What options do we have as a church when our pastor resigns? In years gone by, perhaps the only option was to find someone who could “fill the pulpit” until the church called a pastor. Today, a church can consider several options when the preacher resigns. This article will explore some of those options.
The traditional interim. The traditional interim approach involves calling an interim pastor to preach and provide pastoral leadership during the interim. The church will need to negotiate with the interim how much time he will spend on the field working as senior pastor----visiting church members and prospects, working with deacons and church committees, leading staff meetings, etc.
Some interims, if they are retired, may be able to spend several days a week on the church field. Others will be limited by another job or other responsibilities that will not allow them to give a lot of time to an interim.
Intentional Interim Ministry. Many churches have discovered that the Intentional Interim Ministry (IIM) provides an excellent approach to the interim period in a church. The truth of the matter is that the time between the resignation of pastor and the call of another is often seen as uncreative and unproductive time.
Some feel the interim time is wasted time. Others fear the congregation will lose members and/or dollars. Still others are in a rush to call a new pastor as quickly as possible so that things can return to “normal.”
Many congregations are unsure of their future; and each generation has differing expectations of church. The interim is the best time to talk about and clarify these hopes and questions about church life. This leads to a better call process for the new pastor.
The IIM process can provide valuable assistance to a church who wants to make the interim period a productive time. The IIM process involves a self-study that based upon five transitional tasks. These tasks are as follows:
Coming to Terms with History
Examining Leadership and Decision-Making Concerns
Looking at Denominational/External Relationships
Clarifying the Congregation’s Identity
Committing to New Pastoral Leadership and the Future
The IIM process is led by a trained Intentional Interim pastor that has been through 85 hours of training for leading a church through the five transitional tasks. The Arkansas Baptist State Convention has a directory of trained Intentional Interim ministers. The ABSC will also be happy to make a presentation to the deacons and/or congregation of a church that wants to know more about the IIM process.
If your church would like to know more about the IIM process, please call 501-376-4791 or 800-838-2272, ext. 5103. Or, you can email Jimmie Sheffield at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pulpit Supply Preacher. Some churches prefer to have one person to preach on Sundays and Wednesdays during the interim time. This person will not perform any other pastoral duties. He will only preach. This approach does provide some continuity and some stability from a preaching viewpoint.
Different Preacher Each Sunday. Some churches like to use the interim time to have a different preacher each Sunday. In some cases, a church will ask a church member to lead the Wednesday night service during the interim.
The primary difficulty of this approach to the interim time involves the need for a person(s) to take the responsibility of finding a different person for each week. If the interim time extends to several months, some church members may begin to feel there is no continuity to the preaching program. Another difficulty involves the need for pastoral ministry for crisis situations---deaths, hospital visitation, etc. Lay people would have to step to the plate and provide this kind of ministry.
Different Preacher Each Month. Another approach to the interim time involves the use of a different preacher each month. This approach provides variety in the pulpit but does give some sense of continuity. Again, the difficulty is the work load on the people who have to find the different preacher each month. Also, a church would have the same difficulty related to providing pastoral ministry as described in the “different preacher each Sunday” approach.
Each church will need to pray and seek God’s will in determining which approach will be used for an interim time. One thing I would suggest is that you do not just assume you will conduct an interim time just because “we’ve always done it that way.” Take the time to consider these options. Ask God for His leadership. You may find God will lead you to do the interim time in another way.
Jimmie Sheffield is the retired associate executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC). He currently serves part-time on the Executive+Administrative Team as the Executive Administrator. One of his responsibilities involves working with churches through the intentional interim ministry. Jimmie and his wife, Annette, live in North Little Rock.