Entries in Consulting (2)


Consulting, Carlus Gupton

Workshops and Consulting

NOTE: This information is in the process of a major revision which will be posted December 2018.

These presentations may be adapted to different settings such as seminars and retreats for ministers, elders, deacons, ministry leaders or entire congregations. The list below is representative of the modules that are available.

If you are interested in scheduling any of these events, or if what is listed brings to mind other needs in your church or organization for which a training or consultation may be designed, please contact me.

Congregational Change and Transition

One group wants change, and another group does not. Both groups exist in your church, and both insist that the congregation’s growth and survival hinges on their perspective. Who do you listen to? How do you determine which changes to make, if any? How will you deal with the repercussions? This seminar focuses on how to link change to biblical purposes and perceived needs, and how to help members through the spiritual and psychological reorientation they must make in adjusting to change.

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Leadership and Ministry Team Building

These presentations may be arranged into team-building seminars or weekend retreats to enhance the working relationships of elders, ministry staff, deacons, women’s ministries, project task forces and other groups. Utilizing a variety of behavioral profiles and relationship assessments, participants are helped to understand and affirm themselves and others as God has made them. Special emphasis is placed upon using one’s gifts in service and creating environments where others can flourish in the use of their gifts. My repertoire of assessment instruments includes Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC Personal Profile System, Team Dimensions, Dimensions of Leadership, Listening Styles Profile, Conflict Styles Questionnaire, and many others.

Christian Peacemaking

This highly practical, interactive seminar presents biblical guidelines to help Christians resolve their interpersonal conflicts in a manner that glorifies God. A few of the topics covered are Christian communication, confrontation, confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation. This seminar is ideal for retreats or enrichment weekends, and can be a deeply emotional, rewarding, and liberating experience for those who are focused on the resolution of specific conflicts.

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Managing Congregational Conflict

Conflict is inevitable, and can be constructive. It can be an opportunity for people to learn from God and each other things they would never learn apart from the struggle. This seminar focuses on the contributors to corporate conflict, how leaders and members can behave in ways that lead to healthy resolution and which keep conflict from becoming unmanageable, and how to institute preventive measures. Also, several conflict styles are discussed, with guidelines on how to use them in their appropriate contexts.

Church and Culture, Understanding the Changing World

The mission field has moved next door. What are the major cultural shifts that have contributed to America becoming an unchurched culture, and what can churches do to respond? What is postmodernism, and how does it affect the way people view the world, the church, the Bible, and truth? How does a church handle generational differences? This training module presents insights on how a church can become a mission outpost in today’s pre-Christian culture.

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Inter-Generational Unity in the Church

In many American churches, membership may consist of five different generations, each of them having their own shaping events, identifying characteristics, ministry preferences, and mission response tendencies. Churches have always dealt with generational diversity, but the rate and intensity of cultural change in the last century has created such unique “moments in time” for each generation’s formative years. This has minimized the generational continuity and stability of faith communities. As a result, there is often less understanding and appreciation, and heightened tension among the younger and older. Whether the issue is worship and leadership styles, the role of women, or the use of visual media, there is usually a generational dimension. This intergenerational, interactive workshop presents tools for greater understanding and deeper unity.

Interim Ministry

This is specialized assistance to churches in transition, usually involving issues arising from the departure of a minister, which are important as the congregation considers how to define its future. For a more complete description of these services, click here.

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Creative Problem-Solving

The elders keep discussing the same problem that never goes away. Education department coordinators try to get needed help and gain parental cooperation. Ministry groups need more volunteers. There are problems, but are there solutions? Yes, and they may reside in the collective wisdom of the group, if there was just a way to tap into their creativity and arrive at realistic, concrete plans of action. This seminar goes beyond role play. One focus group, or a collection of focus groups, brings one real problem to the table. A step-by-step process is presented that equips them to arrive at a mission-based solution and a schedule for implementation. Insight is also given into how to deal with persistent problems that cannot be solved, but must be managed. Participants are trained in a process that can be easily duplicated in the future.

