6 Checkpoints To Find The Right Consultant For Your Church
By: Vanderbloemen March 2, 2016
There are not many things that can be more detrimental to a church or organization than wasting time, budget, and resources on an ineffective church consultant. Whether you need help with your church's staffing structure or the search for your next pastor, the right consultant can make all the difference.
Here are some key attributes to examine when you are looking to hire a church consultant.
1. Team Or Solo
Find out whether your consultant is full-time, part-time, and/or an independent contractor with another job. When consultants are part-time and/or independent contractors, their consulting is not their primary job nor their sole focus. On the flip side, when a consultant is full-time and part of a larger team, they are able to focus completely on your church and providing you with prompt and personalized service. A consultant with a full-time team supporting them will also create an even wider net of support and expertise for your church.
One warning sign to look for in your search for a church consultant is a lack of responsiveness during the initial contact process. If the company or consultant took multiple days to get back to you, it is likely they will not be very responsive throughout the search or consultation process. Make sure the consultant remains responsive both before and after you’ve hired them. While they may respond quickly to your emails and calls, the consultant should also be proactive and reach out to you with updates and discussions.
A very common disappointment is when someone completely ignores a question just because they don’t know the answer. Acknowledgement of the question and stating that they do no know but will do their best to find out is a much better way to handle a tough question. Again, a consultant who can lean on the collected expertise of their team has the advantage in the area of tough questions or unique situations.
Every church is unique in many different aspects, such as theology, demographics of the congregation, staff culture, and structure of leadership, just to name a few. The right church consultant will not only recognize these differences, but also be knowledgeable about them. Do they have experience with your specific denomination? Do they understand the nuances of your theology? Can they speak to geographic ministry differences? For example, Los Angeles is very different from any city within the Bible Belt and will have a congregation that reflects that. Sometimes there are differences in the demographics of a city and the demographics of a church congregation within that city. Make sure the consultant you are looking to hire notices those differences.
Also, leadership structure is a very important aspect for a consultant to understand because it is an integral part of the staffing and health of a church. The search process for an elder-led church is going to look very different than the search process for a congregational church. Does your consultant understand this? Do they continue to educate themselves on theological, structural, and denominational differentiators within the church? Lastly, hiring for culture fit is of uptmost importance. Can your consultant discern your church staff culture?
Nobody is perfect, but if the church consultant you are looking to hire has a bad reputation, they are likely not the best for the job. Ask about their experience. Ask for references. In the same way that references can be very helpful in hiring candidates, they can also be beneficial in choosing your church consultant.
Do you know any candidates who have worked with the consultant? Ask for their opinion, too. A great church consultant treats clients and candidates well. If the consultant avoids questions or is not transparent, they’re likely to be dishonest in their relationship with you as a client.
When you speak with references, be sure to specifically ask how the consultant handled confidential information. Did the consultant share staff bonuses with someone they shouldn’t? Did the consultant contact a candidate’s current employer when they were asked not to? On a technical level, make sure the consultant has systems in place for security. Is their computer database professionally secure? Do they run background checks through a confidential, secure, and reputable third-party? Consultants often come into contact with a lot of private and sensitive information when working with churches and organizations. It’s important that they have installed certain security protocol and use secure programs to store client and candidate information.
Consider the consultant’s contractual financial motivation. The church consultant should be someone you can partner with and trust to advise you to do what is best for you and your church - not what will make them the most money. The retained search model can provide this objectivity because a retained consultant is not racing to find you a satisfactory candidate so that they can be paid. A retained consultant is on your team to find you the best fit for your church no matter how long it takes. If you are stuck with mounds of resumes and endless calling and interviewing, how is the consultant truly helping? A retained consultant will do the legwork of sifting through candidates’ resumes and conducting initial interviews to bring you the select people who are best suited for the role and your church. Other models of search simply throw resumes at you until one sticks.
Overall, an exceptional church consultant is one who provides relief, support, and expertise so that you are able to better use your time and resources to run and care for your church or organization.
What are some key traits of a church consultant to add to this list?
If you liked this, you'll also enjoy When Is It Time To Hire A Search Firm?