by Sarah Robins, Director of Client Relations at Vanderbloemen Search Group
Inviting a consultant into the inner workings of your church or ministry can be scary, or at the very least, make you feel exposed.
At Vanderbloemen Search Group, we help churches and ministries find their key staff. We often tell our clients that their first consulting experience feels like going to counseling for the first time. You’re giving permission to an outsider to evaluate and critique your mission, team, structure, and/or culture. Making sure you’re comfortable with this person is imperative to a successful consulting relationship.
When we’re adding to our Executive Consultant Team, we pay close attention to many different qualifications, but the following six traits are paramount. When seeking a consultant for your church, make sure who you choose has the following qualifications.
They have a wealth of quality experience.
Years of experience leading a team and working in ministry are important, but the real factor lies in the amount of related experience. For example, when embarking on a staff member search, it’s key that you’re working with a consultant who has sat in your chair – someone who has a lot of experience hiring and firing team members. Other questions you can ask: Have they run a large team before? Have they succeeded in growing that team and cultivating a great staff culture? Were they in a ministry environment that was growing and healthy? Did they successfully develop the leaders under them? Quality of related experience will trump years of experience every time.
They are discerning.
A great consultant will always listen first. Their job is to hear from the leadership and people of the church, and then spend the time needed talking and asking questions to clarify and discern their real needs.
Our consultants sometimes step into situations that are extremely cloudy and lacking direction. Sometimes churches don’t have clarity around questions like: What does this ministry need? What is our vision? What are the non-negotiable traits in a needed new hire? What are realistic expectations for the role? What role do we need to hire next?
Using their experience and discernment, an effective consultant will be able navigate and speak into these decisions throughout the entire consulting relationship.
They are a trusted advisor.
Of the many ways you can describe a consultant, a “trusted advisor” is my favorite. Our mission at Vanderbloemen is to expand and further the Kingdom, and this should be the end goal of each and every church consultant.
Consultants should not merely tell a church what to do or what they’re doing wrong, they should be trusted advisors to the church leadership, providing insight into the church’s vision, their staff structure, their hiring and interviewing process, their job descriptions, their staff culture, and more. When seeking a church consultant, make sure they are trustworthy counselors who have the same mission as you!
They are objective.
The saying, “If you’ve seen one church… You’ve seen one church” is a favorite in the Vanderbloemen office. Every church and church staff is unique. A great consultant understands that this consulting or staff member search isn’t for their own staff or church; it is for your unique church. Great consultants know how to speak “the language” of different tribes and denominations within the church, and never try to push their own agenda. Also, great consultants receive ongoing theological training to make sure they can serve a variety of clients with understanding and excellence.
They are pro-active.
The amount of work needed to for a successful consultation is no small task. A consultant needs to have the ability to do every aspect of a consultation or staff member search excellently and in a timely manner. An effective consultant is pro-active and has an entrepreneurial spirit. At Vanderbloemen, even before they’ve met with a church, our consultants begin gathering information – reading everything on a church’s website, watching sermons online, and researching as much as they can about the church and culture.
They have the utmost integrity.
If a consultant doesn’t possess a foundation of integrity, the consultation is doomed to failure from the very beginning. In addition to their experience, qualifications, and objectivity, make sure your consultant has a track record of high character. Your consultant should also have an active prayer life, truly praying for your church and the wisdom to speak into your staff’s needs. We’re all on our knees about these searches, and it’s guaranteed your search consultant is praying the hardest of all.
Hiring a consultant is an important and weighty decision, and not one to be taken lightly. Your consultant will make a lasting impact on your church and its future, so when seeking a church consultant, do not compromise on these six traits.