If your leaders resonate with the principles and approaches to ministry described in these books, your church is probably a good candidate for an Integrated Planning Consultation. If not, we would encourage you to seek assistance from a firm that more closely reflects your church's vision and values.
During this time of exploration, we will be happy to talk with you about your church's needs and the consultation process. We normally wish to discuss your church's consulting needs with your pastor or another contact person for an hour or more to gain a basic understanding of the needs and issues your consultation would deal with. Based on this information, we can prepare a customized written proposal for a consultation for you to present to your governing body for decision. We are always happy to provide references of other congregations we have worked with. While every congregation's needs are unique, we try to provide references of congregations who were facing issues similar to those your church is facing.
For churches that are seriously interested in a consultation that are not yet ready to commit to a full Integrated Planning Consultation, we offer an option called a Introductory Consultation. After the Introductory Consultation, the church can then decide whether to proceed with a full Integrated Planning Consultation.
Phase 1: Self-study
Once your church schedules dates for your consultation (payment of Installment 1 reserves your dates), we will send you an extensive self-study package. This consists of about 100 pages of questionnaires covering five areas: general information about your church and community, ministries, staffing, facilities, and finances. This is in loose-leaf form so that you can distribute each questionnaire to the person in your congregation best qualified to provide the information. For example, your treasurer or bookkeeper will fill out the financial section. Usually a dozen or more people will be involved in completing the self-study. The key person in this process is your consultation coordinator who will be our contact person through this phase. This needs to be a person who is well-organized and who is able to get material out and call it back in promptly, and who will check over all materials turned in for completeness.
The other aspect of the self-study is the Natural Church Development survey. This tool grows out of the largest study of healthy church growth ever conducted, involving over 1000 congregations in 32 countries on all five continents. That study, conducted by the Institute for Natural Church Development in Germany, identified "eight essential characteristics of healthy churches." This survey measures your church's relative strength or weakness in each of these eight areas as sort of a church health check-up. By using your strengths to address your weaknesses, you can remove the greatest barriers to your church's healthy growth. This has proven to be an extremely valuable tool in helping the congregations we work with to determine where they can most strategically focus their ministry time and energy.
The Natural Church Development survey consists of one questionnaire to be filled out by the senior pastor and 30 to be filled out anonymously by laity who are at the center of church life. The questionnaire takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete. For more on this aspect of our work, read NATURAL CHURCH DEVELOPMENT by Christian A. Schwarz.
It will take you four weeks of diligent work to complete your self-study. (If you have secretarial or administrative staff that can give the self-study project high priority, it can be completed in three weeks, if need be.) After you send us the completed self-study, we usually take three to four weeks to study the materials you have sent us. During this time, we may be in touch with you a number of times by phone or e-mail to request additional information or documents, or to get a sense of your congregation's openness to various options we are considering recommending.
This means the self-study should be started seven to ten weeks before the site visit. Some churches prefer to take longer for their self-studies, especially if the self-study is being completed over the summer or during the Christmas season.
During this time your coach will work with your consultation coordinator to form a Church Health Team that will spearhead the implementation of your ministry plan growing out of your Natural Church Development survey. If you anticipate significant remodeling or construction shortly following the on-site visit, your coach will also work with you to identify or form a Facilities
Task Force to follow through on the facility recommendations that will grow out of your consultation.
Phase 2: Site visit
Typically, a two- or three-person consulting team will make your site visit. A visit typically runs Thursday through Sunday for a church of less than 400 in average attendance. For larger churches, the visit usually starts on Tuesday or Wednesday and goes through Sunday. Early in the visit, the consulting team likes to have a leisurely meal with the senior pastor and his/her spouse to get acquainted and talk about the church. The team has individual conversations with each pastoral and program staff member and each office staff member. We often meet with some key lay leaders. We also take a 1 1/2- to 3-hour tour of your facilities to review facility needs and explore possible solutions. We usually finish Friday afternoon with a 2- to 2 1/2-hour meeting with the senior pastor to go over our observations and discuss what we are considering recommending.
On Saturday from 9:00 to 5:00, we meet with your Leadership Team. This group consists of your staff, your governing board, your building committee (if applicable), and all your key ministry leaders, plus their spouses. We normally work with a group of 25 to 100 people, depending on the size of the church. This is a long, intense day, but you will not be bored! This is an exciting time.
Our time together begins by looking at your ministries and ministry vision. This is where we go over the results of your Natural Church Development survey. Out of this comes ministry recommendations. This is usually followed by staffing, facility, and recommendations.
On Sunday we worship with you, and also do a walk-through of your facility during each time period, observing how each room is being used, looking for overcrowding and underutilized space. We look for traffic congestion as well as anticipate where congestion will occur as attendance increases.
Sunday afternoon we meet for three hours with your Church Health Team and your Facility Task Force to orient them and begin training them for their work as the implementation teams.
Phase 3: Written report and recommendations
Within six weeks of your site visit we will send you a comprehensive written report with observations and recommendations in each of the areas covered by the consultation--ministries, staffing, facilities, and finances.
This report serves as a working document to define many of the key decisions your church will need to make in these areas over the next few years. We do not provide technical architectural drawings.
View a sample report.
Phase 4: Continuing Coaching
The most challenging phase of your consultation is not developing a good plan, but implementing it. Many churches end up with wonderful plans that do little more than collect dust. The best plan in the world is useless unless you implement it.
The most important part of the consulting process, therefore, comes after the plan is developed, during the implementation phase. Our primary role in this phase shifts from planning to coaching. Usually four to twelve months of ministry coaching will be included in an Integrated Planning Consultation package depending on the church's situation. Ministry coaching can be extended on a year-to-year basis.
One member of your consulting team will serve as your Ministry Coach and one as your Facility Coach. Your Ministry Coach will work with your Church Health Team and ministry staff to identify the key issues that are contributing to your Minimum Factor, then developing and implement an Action Plan to strengthen the weak areas, removing barriers to healthy growth. Your Facility Coach will work with your Facility Task Force in taking the next steps toward firming up and implementing your facility plan. Your staff and the members of your Church Health Team and Facility Task Force have unlimited access to call or e-mail your coaches at any time during the coaching relationship.
About a year (and no later than two years) after your first Natural Church Development survey, you will take a second survey (included in the consulting package) to monitor your progress in strengthening your minimum factor, and identifying your new minimum factor, which will become the focus of the work of your Church Health Team for the second year.