Preacher Search and Transition

When a preacher leaves, either by his or the church’s initiation, it signals the beginning of a chaotic period for the church. The level of energy increases, often with both positive and negative possibilities. There may be enough positive charge to launch the church into an exciting new era of ministry. There may also be enough negative anxiety to catapult the church into a spiral of destructive conflict. These transitions also present the church with one of the greatest opportunities to learn from their past, define their strengths, and identify and remedy lingering patterns that have hindered their ministry effectiveness. How can a church capitalize on the unique opportunities presented by preacher transitions? What is the role of prayer and spiritual discernment in determining God’s will for the congregation? How should a church conduct the searching, interviewing, and selecting process to insure the best match between minister and congregation? What can be done to maximize the first year or two of a preacher’s new ministry to increase the possibilities of a long and effective relationship? These and other important questions are dealt with in this training module.

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Elder Selection Process

What are elders? How should their role be defined? Who should select them? What is the role of prayer and spiritual discernment in selecting those who lead God’s flock? Are there biblical guidelines on process, or are process decisions left strictly to each congregation? This training module presents biblical and organizational insights to increase the possibilities that the elders chosen are biblically qualified and competent to lead, that the congregation feels adequately represented in voicing their needs and preferences, and that the members are predisposed to cooperate with the leaders once they are appointed.

Shepherding Your Church from Control to Empowerment

A common cry heard among elders is their desire to be more involved in the lives of the people and less involved with church management. Many feel caught between the realization that church management is necessary for responsible corporate stewardship, but shepherdly care is necessary as they wish to guide a church’s spiritual development. They often feel torn between the two, sometimes feeling like mediocre performers in both areas. To complicate matters, church members often insist that their elders become more relational, yet express disappointment when they do not fulfill the administrative expectations that were part of the old pattern. Also, deacons mean well in taking over administrative responsibilities, but often wonder whether the elders trust them to carry out their responsibilities. This consultation considers ways to develop healthier belief systems and structures that allow the elders, deacons, and ministers to develop effective working relationships within the church.

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Defining Your Future: Congregational Purpose Refocus (CPR)

This workshop equips churches with a formal process for clarifying their purpose. A workshop features a series of interactive Bible studies and group explorations, providing a host of usable information that can then be refined into clear statements of corporate purpose. This information is usually assigned to a CPR Task Force that is charged with crafting statements of mission, identity, values, and vision. This consultation also includes special sessions with key leaders on how to embed statements of mission into the life and work of the congregation.

Healthy Churches

This advanced seminar presents a balanced perspective on what constitutes a healthy congregation, with a strong emphases on understanding churches as emotional systems. The workshop is not a list of items that all healthy churches should have, but focuses on the quality and maturity of relationships among members as the climate in which growth into Christian maturity may occur. It is based on the research of Dr. Pete Steinke.

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Communication Skills for Caring Churches - Listening Laboratory I

This is an adaptation of Dr. John Savage’s Listening Laboratory I that trains participants in the use of 11 deep-structure listening skills. These skills were originally used to help recover dropped-out church members, but have been used by thousands of churches in a variety of other ministry contexts. The Lab trains people to look for signs of spiritual distress in their brothers and sisters, and intervene with care and concern. Although it has been 30 years since John Savage first introduced the Listening Laboratory, it is still widely recognized as the best training for shepherding available. Not only does it increase ministry effectiveness, but it often serves as an agent for deep personal change. It is the single best training to help church leaders learn the skills of sensitive response.

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Interim Ministry

Interim Ministry

**See also a comprehensive list of resources on Ministry Transitions

Describing Interim Ministry

When a preacher leaves, either by his or the church’s initiation, it begins a period that is full of opportunity for a church (see Ministry Transitions). The level of energy increases, often with both positive and negative possibilities. There may be enough positive charge to launch the church into an exciting new era of ministry. There may also be enough negative anxiety to catapult the church into a spiral of destructive conflict. These transitions also present the church with one of the greatest opportunities to learn from their past, define their strengths, and identify and remedy lingering patterns that have hindered their ministry effectiveness. Questions fill the minds of church leaders:

  • How can a church capitalize on the unique opportunities presented by ministry transitions?
  • How should a church conduct the searching, interviewing, and selecting process to insure the best match between minister and congregation?
  • What can be done to maximize the first year or two of a preacher’s new ministry to increase the possibilities of a long and effective relationship?

