To assist congregations during their vacancy period.
In the last twenty years, churches have found it beneficial to have specially trained pastors who serve in an intentional manner and for specific purposes. They assist a congregation in coming to terms with its grief and past, adjust to change in leadership, look realistically at its current identity, and prepare to communicate its needs and vision to a pastor considering the call it issues.
There are five processes for the Intentional Interim Pastor:
- Agreeing with the elders, council or congregation on terms of service and goals.
- Entering a congregation in which uncertainty exists and quickly establishing relationships and stability.
- Maintaining integrity of Word and Sacrament, attendance, stewardship, and programs.
- Assessing special needs and focusing on at least one as a priority.
- Appropriately sharing insights and bringing closure to the temporary ministry.
Assisting congregations in accomplishing these tasks are included:
- Coming to terms with congregational history, the bad and the good, and deciding what is important and worthwhile to carry into the future.
- Facilitating the development of shared leadership, reinforcing the ministry of God’s people by honoring those who choose not to continue serving at the present time, and affirming the ministry of those who continue to serve or enter into new areas of responsibility/service.
- Working with the Congregation Ministry Facilitator who assists a congregation in assessing its ministry, identifying where it and its community are currently, and identifying the congregation’s mission, communicating the mission to the called pastor, and establishing a foundation for the future which will be pursued with renewed energy and involvement.
There is Biblical precedent for the use of Interim Ministers. There was John the Baptizer who in accordance with prophecy prepared the people for the Savior:
Matthew 3:1-3 records, “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'”
John 1:6-9 says, “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”
Paul requested Titus to serve temporarily in Crete with specific goals until pastors were appointed to serve the people there. In Titus 1:5 he wrote:
“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.”
For several years the District President (DP) and Circuit Counselors (CC) discussed the need for pastors with special training to be available to meet the specific needs of congregations between resident pastors. They, along with the Vice Presidents, District Staff, and others noted that many pastors and congregations are hurting, experiencing disruptions and conflicts.
Pastoral vacancies occur in 10% or more of the congregations of our nation, Synod and District each year. For a congregation the interim period becomes a time for: Disengagement from the former pastor. Answering questions regarding meeting current needs. Developing closer identification with Circuit Counselors and the District as the congregation goes through the call process and prepares for receiving and making commitment to the new called pastor. An interim usually is a time of confusion, grieving and maintenance. Can it be more? Is it possible to be a time of renewal? Of course, the answer is, “Yes.”
In the last twenty years churches have found it beneficial to have specially trained pastors who serve in an intentional manner and for specific purposes. They assist a congregation in coming to terms with its grief and past, adjust to change in leadership, look realistically at its current identity, and prepare to communicate its needs and vision to a pastor considering the call it issues.
Traditionally the time between resident pastors has been filled by available area pastors who in addition to their regular work see that the work of the congregation is maintained, possibly assisted by a supply pastor, and with increased responsibility on the part of lay leadership. There will always be a need for this and may be what a congregation will choose for an interim period.
However, we now have the option of a trained Intentional Interim Pastor (IIP) available to congregations of the District. This program has first been carried out by the California-Nevada-Hawaii and the Pacific South West Districts with acclaimed results. The Michigan District followed their lead and more recently we have assisted in its development in the Indiana, South Wisconsin and other districts. Another form of it is available in the Minnesota South, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas and other districts. Almost two thirds of Synod’s Districts have adopted or endorsed it in one form or another.
In many churches and districts full time IIPs are used. In the Michigan District we currently have a few full time men and the rest are selected retired pastors, CRM, and others who may be available. Such avoids problems of support and health insurance between interims. Because of providing part-time service we have a larger number of trained Intentional Interim Pastors available. This is necessary because of the size of the Michigan District, the number of vacant congregations, and the needs of those congregations. We have trained intentional interim pastors who would be available for about half of our vacant congregations.
- Circuit Counselors can help by suggesting names of pastors for consideration or by sharing this information with pastors and asking those interested or who desire more information to contact Rev. Dr. Robert E. Kasper, Assistant to the President – Congregation Ministries / Ministry Support, Michigan District, 3773 Geddes Rd. Ann Arbor, MI 48105-3098, fax 734.665.0255, phone 888.225.2111 ext. 230 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Pastors are desired who have a strong theological and faith foundation, commitment to Christ and the Church, relational skills demonstrated competency and a positive attitude.
- Pre-training reading of designated textbooks.
- A $55.00 registration fee, which includes textbooks and ministry manual, plus paying of own transportation to the fifteen hour orientation conference.
- Commitment to continuing education in congregation conflict resolution and interim ministry through personal study, District sponsored interim retreats or other training events. Additional training has been taken by most, is encouraged for the rest and ways are proposed for covering the cost.