Voicing the criteria: Bruce Raley, director of leadership and evangelism training and events at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Raley has been tasked with organizing the training for individuals who will become Transformational Church consultants.
Sixty-one people attended the first public Transformational Church consultant training at LifeWay's home office in Nashville, Tenn. Four state Baptist conventions -- Mississippi, North Carolina, Kentucky and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia -- already have hosted Transformational Church consultant training events in their own states.
A Transformational Church, as Raley put it, is one where people become more like Jesus, the church acts more like His body and a community looks more like His Kingdom.
"A Transformational Church consultant doesn't have to be a pastor or an expert in church programs," Raley said. "Anyone who has a heart for the church can be trained to be a consultant.
"Experience and education are good, of course," he continued, "but a Transformational Church consultant is totally dependent on the Holy Spirit. The consultant's job is to guide a church to determine its priorities and
then guide the process to help the church accomplish its goal."
Consultant training is the first step toward certification. Once training is complete, the consultant will lead two churches through a consultation process using LifeWay's Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT) as the basis for understanding the perceptions of the congregation. After two successful consultations, certification will be awarded.
Raley said the 15-hour experiential training is crucial because it allows participants to:
-- Know how to correctly analyze the assessment tool.
-- Learn to facilitate a leaders' retreat from which will come priorities for the church.
-- Develop recommendations for action plans for the church to move toward transformation.
-- Coach the church leaders as they implement the personalized plan.
The first step for consultants is reading "Transformational Church" by Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer, a book based on one of the largest and most significant research projects on the American church. LifeWay Research conducted the multi-denominational, multi-year research project.
"The book gives the research findings for the Transformational Church initiative," Raley said. "In going through the book the reader will get statistics and measurements used to determine what makes a church a transformational church and will be encouraged by the stories of these transformational churches."
The second part of the process is the church filling out the assessment tool.
"This assessment tool is done online by a number of people in the church, including the pastor," Raley said. "The tool is statistically accurate, research-based and doctrinally sound."
The church can request a consultant to help guide them through the process of interpreting the data that comes from the tool.
Raley told participants at the training session in November that the engagement process often goes like this:
-- A pastor reads "Transformational Church" and watches the DVD.
-- He uses the DVD to engage with other leaders.
-- The church takes the assessment tool.
-- Priorities and actions are established.
"You, as a consultant, can come in at any point to help guide the church through the process," Raley said. "As a consultant, you will have to resist the urge to 'fix it' for the church. It's your job to listen and ask questions."
Raley said he sees two main reasons church leaders are embracing the Transformational Church initiative.
"One, churches are in pain today," he said. "Culture has changed. Keeping up is hard. We have tried the methodology and the mimicry. They haven't worked.
"And two, Transformational Church is a message of hope," he said. "It's research that shows us where God is working in churches. Transformational Church is not prescriptive. It's descriptive of churches that are seeing transformation take place in the lives of people, the church and even the community in which the church resides."
Raley said his dream is to see 2,000 people trained as Transformational Church consultants over the next four years.
Mitch Martin, leadership development strategist for the Mid-South Baptist Association in Memphis, Tenn., was one of the participants. He and six others from Memphis attended.
"I can take what I learned here and go back and have some deep conversations with the pastors in my area," Martin said. "I don't know any pastor who doesn't want his church to be the best it can be. Encouraging the churches to take the assessment and then sitting down with them to formulate their individual plans is something I will look forward to doing."
Ronnie Hughes, pastor of Brunswick (Tenn.) Baptist Church, described himself as a "pastor with a heart for churches."
"Part of my job as a pastor is connecting with other churches for the Kingdom of God," he said. "Getting this training will help me have skills to work with the churches in my area."
Interested churches and individuals have several options in 2011 for learning more about leading churches toward transformation:
-- Pastor/Staff Retreat: March 14-16, LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.
-- Consultant Training: Jan. 24-26, Grapevine, Texas; Feb. 21-23, Nashville, Tenn.; March 7-9, Vancouver, Wash.; April 11-13, Nashville, Tenn.; May 9-11, Philadelphia; Sept. 26-28, Broadview, Ill.
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Visit www.TransformationalChurch.com for more information. For earlier Baptist Press reports on the Transformational Church initiative, go to http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=33197 and http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=31886.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net