Interim Ministry is an intentional effort to deal with these important questions and seize the unique opportunities inherent in a period of transition. It may combine preaching, assessments of congregational effectiveness, one-to-one and group consultations, workshops, conflict resolution, team-building sessions, strategic planning, and a host of other methods to help a congregation craft a more productive future.

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Value of Interim Ministry

In a landmark book on church transitions, A Change of Pastors…and How It Affects Change in the Congregation, Loren Mead discusses two complementary but distinct issues that are concurrently at work when a church goes through a change of ministers.

  1. Congregational Development - the set of knowledge, skills, and processes by which a congregation is brought to a better understanding of its ministry and becomes more effective in it and faithful to it.
  2. Minister Placement - the set of knowledge, skills, and processes by which ministers are matched to positions that most fully challenge their gifts and abilities.

Frequently, the prominent and influential role of the minister in congregational development leads churches to believe they must have a minister before they can move forward. Thus a church devotes most of its energies in the transition period to a minister search, but is not as intentional about congregational development, believing it will resume once the new minister is in place. In reality, the larger issue is congregational development, and the minister search is only one piece of this effort. Mead says:

Congregations need times of reassessment, times in which to rethink their life and direction with some independence of ministerial leadership. Such opportunities, well-used, can bring about a maturity and strength a congregation needs to enter a more productive relationship with a new minister. A congregation that has been through a productive exploration of its program, process, context, and identity and that has rethought and recommitted itself to ministry is a congregation a minister might long to be connected with. (12)

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Five Developmental Tasks

To help facilitate more intentional development, Mead outlines five developmental tasks for the transition period.

  1. Coming to terms with history - Transition is a time to open a church’s story and write new chapters. The losses associated with transition open up the repository of grief and provide an excellent occasion to process unfinished business or heal old wounds. Failure to do this could leave deposits of unresolved grief (anger, bitterness, apathy, avoidance or undeserved distrust of leaders) that could sabotage the work of the new minister. Part of a congregation’s history is the relationship with previous ministers and the implications this has for the new minister’s chances of success, especially for churches who have had a series of short tenures. Interim ministry helps a church become comfortable in its own skin, shape a new identity apart from their relationship with a minister, or perhaps come to grips with unhealthy pattens that have rendered them ineffective in the past.
  2. Clarifying congregational identity (or church culture) - Identity, or church culture, is the unique personality of a church created by its beliefs, location along the continuum on current issues, history, location, size, leadership, demographics, age groups, and patterns of social interaction. Images for church identity come from a variety of sources such as theological orientation, church size, social location, purpose in ministry, etc. A church’s situation in one of these areas may change, but the church may be slow to adjust to the new reality. For example, the neighborhood around a church may change, or growth may create a shift in member demographics. These factors require forging new identities, but the church may resist needed changes. Identity issues also include congregational orientation toward current topics. While not all churches struggle with issues related to worship assemblies, gender roles, and philosophy of leadership, but many do. It may be helpful to use the interim to achieve greater clarity. A church should avoid being doctrinaire or issue-oriented, but at the same time must convey their orientation with enough clarity to help both them and potential candidates assess fit. One might think that an incoming minister would want to help shape the church’s direction on these issues. It is more likely, however, that the minister would prefer a place where he is already compatible. If a minister candidate perceives significant disagreement among the elders, staff ministers, search committee members or others in the congregation, this is usually unattractive as he considers the prospects of a long-term relationship. For a minister to endure the challenge of moving his entire family into a new situation, he will prefer relative assurance on the eventual outcome of identity issues.
  3. Allowing needed leadership change - Transitions often signal the need for some stirring among the leadership team or teams. Previous alignments with the departing minister may now be adjusted in anticipation of a new minister. New leaders may also emerge. Within Churches of Christ, there are a number of current issues about leadership functioning. These include: tendency toward collaborative leadership styles, cultural de-emphasis on positional leadership, team organization around administration and shepherding according to gifts, trend toward multiple staff, assigning significant administrative power to deacons, and the role of the preaching minister with staff (senior minister? lead catalyst?). These issues often demand attention during the anxious period after a minister’s departure. They are also intensified when considering how to navigate size transitions and eliminate growth barriers.
  4. Reaffirming connection to faith heritage - The transition period often provides opportunities for a congregation to redefine or reaffirm its connection to a faith heritage. It often involves utilizing the resources of the larger fellowship, perhaps a consultant from a church-associated college or university or a visit to/from a model church for benchmarking important ministry efforts. This can expand the church’s awareness of needs and possibilities as they experience how things are done effectively in other places. It can also boost the church’s self-image, as the news of their ministry possibilities spreads among interested parties.
  5. Commitment to new directions in ministry - This task is one of the ending stages of the transition process, and may be difficult to ascertain while a church is in the midst of a change. It assumes that a church has intentionally gone through the whole process of development, and thus has a new sense of self and a higher degree of confidence and direction. If this is the case, it increases the church’s confidence that the minister chosen fits the needs for the next stage of ministry.

