Signs Your Church may benefit from an Interim Pastor
Originally by Lavern Brown, (online at pastors.com) edited for ELCA congregations by Bishop James Hazelwood
One of the questions I am often asked following the announcement of the departure or retirement by their pastor is as follows:
“Should we rush into finding a new pastor right away or should we have someone come and help us figure out what’s best for us?”
My answer is “it depends.” I do believe there are certain situations when I would encourage a congregation to consider a trained intentional interim, especially if the church meets any of these criteria:
1 The pastor is leaving after a lengthy tenure (experts differ over “lengthy tenure”, with figures from 8 to 25 years).
2 The church churns its pastors (a new one is called every few years).
3 The pastor leaves under duress (forced out) or due to inappropriate behavior or misconduct.
4 The church’s leaders can’t identify or agree on the church’s mission.
5 It has been three years since the last ministry evaluation (everything is reviewed for “mission fit” and amended as needed).
6 It is a “commuter church” (members are very different from those who live near the church).
7 Attendance has plateaued or declining (people coming in offset those who leave).
8 The church faces significant financial challenges.
Any church entering the transition between permanent pastors should pay careful and prayerful attention to these signs. If not there is a danger the leadership might simply set the congregation of a repeating pattern. While there are no guarantees in life, except death and taxes, a trained and qualified interim pastor can be a very helpful option for congregations in transition.