Published by Rachel Noel on 15th September 2016

Consultancy Skills for Mission and Ministry: A Handbook, by David Dadswell. Reviewed by Tim Harle

Consultancy Skills for Mission and Ministry: A Handbook, by David Dadswell.

SCM Press, 2011, 223 pages, ISBN 978-0-334-04373-7. £19.99

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Reviewed by Tim Harle

consultancy-skills-for-mission-and-ministryThis is an important book. Dadswell brings together considerable wisdom and experience, reflecting his background as a business consultant, Anglican priest, and teacher at York St John University. He acknowledges his debt to the Methodist, George Lovell, and many others. The book not only brings together a wide variety of insights and viewpoints from different disciplines, but also raises important questions about the whole consulting process, the people involved in it, and its applicability in church or other related contexts.

The book is not helped by its title or its cover. Reference to skills suggests this is a ‘how to’ book, which the aspiring consultant can take off the shelf and find the technique applicable to their immediate situation. This is reinforced by the inclusion of a simplistic acrostic on the cover. In fact, this is precisely what the book does not do. It only begins to get involved in detailed techniques in its last quarter. Instead, we are offered wide-ranging introductions in the first few chapters. This is where the book’s strength lies: it challenges the consultant and consultor (not client – a favourite term) to think through a variety of questions about attitudes and relationships.

These begin with considering the consultant as practical theologian. Secularization and new forms of church rub shoulders with Kolb’s learning cycle and Schön’s reflective practitioner. This sets the tone for the rest of the book: a solid survey of developments in churches and business schools over the past halfcentury, with contemporary applications and examples.

One of the strongest chapters considers the interplay between consultants and church organizations. Once again, Dadswell’s text is built around a number of well-known approaches: Max Weber’s work on bureaucracy, David Bosch on transforming mission, Gareth Morgan on images of organization. Peter Rudge’s pioneering work is mentioned, as are MODEM’s more recent books.

Central chapters address questions of what exactly consultancy is, the people involved and their relationship, and the process and models involved in consultancy. Just when things begin to look a little linear, we are introduced to Meg Wheatley and complexity theory, and especially Patricia Shaw’s work on the importance of conversations as emergent, complex responsive processes.

An important chapter addresses issues in consultancy. These include questions of ethics and professional standards, the role of supervision, and the choice of internal or external consultants. Indeed one of the themes running through the book is that churches may well discover consultants where you don’t expect them, within their own community. Reading this book will only promote that welcome development. The book includes a useful bibliography.

Tim Harle is a Visiting Fellow at Bristol Business School, a Lay Canon of Bristol Cathedral, and Vice-Chair of MODEM (

This review first appeared in MODEM Matters Issue 20 in May 2012.


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