By George Martin
Rule One for a good consultation is to never presume that you know ahead of time what will be found or what will happen. The process involves asking lots of questions, and then active listening, in which stories are told. What matters is the data and trying to be as honest as possible about what has happened, including all the good things, and those things that didn’t work.
A good consultation though doesn’t fuel the flames of nostalgia too much, though. It is marked more by the visions that are planted and the strategies that emerge to follow those visions. Planning is also a key to a consultation. There is an old adage which suggests that our problem is that our plans have failed. Usually we have failed to plan in the first place.
A biblical framework is a key to good consulting in the church because we can find in those stories examples of courage and honesty that we need to follow in their footsteps. Getting lost and going astray is all part of that story, while getting called back to mission and purpose is also found there as well.
On a few occasions I’ve have consulted in churches which have experienced real trauma. There isn’t any magic pill I can offer. Such consultations usually involve lots of small group meetings, interviews with selected leaders, and even open-air sessions for all in the church.
There are even a few times when I’ve been asked to be a consultant and the presenting issues were all over the place. It wasn’t going to be easy to find a focus. What we do in that circumstance is have an initial meeting to determine the consultant contract, as it were. It is a mutual listening process that creates a road map to follow, and some guidelines for safe travel!