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Three weeks ago, our church hired a church consultant to evaluate our church. Staff met with them one at a time, then as a group all day Saturday (that was long!). The consultants also met with two focus groups of 25 each, people from the church, asking them questions about the church’s health. Prior to that, everyone in the church was given a survey of about 100 questions ranging from spiritual growth, to children’s programs, sunday services, youth, leadership, etc. Out of the 1500 or so people at our church, about 800 took the survey.
This was my first experience with a church consultation. Although my father in law has done many of them and I have been a part of his world for a while now, and although I have been a part of his focus groups in the past, I had never been a part of it as a staff person.
The consultant gave the church 5 things we’re doing well and 5 things we’re not doing so well. I will spare you the details. But the strenghts deal with our lead pastor and the spiritual growth of our people, the things to work on primarily deal with staff relationships, structure and execution.
I had a friend ask me during my recent low blog posting if I had received a bad review. No, in fact, the worship arts area came out in the top 5 (out of 25) strengths of the church. My recent struggles have dealt more with communication and affirmation.
That doesn’t mean that the church consultation was easy. It was hard. I wasn’t scared of losing my job, I went through that 4-5 years ago during a regular staff evaluation. It was at that time when I surrendered to God my salary, mortgage, security, title, etc. of working for a larger church. I think that “How to Survive a Church Consultant” starts with surrender. If you work for a church, or any organization for that matter and you have someone from the outside giving you feedback into your role and 1000 people giving their opinion on your performance, you better go into it having surrendered your job to God. Otherwise, you’ll be controlling, manipulative or on the other side, defeatist, negative or resistant. I’ve seen it.
Almost a month later, the church consultant has turned in his final report, individual reports on each staff member to our executive and senior pastors, individual reports on each worship service of the church (my area). I survived the church consultant and learned a lot. Actually I would say what I almost didn’t survive wasn’t the church consultant, but other non-consultant issues that I had to deal with.
So here we go, for the next time your church goes through a consultation. I wish I had known some of these things going into it. And if you’re not in ‘professional ministry’, these are still helpful for any job review you may go through some day.
These are just my own reflections on how I felt. This is not a study of a thousand staff, this is just me.
So here are the “Ten Ways to Survive a Church Consultation”:
1. Surrender your job to God. Either you do it, or God will do it. Seek God’s will in the middle of the process.
2. Be ready to think you’re the one that needs to go. Everyone on our staff later confessed that they thought they needed to go. I did.
3. Performance matters. Spiritual growth and a good heart are great, but you also need to perform, set goals and be intentional. On the other hand, I wish this was different and more of an emphasis was placed on being v. doing. Otherwise church begins to feel like a business. I can perform, but I’d rather be thoughts of both in my performance and being.
4. Get some rest, eat well and exercise. I must have been up at 2am just about every night of the 2 week process. So was everyone else, we joked we should have all called each other. I can help with the workout part. My exercise and eating program helped me get through this.
5. Celebrate genuinely. Leaders sometimes have a hard time looking at the positive. Many great things were said. Out of the 25 areas, 24 were rated as good or excellent. It’s important to celebrate those things with your staff and most of all with your whole church community.
6. Think and communicate honestly yet respectufilly in your one-on-one meeting. We spent 45mns individually with the church consultant. Don’t pose, don’t lie, don’t protect your job or manipulate things. Be honest about the good and the bad, about yourself and the issues. These guys see right through your posing and trying to look good in front of them. The more honest yet respectuful that you are, the more you will help the greater cause.
7. Clearly articulate your job responsibilities. Don’t assume they know what you do or that everyone thinkgs you’re great. Tell them what you do, be specific and paint a picture of your vision and passion for God, His Kingdom and your area of ministry. And in case things don’t work out for you, you never know how that can help in the future. Church consultants are in the business of connecting people.
8. Think big picture, not just your specific area. If you are the type that can contribute to the overall vision of the church in a constructive manner, talk, add your two cents worth. Leaders lead, they don’t just protect their own skin. What a church needs in these situations is hope, guidance, leadership, not safety, withdrawing and seclusion. If you’re a leader, lead.
9. Deal with the Issues. The Consultation is just the beginning not the end. This is a process, not a one time fix all. I hope in 10 years we have another church consultation. Since the consultant left we’ve cried, had special all day long staff meetings, met with support staff, senior staff, young staff, we went on a spiritual monastic retreat to pray, we’ve written about it, confessed sins to one another. This has been the most difficult, emotionally tiring, yet rewarding part of the process. To come together with one another and work through stuff has been amazing. I feel this is where the Spirit of God has been most evident. I say this because only the Spirit can make grown men talk so openly and learning to trust one another.
10. Do you feel called by God, not man, to your job, city, vision. Do you have a God-given passion for what you do, for the staff you do it with and the city you do it in. Wow, this is SO HUGE!! If not, all else is selfish. You have to be about the Kingdom of God, not Bethany, not your mortgage payments or your fame and being right. I think some on our staff are not supposed to be in full time ministry, most are. Everyone one of us has to come to that conclusion in their own time. This is about the Kingdom of God, His Reign and His Glory, not yours or mine. This is why we do it to begin with, and for me, that’s what I’m about. I am committed to Jesus, the Cross and Resurrection and His Kingdom. To see people worship and be transformed by the presence of God, to equipping worship leaders for the Kingdom, to missional relationships in Long Beach and to the salvation of those without hope in the darkest areas of our city. I am committed to selflessness and giving myself to the Kingdom inspite of my comfort, glory or fame. Have your way in me Lord, have your way in me. Not to us, but to your name be the glory. Amen.
I hope these help. If you want to talk more about the process, please let me know.
Into the future,