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5 Incredible Takeaways from Behind the Scenes with Carl George, a Master Church Consultant

If you have been reading about church leadership for a while, you are no doubt familiar with the name Carl George. Carl is still around, living in Greenville, South Carolina, and continuing to consult on a select basis. He is best known for his two books, Prepare Your Church for the Future which introduced what is referred to as the “meta-church” model, and Nine Keys to Effective Small Group Leadership: How Lay Leaders Can Establish Dynamic and Healthy Cells, Classes, or Teams. Most small group works are in some way derivative of Carl’s thinking.

He is a hero of sorts to me by virtue of his ability to think clearly and to do so over a very long time. And of course, he cares deeply about the local church.

Over the last year I have had multiple opportunities to learn from Carl as a mentor, consultant to consultant. Here are my top reflections and take-aways:

1. The church consultant today is the new prophetic role.

This perspective took years for Carl to refine and is now a deeply help conviction. It enhances the mystic side of Carl (which deeply resonates with my own journey) which prepares him for the unexpected in his role as a consultant. Prophets brought profound knowledge from an outside perspective (representing God’s perspective) in a way that was not accessible to God’s leaders. A consultant today does the same. And a Spirit-led consultant will subordinate their “agenda,” as they walk with God, on behalf of the leaders they are walking with.

2. You aren’t helping people, unless they perceive it as help.

Carl uses this phrase to bring laser focus to his listening and spirit of genuine service. It’s not about what the consultant knows, its about the help, and the precise nature of the help, that the church leader needs.

3. God’s agenda is always bigger than the presenting issue.

This point is related to #2, but is different. Carl became playful and even a bit aggressive with me at times with this point. He said, in a nice way, that the presenting issue of vision (the category that I represent)  is NOT that big of a deal in comparison with what God wants to say through me to the leadership. In other words, the presenting issue of the church or the expertise of the consultant is just an excuse to get things started so that God can bring the unique and new insight in the present moment.

4. You have to help people “unpack” in order to carry something substantially new.

Over the years, Carl has boiled down change management challenges to a simple image. If you, the church consultant, have something new to give the church, it’s like you have a basketball that you want to give away for the leader to carry.  The only problem is that their hands are full and their backpack is stuffed. You simply can’t give them something new until they are ready and capable of carrying it. One implication is the importance of relationship and process-based consulting verses event-based. In a one time event, real change is unlikely.

5. Consultants must find and master the best diagnostic questions.

Carl had a great story of how he picked up his two most important questions. He was sitting next to a highly successful salesman on a plane and explored the how behind his success. That day the salesman shared two questions that Carl continues to use:

  1. What do you want to do?
  2. How are you getting in your own way?


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Will Mancini emerged from the trenches of local church leadership to found Auxano, a first-of-kind consulting ministry that focuses on vision clarity. As a “clarity evangelist,” Will has served as vision architect for hundreds of churches across the country, including such notable pastors as Chuck Swindoll and Max Lucado. Will holds a Th.M. in Pastoral Leadership from Dallas Theological Seminary and has authored Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture and Create Movement; he also co-authored Building Leaders with Aubrey Malphurs.