Friday, December 2, 2011

Are Consulting Fees Really Worth It?


Are consulting fees in a church building program really worth it?

When considering consulting services, the cost often becomes a subject of debate usually negatively influenced by a number of factors.  First, the church often does not like to spend money – it is typically frugally minded, sometimes to a fault. Secondly, hiring consulting services requires a change in how churches approach the problem. The church typically resists change and finds comfort in established patterns, even if they have not been the most effective in the past. Thirdly, many churches must put it to a vote of the congregation – a body that is largely unequipped by experience or training to truly understand the scope of the problem or the value of the assistance.

There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey.    John Ruskin

While stewardship demands due consideration be given to the cost of the investment, the church often does itself a disservice by unfairly focusing on the cost of the service and not fairly counting the value gained from the engagement.  Consider the parable of the treasure hidden in the field:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  
Jesus - Matthew 13:44 NASB

The man unearthed a treasure hidden in the field and then did what he had to do (sold all he had) to buy the field because he understood the value hidden in the field.  He did not say to himself, “I would like to have that treasure, but I can’t afford it.”  He evaluated the find, counted the cost, and understood the value was worth the sacrifice – which he then made.

To help determine the value proposition on consulting, the church should objectively and honestly ask itself questions, such as:
  • Do we have the training, experience, and objectivity to do this the best it can be done?
  • What is the value of supporting and protecting the leadership of the church?
  • What is the value of increasing unity and support for the building program in the body?
  • What is the value of increasing the financial support for our building program?
  • What is the value of bridging the gulf from “we think” to “we know” when talking about spending hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on a building program?
  • Why did Moses and Solomon get outside help for their building programs? (Exodus 31 and  2 Chronicles 2)
  • What is the additional price we will have to pay during construction for mistakes or oversights in the design of the new facilities?
  • What is the price we may pay, for decades to come, for ministry space that may not truly meet our needs?
  • How much is confidence and peace of mind worth to us?
  • What is the value of even a 10% improvement in the building program? (Hint: 10% of $1M is $100,000)
  • There is no right way to build the wrong thing; what is the value of objectively understanding what we need to build and why?

While some things are essentially priceless, the church should assign some dollar value to each of these and any other questions it may ask itself - then do the math. 

So, are church consulting fees with it?   If, at the end of the day, the engagement provides greater value than the cost of services, the difference in cost is the projected cost to the church to not engage for the services. 


  1. Thank you Stephen! Sometimes churches even know that they are needing a consultant! Then, if they know their need, they do not know which or where to get one. Plus, your great post!!

  2. This Christianity Today article I found today from 2004 is just as true today as it was 9 years ago. some things never change...