What's New in Business: After building megachurch, retired pastor offers expertise as consultant

Vineyard's Workman now leads Partnership Advisors

CINCINNATI -- For 29 years, Dave Workman worked in the vineyard for the Lord — literally: He was senior pastor at the Vineyard Community Church in Springdale, which grew from a house church of 20 to about 6,000 weekend attendees, making it one of the Tri-State’s largest churches.

In November 2013, feeling the need to let younger leaders take over, Workman retired.

He spent the next 18 months resting and waiting for God to show him his next project. After talking it over with some close friends, in October he started Partnership Advisors LLC with three partners: Ron Heineman, of Anderson Township, an entrepreneur and former Vineyard board member; Bill Brown of Asheville, North Carolina, former president of Cedarville University, near Dayton, Ohio; and Joe Boyd, former teaching pastor at the Vineyard.

Dave Workman was senior pastor at Vineyard Community Church in Springdale for more than a decade. He's now a parter at Partnership Advisors LLC. (Provided photo)

What does the company do?

It’s a consulting firm, intended to help nonprofits get healthy, grow and increase their impact. According to its website, services include leadership development, growth appraisals, audits of leadership structures, and advice on capital campaigns and fundraising.

How will Workman help?

He plans to draw on his experience leading the Vineyard. (He became senior pastor in 2000.) “At the Vineyard, we never shied away from bringing a consultant in,” he said. “Just having an outside perspective is huge. … Companies and corporations do it all the time.”

For him, churches are fascinating creatures. He likes to examine their leadership structures to see what’s broken and how to fix it. It’s often like marriage counseling, he said, when couples feel stuck and don’t know what to do. He’s learned from his own experience at the Vineyard that identifying the problem sometimes is the real trick.

“Real leaders have to define reality and be honest,” he said. “Oftentimes, we’re scared to do it in our relationships.”

Does the business have any clients?

Only a few, as the partners are just now getting the word out. Workman has been consulting with a church in Florida whose pastor left, sending the church into turmoil, he said. His task has been to help the congregation find its next pastor.

“It’s really been fun,” he said. One of the elders told him he didn’t know what the church would have done without Partnership Advisors, he said, which was rewarding.

Another church in Miami, with about 2,000 weekend attendees, has asked the firm for help. The leadership there feels the church has plateaued, Workman said, and feels it needs an outside coach.

How are they seeking clients?

Through networking with friends and business associates. Workman still serves as a regional leader in Vineyard USA, a church planning movement of about 2,500 churches. He oversees 34 Vineyard churches in the region, coaching some of the younger leaders. He expects to find some clients through those connections.

One might think helping the Vineyard grow into a megachurch might have given Workman some expertise in marketing, but that’s not the case, he said. The church did very little marketing under his leadership, he said, and experienced most of its growth through word of mouth.

How will they make money?

Through fees, using a sliding scale according to the means of the client.

What else has Workman been doing?

Finishing a book he’s planning to call “Elemental Leaders,” which he based on the four classical Greek elements of earth, air, fire and water. Elemental leaders exhibit integrity (earth), imagination (air), passion (fire) and servanthood (water), he said. He has also conducted seminars using that material in Michigan and Florida.

His first year away from the Vineyard felt very strange, he said. He felt a bit like the biblical Abraham, whom God called to leave his comfortable home and go to a place he’d never seen before. Before he became a Christian and went into ministry, he worked as a full-time musician.

“I’m sure God will take care of us,” he said. “I told my wife, He loved me when I was a drummer. We’ll be OK.”

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