There are a many reasons why a parish or pastoral leader might want to enlist the services of a ministry consultant. You might be looking for support during a parish reconfiguration. You may have recently hired a few fresh-out-of-college team members who need a little guidance, or you may be a new pastor who needs some help prioritizing pastoral responsibilities. You may want to increase parishioner engagement but you may not know where to start. A good consultant, coach or professional trainer will help your parish identify your priorities, establish systems for internal accountability, and help you make measurable progress, without any concern for their own job security. On the other hand, a consultant who wants to stay in business will keep your team in a frustrating holding pattern while draining parish reserves. If you are a pastor or pastoral council who is looking outside of your parish for additional support, here are five signs that you’ve found the right consultant for your situation.
- They have diversified experience. Look for a consultant who has served in several parishes, who has made contributions on the diocesan level, and who has is familiar with the current pastoral landscape. While many parishes are facing similar financial challenges, the pastoral concerns of parishes in well-funded suburban school districts are not always the same of parishes where the majority of families are undocumented single-parents who earn less than $36k/year. A qualified consultant is aware that these two scenarios have distinct pastoral needs.
- They have credentials in a variety of disciplines. Someone who began their career as a music minister and later completed certification in pastoral administration is the kind of consultant who has a broader understanding of parish life than just music, or just fiscal responsibility.
- They know their limits. Although they may have diversified experience and credentials, a good consultant knows that they can’t do everything. They can readily disclose, “we don’t do accounting,” “we’re only in one region right now,” or “we don’t install technology.” Furthermore, they won’t make impossible claims, such as the ability to magically resolve conflict or increase collections.
- They work in partnership with another consultant, or they are part of a team. Two heads are always better than one. The best kind of partnership is one where there is intergenerational diversity. They have a safe space where they can process their observations, and they are able to offer more than one valid perspective.
- They let you stay in the driver’s seat. An effective consultant helps you make the best possible decisions for your parish, but they don’t make those decisions for you. They will introduce you to a broad array of resources, rather than push one particular product or company as the answer to all of your problems. They’ll start by asking you about your hopes, dreams and visions, and they’ll be happy to step back when you are able to articulate that you are ready to move forward on your own.