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Training and Qualifications

As indicated in my bio, I have been consulting on various aspects of church leadership for almost twenty years. I am a charter member of Hope Network Ministries and the Society for Church Consulting. Relative to interim ministry, I have completed extensive training with The Interim Ministry Network, a 1,500 member international organization that exists solely to equip church leaders to help congregations in transition. They have developed a well-defined three-phase system of training for those interested in church intervention, including supervised practice in interim ministry and/or consultation. I completed all three phases of this training several years ago. This is in addition to twenty years of experience in full-time congregational ministry, extensive graduate education, numerous other certifications, almost two decades of teaching on both undergraduate and graduate levels covering the full range of congregational ministry. These experiences equip me to provide quality interim ministry leadership, empowering congregations to enter into God’s desired future in their time and place.

Options for Interim Assistance

I offer three types of service in various combinations depending on the context.

  • Interim Preaching - This is a steady pulpit supply. The consistent presence of quality preaching helps lessen the perceived need to hire quickly, giving the church time to engage the interim process unhurriedly. This is the least expensive model, often alongside the on-call consult. I maintain a full schedule of interim preaching.
  • On-call Primary Consult - The church contracts with one primary consultant to help them through various phases of the interim process. Consultations are scheduled as needed. This may be in conjunction with supply preaching. I enjoy conducting these consultations.
  • Intensive Consult - The interim minister is both supply preacher and primary consultant, with a bi-weekly or monthly interventional program of preaching and consultations, supplemented by frequent contact during the week through phone or other media.

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Geographic Areas

I offer these services to Churches of Christ anywhere in the United States, with an emphasis on Tennessee and bordering states. Memphis, Tennessee serves as the home base. The amount of Sunday preaching appointments in a given month may be limited if long distances are involved.


For consulting, I follow the fee schedule established by Hope Network Ministries. Costs vary depending on congregational size and the actual number of days required for the activities. Travel, meals, and lodging must also be taken into account. Churches may also be asked to photocopy materials for participant use. In some cases, services involve a brief written agreement that clarifies these items. Payment for services is generally due before departure from each intervention day or weekend. Phone consultation or video conferences (Zoom) are available for an hourly fee.


Interim ministry services vary considerably depending upon congregational need. These are not necessarily on a first-come-first-served basis, but are limited to situations where there is a good match between congregation and consultant. 


To request interim ministry services, please email, cgupton@harding.edu

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Related Areas

See Other Resources on Ministry Transitions and Interim Ministry:

See Resources in Related Areas:

See Resource Guides on Over 100 Areas of Ministry Leadership:

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