Most of us in ministry could write books about the surprising things we’ve experienced, and some readers would be convinced it’s all fiction. That’s true about church consultations, too, where my Lawless Group team has heard these statements over the years:
- “We’d rather spend all the money on ourselves than open our doors to ‘those people.’” The community was changing. The church wasn’t. The church did what they said they’d rather do – they spent their money on what would become their funeral.
- “We’re not even sure why you’re here.” The church leaders who hired our team somehow failed to tell the rest of the church that a church consulting team would be on their campus.
- “On a scale of 1-10, I rank our church as a ten in every area.” These words came from a pastor whose deacons and leaders pushed him to bring in consultants. The church was nowhere near “10” in every area, but the pastor refused to see it.
- “We have two acres here, and our goal is to have a couple of services and average 1000 in a few years.” That’s a great vision, but it shows ignorance of space and traffic issues. Even a great vision requires practical wisdom.
- “We don’t need anyone in charge of our prayer ministry because we pray over everything.” You can guess what our team learned. This congregation assumed everyone was praying about everything, but their own Church Health Survey showed otherwise. Prayer that is not prioritized is just that – it’s not prioritized.
- “I’m glad you’re here so you can point out what I’ve been seeing.” A frustrated staff member whispered these words to us as we began our consultation. Months later, we determined that he had been part of the problem.
- “We don’t talk much about theology because we don’t want to be divisive.” This church, in fact, wasn’t divided. It’s hard to be divided when almost anything goes theologically.
- “We’ll fix the nursery after families start coming.” In essence, the congregation was saying, “If they come, we’ll build it.” They didn’t come.
- “It’s impossible to worship without hymns.” In fact, in this church it was hard to worship with hymns. Or with praise choruses.
- “We’ve done this before, and we won’t do anything with your report.” Those are defeating words for a consulting team. In this case, they were also accurate words.
- “Our current worship service isn’t working well, so we’ve decided to go to multiple services.” It’s never that easy. The same leadership team that leads one failed worship service will likely add only another failure.
- “Our church can’t do 100 surveys of unchurched people because we don’t know any unchurched people.” We usually ask for enough members to interview 5 or 10 unchurched people each. When the church can’t even locate that many unchurched folks, they’ve just identified part of the problem.
- “Do you want to go to a friendly class?” I promise you that a volunteer at the welcome center asked me this question when I asked for directions to a class. I said, “Sure,” and she directed me to a friendly one. They weren’t . . . .
- “We’re really evangelistic. We send several mission teams overseas each year.” This church did, in fact, send multiple teams overseas, and they spent considerable dollars on missions. They just didn’t reach anybody who lived near them.
- “Well, those results are just wrong.” This angry leader was convinced that our findings were skewed. Here was the problem, though: we were simply reporting what his own people told us about the church through a Church Health Survey and interviews.
I’m sure we’ll add to our list in the years to come. Stay tuned….