The Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ offers three areas of consultation to its covenanted churches.
The first is a Behavioral Covenant process, best described as "Sustaining the Spirit". Its purpose is to assist a local congregation in strengthening patterns of communication by means of a faith-based approach to problem solving, decision-making and "being" church. It encourages the use of "spiritual discernment" as an integral part of the church's planning, worship, fellowship and community outreach. The process is useful in: developing or recasting a mission statement; clarifying ministries; building community; as well as enabling a congregation to understand disagreements and tensions as both normal and creative aspects of a Christian community.
Such a consultation is usually a three to six hour session, held on an evening or a Saturday. Additional sessions may be arranged to extend the training to greater breadth and depth.
The process is designed for a "healthy" church with a keen awareness that remaining healthy requires attentiveness to the needs of all parts of the congregation's life and membership and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
For more information or to request a consultant team:
Southwest Regional Minister
South Central Regional Minister
Interim Eastern Regional Minister
Interim Northwest Central Regional Minister
The second type of consultation is Strategic Planning. It is assumed that most churches and pastors engage in planning of one kind or another each week of the year. It can be, however, particularly useful to have facilitators from outside the congregation serve as guides through an intentional and carefully structured planning process. This is especially true in times of pastoral transition, and in times of membership growth or decline which signal a need to review the staffing, the ministries, the finances, the by-laws or the overall self-definition of the congregation as part of the United Church of Christ.
The strategic planning process offered by the Conference Consultants generally requires three to four months, with an average of two sessions per month in accordance with the desires and clear needs of each congregation as determined by the consultants and the congregation.
The strategic planning process, unlike that led by many secular consultants, is faith-based, rooted in the conviction that churches, unlike businesses or corporations, are called by God to be stewards of the gifts of God in a particular place and time. It is done in the context of prayer, of respect for the infinite worth of all persons and of the providence of God, with whom the congregation, and all its members, are in covenant-partnership through an allegiance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The third area of consultation is Conflict Management. The consult is designed, at a minimum, for churches in which disagreements have begun to create identifiable factions and church members are assuming attitudes of self-protection. It is even more imperative when the conflict has become a battle to be won, rather than a set of issues to be resolved together. Without mediation, such conflicts can become so polarized that common objectives have been suppressed and the only goal remaining is to win even if the controversy threatens to destroy the church.
Intense conflict is not new to the church. The Apostle Paul's letters to Corinth, Ephesus and Philippi all refer to arguments, divisions and turmoil in the newly founded Christian communities. Churches that keep this in mind learn to see conflicts not only as normal, but also as an opportunity to be led by God into a new understanding of what it means to be a church. For conflict management a time frame of four to eight months may be needed to resolve differences and initiate healing and renewal.
Conference Consultants are well trained and highly experienced in the methodologies of behavioral covenants, strategic planning and conflict management. They also approach their consultation on the basis of our historic faith in God's providence and mercy. They come to your church as committed followers of Jesus Christ and as servants of the Connecticut Conference. The process usually takes from four to eight months, or longer, with at least two meetings per month, depending on the nature and intensity of the conflict. Working closely with a core group of church members, a consultant team offers a structured process for addressing your church's needs in a timely and faithful way.
Churches using consultants will be charged at a rate established annually, effective on January 1 of each year. For 2003, the rate is 60.00 per hour per 2-person team and $30.00 per hour for one consultant. In addition, the church is expected to cover the cost of long-distance telephone calls by the consultant and mileage at the current IRS rate.
From the pool of consultants, regional ministers will assign appropriate consultants to serve in churches. To ask for a consultant team, or to inquire about the consulting process, call or email your regional minister.