Church Consultancy Training


A collaborative systems approach to Christian community development

Congregations and Christian organisations are living communities. They change leaders, they add and lose members, they start and stop programs and they sometimes run into significant problems. As any congregation or organisation grows through the phases of its life, situations arise where the facilitation of a trained objective person or team is helpful in assisting a church move through an important stage or transition. Local churches and organisations have found the consultancy model helpful when there is the need for:

  • Discerning future vision and setting new directions

  • Establishing clear procedures and policies for leadership, governance and ministry

  • Dealing with congregational conflict or disagreement

  • Setting up healthy staff team relationships

  • Bringing ministries, leadership, services, congregations and sometimes churches to healthy closure

  • Reviewing and revitalising ministries

  • Managing significant leadership or church transitions

  • Planting new congregations or establishing new programs

  • Dealing with leaders and assisting congregations recover following moral and ethical failure.

Rev Les Scarborough of John Mark Ministries who established the Church Consultancy Training program had a long involvement in consulting with congregations who were exploring health, growth and change. Having completed more than 500 consultations with churches of many denominations in Australia, he trained pastors, lay leaders and denominational executives in church consulting skills for around 15 years. Tim Dyer has been consulting with congregations for 12 years and has now worked widely with a range of churches over several states and denominations. He has redeveloped Les’ original program and how equips denominations in establishing a self-sustainable consultancy program. Tim has trained and supervised over 100 consultants from 7 denominations nationally.

The model of training outlined in this profile has been developed by Tim as an action – reflection learning program for consultants called to minister through assisting Christian communities become healthy congregations of God’s kingdom. Tim is available to facilitate this equipping program for denominations who require teams equipped for this important and needed ministry.

Objectives of the Training Program

The ‘church consulting’ training program has distinct 10 objectives around which the training is organised. These give a general framework to the curriculum covered in the course.

  • To internalise a vision for healthy Christian community life.

  • To develop a Biblical and theological basis for facilitating health in congregations through consulting.

  • To develop an understanding of the community development principles and processes of organisational intervention as a consultant.

  • To understand the unique organisational dynamics of Christian churches and religious organisations.

  • To acquire and refine interpersonal and group skills essential in organisational consulting.

  • To implement a collaborative model of Christian community development with two to three church communities over the course of the 3 years of training.

  • To gather, organise and utilise a variety of diagnostic, communication and implementation tools appropriate to consulting within a Christian environment.

  • To consult under supervision and learn from consultancy reflection and feedback.

  • To engage in personal, spiritual and leadership formation as a consultant including the implementation of self-care and support strategies.

  • To develop a personal style of consulting with a specialist interest in two or more of:
    Pastoral Transitions, Staff Team Reviews, Strategic Evaluation and Planning, Governance, Conflict Management, Church Recovery.

Elements of the Training Program

The ‘church consulting’ training program is intentionally structured over three years of training. Further supervision and specialisation in training is usually offered by a trainers and supervisors group established within the denomination. Each training year includes four 1 day training workshops, each three months apart. The course begins with a three day residential.

Training is designed to prepare consultants to work with congregations as soon as possible. This course assumes those selected for training will bring a high level of church understanding and leadership experience. Action – reflection training means that participants learn practically through consulting under supervision. The training aspects of the course run parallel to actual consulting assignments. Consultants reflect on their ministry and shape their skills through feedback.

The course itself is designed not only to equip consultants with knowledge and skills but to allow for spiritual and professional formation in the context of community. Participants collaborate in teams of two and discuss each consultancy within the confidential training environment.

Church communities are unique organisational contexts in which to consult. While the training program focuses on practical interpersonal and group skills, the content of the course is based on theological reflection on health, church growth, community building and effective mission for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Establishing a Church Consultancy training program within a denomination or organisation

Tim is available for a limited number of training programs due to the time commitments involved. Providing there is space for a potential program through John Mark Ministries, the following outlines the requirements for a training program.

  • The denominational authority formally approves the training strategy including the use of ‘consultants in training’ for church consultancy within its jurisdiction.

  • A covenant of ministry with John Mark Ministries for the provision of the whole training package is negotiated each year.

  • The denomination approves a Consultancy Procedures Policy and Manual which outlines:

    • Consultancy Team practices and a code of conduct for consultants.

    • The agreed process for accessing, activating and assigning a consultancy team to a congregation, church or leadership team.

    • Costs to parishes or congregations using consultants. This normally includes out of pocket expenses for consultants: i.e. Travel, accommodation and materials. (NB Consultants do not normally charge fees when operating within a denominational framework.)

    • The operating relationship between the team and denominational leadership, other internal and external consultants, the denomination’s ministry and disciplinary committees and other denominational service providers.

    • Denominational team oversight and reporting procedures. I.e. who will Tim report to about progress in training

    • This Consultancy Procedures Policy and Manual is usually established as part of the training program once the overall direction is approved.

  • A denominational consultancy co-ordinator / team is established with responsibility for organising training venues and making training arrangements, directing consultancy requests and appointing consultancy teams in liaison with the trainer.

  • 12 committed participants with appropriate expertise and availability to consult. These are usually both men and women, lay and clergy. Prospective consultants usually complete an expression of interest to be trained and to consult. The team is usually carefully selected following interviews by the trainer and the denominational leadership.

  • It is Tim’s usual practice to identify 2-3 potential trainers in each program who, with denominational agreement, are equipped to provide ongoing training and supervision to the team following the completion of training. These are also be able to train future teams and expand the capacity of the denomination to respond to an increasing number of consultancy requests. The ‘train the trainer’ strategy, if pursued, is a separate covenant of ministry with John Mark Ministries. Extra training is provided by Tim to the trainers over 2-3 years. JMM training and resources are able to be adapted and used for ongoing training purposes within a denomination that has established the team under a JMM covenant of ministry.