I began consulting with churches part time in 1987. I’ve been a full time consultant to churches since 1990. My consulting firm, 21st Century Strategies, Inc. has been around for twenty-two years. So I’ve had time to see a lot of changes in church consulting over the years- some good and some not so good.
The biggest change is the shift from training conferences hosted by parachurch groups to conferences hosted by mega churches. When I began my consulting ministry, only a handful of mega-churches were doing national training events. Today, the last study I saw a couple of years ago showed there were over 360 national training events during the year- most hosted by mega churches.
The second biggest change is the rise in the number of church consultants. In 1990 there were only a handful of nationally known church consultants, especially within the mainline tradition- namely Herb Miller, Lyle Schaller, and Kennon Callahan. They had risen up through the ranks of growing a church or being on the staff of a growing church. Today, church consultants within the mainline tradition are a dime a dozen – and most of them have never grown a church, something that should set off some alarm bells.
The third change I’ve is the clear shift from consulting mostly with mainline churches to working with non-mainline churches. When I began consulting in 1987, 100% of my clients were mainline. Today, that number is less than 50%. I attribute this to their rapidly declining numbers.
The fourth change is the rise of coaching and church planting. In 1990 coaching wasn’t even on my radar and I suspect it wasn’t on the radar of many people. Today, my list of people I’m coaching is growing faster than my on-site consultations.
In 1990 there were only a handful of church planting groups around the country; today the number seems to be growing annually. Some of the largest training events during a year will be for church planters.
Finally, I’m seeing a rise in electronic coaching and consulting. This is probably 20% of our clients now. With the downturn in the economy and the way the country is going at the moment I fully expect electronic coaching and consulting to make up 30-40% of our clients.
So, what’s the future of church consulting? It depends on how flexible a group happens to be. For those who can’t adjust on the fly, it will be a nightmare. For those who can fly by the seat of their pants and spin on a dime it will be a bright future. So what’s new?