Need for Interim Pastors Increases

By Sharon Mager

The Kairos Baptist Church was proud of their pastor’s commitment to Kairos. Dr. Aeon and his wife, Patientia, who started and led the church for over 30 years, have been strong leaders in the church and community. God used them to grow the church both in numbers and in their spiritual lives. The congregation shared many joys and heartaches and bonded deeply as a family.

Now, the church is in shock. Pastor Aeon accepted a call to minister in another state. Some members are angry and are leaving, taking their children and tithes. Leaders are struggling to develop a plan. A few are casting blame on one another. Some are happy to see him leave. Most are sad, grieving the loss of a good pastor, a man of God, and a friend. What will they do now?

The church forms a search committee for the first time and they’re not really sure how the committee should operate. They start asking around for help.

Perhaps now is the time for Kairos Baptist Church to seek an interim pastor; under the circumstances, maybe they need a transitional pastor.

BaptistLIFE (BL) asked Church Services Consultant Dr. Randy Millwood (RM) to explain more about transitional interim pastors.

BLHow does a transitional interim pastor differ from an interim pastor?
RM: A transitional interim pastor differs from a more traditional interim in several ways, not the least of which is in terms of length. A more classical interim might serve for 2-4 months in the smallest of congregations where pastors are more local and often bi-vocational, or he might serve for 6-10 months in churches where a pastor is coming from outside the local area.

A transitional interim pastor often serves for 12-18 months.

Transitional interim pastors are also more involved in the church leadership.

An interim pastor usually preaches, leads a Bible study, and might be invited to join as an ex-officio member of one or more church groups (e.g., the deacons). However, a transitional interim pastor’s position assumes many more of a seated pastor’s duties, just for a brief season, including roles of influence and leadership. (These matters are negotiated up-front during the covenanting phase.)

BL: In what situations would a church consider seeking an interim pastor?
RM: A church will call a transitional interim in a variety of situations. One example would be if the departing pastor has been leading the church for an extended time (e.g., 15 years or longer). Over such a season of service, the mission field would likely have experienced drastic change in almost every imaginable area. Some of the ministries in which the church is invested would likely not meet the current needs. Simply calling a pastor without assessing such matters may well shorten a new pastor’s tenure because he would not have the relational capital that the outgoing pastor would have established.

Another example of a good reason to enter into a transitional interim will be if the church is experiencing something more than “spat” conflict. In healthy situations, when a pastor departs, a congregation’s general emotion is grief over the loss. But grief is a basket full of different emotions — some people may be in shock, others in denial (that things will change), and still others angry. The leadership vacuum left by the departing pastor will undoubtedly be filled by someone(s) and that could exacerbate the sort of conflict that would be normal for a church entering into a season of seeking a new shepherd. A transitional interim pastor would be trained in managing such conflicts toward healthy resolution before a new pastor is called.

BL: Is there an increased need for transitional pastors, perhaps due to many of our pastors retiring?
RM: While the national average of pastoral tenure remains relatively low, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware  (BCM/D) pastors often enjoy extended ministries. Pastorates of a longer tenure often create a need for transitional interim pastors to help the church move from what was to what will be. And, as your question implies, there is a rising number of retirements on the horizon for the American church. As baby boomers move from weekly pastoral ministries (full-time) to other types of ministries in retirement (part-time), more churches will enter into this season of potential assessment.

BL: What are the characteristics of a good candidate for a transitional interim pastor?
RM: An outstanding candidate for a transitional interim pastor is a person who has pastoral experience, someone who has experience leading a church through a season of change, and someone who wants to love and serve people going through such a transition in their own congregation’s life.

Candidates might also include people who have served bi-vocationally but want to do so with greater purpose and for a pre-determined short season, someone who is retired from pastoral service, or a person who sees the off-ramp three or four years in the future and wants to explore a possible unique option.

From the outset, this person covenants not to be considered by the church or their search committee. So, the person is free to lead, unfettered from any such temptations.

BL: The BCM/D will offer an interim pastor certification in January and February 2020. Tell us about the upcoming training session.
RM: The BCM/D will deliver the roughly 16-hour certification track in 90-minute sections over eight days scattered across two months! This will be a new delivery method for this training which we are delighted to pioneer.

The dates are January 5, 12, 19, and 26, and February 2, 9, 16, and 23.

Participants will build an extremely practical toolbox for establishing a transitional interim covenant, negotiate the benchmarks and expectations, implement a review of the past, assess the present, and a peek into the church’s immediate future. These exercises will help a Church know who they are and what their mission field is like toward calling a pastor who can lead this church (as she is now) to reach that mission field!

Dr. Dan Garland will be the primary presenter. Dan is the former Director of Church Partnership and Pastoral Ministries for LifeWay Christian Resources. He has been a chaplain, associate pastor, and senior pastor in various churches throughout Kentucky and Ohio. Additionally, Dr. Garland has served as an interim/transitional pastor for 15 congregations. He has been married to Charlene for over 43 years.

The cost is $99 and includes all materials. For additional information about this opportunity or to register, visit the BCM/D website.