What is a relationship-driven consultation model?

by Russ Conley
Tuesday, July 2, 2013 | 7 yrs old

In adopting a new strategy for impacting lostness through disciple-making, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) has clearly signaled a departure from business as usual. Nowhere is this more evident than in the use of a relationship-driven consultation model.
A relationship-driven consultation model is exactly what it sounds like. The focus is on getting to know people and understanding the local context where ministry takes place every day rather than delivering a particular product, process or event. The difference is explained in Proverbs 18:13 (NKJV), “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Another way to put it might be, if one answers a question before he fully understands the situation, one is likely to give an incomplete answer.
The goal of the relationship-driven consultant is to listen carefully so he or she will clearly understand the needs being expressed. Consultants listen for additional issues and concerns of Baptists in each local setting. Understanding and appreciating the work already underway locally is a critical factor for the relationship-driven consultant. The benefit of this approach is that the consultant is positioned to work more effectively in a long-term relationship with the association, pastor and congregation. Respecting the autonomy of each ministry, they find a course of action that fits their setting for the goal of impacting lostness.
A relationship-driven model fits well into the new BSCNC strategy. Our new strategy focuses on reaching people in eight population centers across the state, as these eight areas represent the most concentrated areas of lostness in North Carolina. Beginning January 2014, I will serve as team leader for a new Strategic Focus Team that will lead the work in these eight population areas, with a strategy coordinator serving in each of the eight areas.
These coordinators will most effectively serve North Carolina Baptists through a relationship-driven model. One way they will seek to do this is through a “generalist” approach rather than a “specialist” approach. Serving as “generalists,” our strategy coordinators will work with church and association leaders to identify needs in their areas related to impacting lostness. Once needs are identified, the strategy coordinator will then help connect leaders with convention staff and consultants serving in the “specialist” role.
The consultant who serves as a specialist brings a depth of knowledge to a relatively narrow topic. For example, a strategy coordinator may connect local leadership with a consultant whose area of specialty is children’s ministry or youth ministry.
This is not to say that the strategy coordinators do not have areas of interest or expertise, but in regards to their work assisting local churches develop strategies for impacting lostness, they will serve as generalists. As our strategy coordinators serve as generalists they will be better able to discern church needs and build rapport with leaders over an extended period of time.
An example I like to share to help illustrate the generalist and specialist role is that of a family doctor. You may think of the generalist as the family physician who is responsible for the ongoing, long-term medical care of an individual. If an individual has specific health needs, the family doctor will refer the person to another physician, perhaps a cardiologist or neurologist. Yet, the family practitioner still walks through the process with individuals and helps them to make sense of the situation and all the options available to them.
Besides a particular focus on relationships, the generalist strives to maintain a working knowledge of available resources across many disciplines that can be useful to local ministries. By building a relationship early on, the generalist is better positioned to work as a partner. This partnership will allow for the development of a plan for moving forward in selecting and applying the best combination of resources.
The generalist can play a valuable role in helping sort through and focus on the best mix of resources for a specific situation. In some situations, more than one generalist may be engaged in working to see lostness impacted in a given area. What is most important is the valuable relationship that guides and drives the efforts.
Our strategy coordinators and convention staff will work to develop essential relationships necessary to impact lostness, make disciples, strengthen churches and plant churches. A well-executed, relationship-driven model benefits churches and associations. It provides a greater impact through highly customized solutions and deeper relationships. This model also offers a more comprehensive knowledge base for effective consultations. It allows for more efficient application of resources for a greater Kingdom return on investment. It also helps strengthen churches to impact lostness by making disciples who make disciples. 
Finally, the relationship-driven model will more effectively lead to the fulfillment of the convention’s mission, “to assist churches in their divinely appointed mission” and the fulfillment of the convention’s vision to, “become the strongest force in the history of this Convention for reaching people with the message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Russ Conley is a BSCNC church health consultant. To learn more about the impacting lostness strategy, visit the Strategy Page