Wish List: A New Kind of Transitional Pastors


There’s a breed of pastors who have committed to serving churches between “permanent pastors.”  A good interim pastor is like gold. 

Good interim pastors help congregations come to terms with their recent (and sometimes distant) past.  They prepare the way for the next pastor, so that that he/she can hit the ground running, rather than deal with a difficult staff member or gnawing issue.

But today, we need at least a few Interim Pastors who know how to teach 21st Century Church culture to their interim churches.  For example:

  • A pastor has just left after 20 years and the church had still been functioning as a 1980s church.  They have never heard of the shifts in church culture.  They are still of the mind that ‘if we build it, they will come.’  They need an interim who will prepare them to call a pastor who can lead them in a post-Christian culture.
  • After attempting to jolt a dying church with new energy, the pastor is moving along. Her congregation rejected all ideas to reach out into the neighborhood.  A core group of long-time members rejected the notion that the church will never be as it was in the 1970s.   Now they need an interim who can help them assess their future story:  What’s next for them?  Should they call an established pastor who will look like their former pastors?  Or do they want to try again with another visionary pastor?  Are they at the point when they basically need a chaplain?  The answer to these questions require knowledge of missional church, conversations about Belonging-Behaving-Believing, etc.

We need transitional pastors who can also offer redevelopment consultation – not to do the redevelopment necessarily, but to help a church discern if they really want to make the shifts to keep their ministry going and thriving.

Not every congregation needs this.  Some congregations still need traditional interim pastors who have serious work to do, to be sure.  But there are increasingly congregations who need an interim/consultant who helps them – forgive me for this word – survive. 


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6 responses to “Wish List: A New Kind of Transitional Pastors

  1. Preach! Preach! I second EXACTLY what you are saying. I’ve even used the word “triage” to describe what interim pastors need to do these days. We can keep doing well checks when the church is in heart failure!


  2. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. We had an interim pastor who was in her mid-70s, had no real idea what was happening in the church in the 21st century, and, during the two years (!) she was with us, actually took us backward (and there wasn’t a lot of space to go as it was).

    Ironically, it brought some factions in the congregation closer together because it was the only way to cope with her…honestly, “insanity” is not too strong a word to use.


  3. Just to continue that thought (because I just thought of it…), what we really needed was someone to help us form a cohesive vision and mission for the congregation, or to at least set us dreaming about the future. We went through a “visioning” process, but never really arrived at something that got to the heart of why our congregation existed in the first place, and what our place in the larger community was. And while our permanent (as opposed to interim) pastor has done an amazing job since his arrival, I think we are still suffering from a lack of a unified vision for the congregation. I think a good interim could have gotten us pointed in the direction of developing that, and the stepped aside and allowed the new pastor to develop it.


  4. Y’know, I’ve had some varying thoughts about the Interim doing a visioning process with a church before calling an Installed pastor….I know the point is that the cong. realizes it’s own vision and then calls a person on that basis. However, then the new pastor hasn’t been through that bonding process with the folks, and is playing catch-up….I’ve pondered the idea that the new installed pastor would benefit from starting and completing the process with them, all together. I’ve watched the Interim specialty develop from “filling in” during the lengthy search process, which was/is a real need, and then developing some intents & purposes. Basically, I wish the call process was faster. I’ve also watched enough calls, mine and others’, to know that churches often don’t call according to what they state as their vision, and pastors often are different from their dossiers.


  5. I am one that is actually hoping to serve as an interim (in some distant future) – and i think of how important it would be to pray/discern/discuss and set people free to re-imagine what/how God could use their community to be church.


  6. I’ve just begun a call in a church that is in the latter stages of a visioning process. They called me as a designated pastor rather than have an interim because of “momentum”. Sometimes I feel this call may be my “Pastor Emeritus” place (in the annual report it says, “…explained what a designated pastor means and that their vote today was supporting the session’s decision to hire Rev. Bolt for two years. At that time, the congregation will vote to keep him forever.”) and sometimes I think this might be an interim+ type call. I see myself in someways as transitioning a small midwestern 150+ year old church into the 21st century but wondering if by doing that I’m sealing my fate one way or the other.

    I love these folks and they are eager to do something (I think) I just am not sure how far I can take them.

    Also, what are your thoughts about designated v interim pastorates with the nFOG?


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