot of sense. We need each other and the unique skills, gifts, and life experiences God has given us.

And to me, it should be accessible and affordable. As Red Green use to say (and this is for you Canadians…): “Remember, I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together.”

Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


What if you could identify and remove growth barriers? Empower your volunteers? Build passionate people? Make a real difference in your community? And what if you had church-tested tools for team-building and leadership development? The Elemental Pathway is a comprehensive holistic 6-month program combining online assessments, coaching, and action-learning, gamified tools for highly engaging, team-based interaction.

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