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In Theory: Should churches hire business consultants?

October 18, 2013

In their quest for donations during tough economic times, many churches are turning to business consultants who specialize in helping religious institutions. For example, Eagle Brook Church in St. Paul, Minn. used Dallas company RSI Stewardship, which aided the church in raising almost $25 million to help build new campuses. RSI's president, Joel Mikell said, “A capital campaign is a spiritual thing before it is a financial journey.”

There are about 3,000 consultants who deal with churches and the number is growing. Costing up to $2,000 per day, they advise churches on strategic visions, hiring new pastors, maximizing donations and more, and they even help settle internal conflicts.

Atlanta-based Generis is one such firm. Its co-owner, Jim Sheppard, said that people are happy to give to a church when they “see good returns, an effectiveness of ministry.” Generis helped Houston's First Baptist Church collect some $71 million in pledges with the use of Twitter, Facebook, sermons and emails.

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But not all are happy with consultants. William Wilson, president of the Center for Congregational Health Inc. in N. Carolina, says, “My fear is that there are people who are seizing the opportunity when churches are especially vulnerable to make a financial windfall off of congregational troubles.”

Q: What's your take on churches hiring business consultants?


Oh, I don't think it's a problem if a church hires a consultant. We haven't done so yet, nor do I think such a thing is in the offing. But if a church does, and if the church feels the hiring was worthwhile, I see no problem. Some churches hire section leaders to sing in their choirs, and those singers aren't usually church members. Some churches hire Sunday School teachers, and I'm not against that, either. Do you know what I think? Whatever works.

Back in the 18th century, John Wesley realized that most of his parishioners couldn't come to church, so he rode on horseback to where they were. Wesley is a hero and he became famous for the line, “The world is my parish.” He is also the founder of what became known as the Methodist Church. Is there a problem? Then look for ways to solve the problem. Is it really so evil to pay somebody to solve the problem? I don't think so.

The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge

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