Twelve Avoidable Mistakes Church Consultants Make
by ‘Niyi Dunmade, MBA, CCC, CCA, MNSE
Certified Church Consultant
Founder/CEO, Magnicraft Consulting
Church consultants are crucial in helping religious organisations navigate challenges in health issues and grow. However, like any profession, church consultants can make common mistakes. Understanding these mistakes is essential to improving their effectiveness and the outcomes they deliver. This article will explore the 12 mistakes that church consultants should avoid.
- Lack of Understanding: One of the primary mistakes is a lack of understanding about a particular church’s unique dynamics, culture, setting or contexts and challenges. Consultants must invest time in active listening to thoroughly understand their working context. Church consultants should start by thoroughly understanding the church’s context. This means delving into the church’s history, like the early church in the Book of Acts, its culture, its demographics, and its unique challenges. Their recommendations may not align with the church’s specific needs and circumstances without this foundational knowledge.
- Prescriptive Approaches: Consultants often must correct the mistake of using cookie-cutter solutions. Every church is unique, and applying one-size-fits-all strategies can lead to suboptimal results. The mistake of using generic, one-size-fits-all solutions is all too common. Each church has its distinct set of challenges and strengths. Consultants should refrain from applying preconceived solutions or silver bullets and instead focus on custom-tailored strategies that address the specific issues a church is facing.
- Neglecting Congregation Input: Another mistake is failing to engage the congregation in the consultation process, especially qualitatively. The input and insights of church members are valuable and cannot be overlooked. The congregational voice needs to be more utilised in the consultation process. Church members deeply understand their needs, concerns, and aspirations. Consultants should actively engage with the congregation, conduct surveys and thorough interviews, and hold open forums to gather valuable insights that can guide their recommendations.
- Overemphasis on Growth: Consultants may prioritise growth, especially numerical growth, to the detriment of other essential aspects like spiritual development, other vital metrics, and community building. It’s crucial to maintain a holistic approach. While growth is essential for many churches, a myopic focus on numerical expansion can be detrimental. Consultants should emphasise a holistic approach that includes spiritual development, community-building, global impact and meeting the diverse needs of members.
- Ignoring Technology: In the digital age, consultants may neglect the importance of technology in church operations, such as online outreach, big data, management tools, and communication platforms. In the digital age, technology plays a crucial role in church operations. Embracing technology can enhance the church’s ability to connect with members and adapt to changing circumstances.
- Resistance to Change: Church Consultants often encounter resistance to change, mindsets, or dogmas, and their mistake is not effectively addressing this resistance. Effective change management is critical. Resistance to change is expected in any organisation, not to mention churches, but consultants sometimes fail to address it effectively. To overcome resistance, consultants should communicate the need for change, involve critical stakeholders in the decision-making process, and provide support and training to facilitate the transition to a desired future.
- Focusing Solely on Finances: Church Consultants may become overly fixated on financial matters at the expense of spiritual and community aspects, which can alienate congregants. While resources and financial health are essential, consultants can only concentrate on something other than just financial matters. Overemphasising finances can alienate congregants, who may feel that the church’s spiritual and community aspects are being neglected. Consultants should strike a balance between fiscal responsibility and holistic well-being.
- Failure to Communicate: Church Consultants must ensure clear, consistent, and transparent communication with church leaders and members. Failing to do so can lead to misunderstandings and mistrust. Effective communication is crucial for successful consultations. Consultants must promptly explain their strategies and progress, addressing concerns and questions to build trust and maintain support for their initiatives.
- Lack of Flexibility: Sticking rigidly to a preconceived plan is a mistake. Church Consultants must adapt their strategies as they gain a deeper understanding of the church’s needs. Church consultants often enter a church with a predetermined plan. However, failing to adapt to the evolving contextual needs and dynamics of the church is a mistake. Consultants should remain flexible, open to adjustments, and willing to modify their strategies as they gain a deeper understanding of the church’s unique circumstances.
- Short-Term Thinking: Church Consultants may sometimes focus on quick fixes, silver bullets and short-term solutions, neglecting the importance of long-term sustainability and growth. Sustainable change in a church community takes time, patience and persistence, and consultants should set realistic expectations and emphasise long-term planning.
- Neglecting Leadership Development: A crucial mistake is not investing in leadership development within the church. This is a significant driver for any change. Developing future leaders is essential for the church’s longevity. Consultants should work with the church to identify and nurture leadership potential. This investment in leadership development ensures the church’s ongoing growth and vitality.
- Inadequate Evaluation: Consultants may not conduct comprehensive assessments or subsequent follow-up or evaluate the outcomes of their recommendations. This oversight can hinder accountability and improvement. Consultants should not consider their work complete once recommendations are implemented, but they should establish clear metrics and regularly assess the effectiveness of their strategies, making necessary adjustments as required.
Finally, church consultants, like any professionals, can make mistakes in their work and must be given to continuous learning. These 12 mistakes, including a lack of understanding, prescriptive approaches, neglecting congregation input, and others, can hinder the effectiveness of their consultations. To be successful, church consultants must be adaptable, open to input, and always focused on the long-term health and growth of the church. Understanding the unique context of each church, customising solutions, involving the congregation, embracing technology, and maintaining open and flexible communication are vital elements for success. By addressing these challenges, church consultants can contribute to the growth, sustainability, and vitality of the religious organisations they serve.