If your church is looking for someone to temporarily fill the lead pastor position while you search for your next permanent lead pastor, you probably noticed that there are several different terms that apply to this type of position. The most common terms are “transitional pastor” and “interim pastor”. You may have wondered if there is a difference between the two, and if so, which one would be better for your church and its situation.
Similarities and Differences Between a Transitional Pastor and an Interim Pastor
At VitalChurch Ministry, we consider the terms transitional pastor and interim pastor fairly interchangeable. There are many similarities between the two. For example, both types of temporary pastors assume the entire role of a pastor, which typically includes preaching, pastoral care and counseling, planning, and administrative duties. They do much more than just preach on Sundays until the position can be filled with a new permanent pastor. However, intentional interim pastors take things a step further than transitional pastors. There is an intervention piece to what they do, which gives them the opportunity to facilitate meaningful change and help usher in a season of renewal in a church.
Both transitional and interim pastor positions should be filled by seasoned, experienced pastors who and can guide a church through an often challenging “in-between” time. An intentional interim pastor will have additional leadership experience and a skill set that allows him to effectively identify issues within the church, facilitate change, and equip church boards and staff members.
At VitalChurch Ministry, we are called to the ministry of intervention, and therefore, our pastors go by the title “intentional interim pastor”. However, if someone were to call them “transitional pastors”, they likely wouldn’t argue with you. They do all of the work of transitional pastors—there is just an “intervention” element to what they do as well.
Should Your Church Bring in a Transitional Pastor or an Intentional Interim Pastor?
There is a need for both transitional pastors and intentional interim pastors in the church at large, but it’s necessary for each individual church to discern by which type of pastor they will be best served. A church with few internal issues, whose former lead pastor left under conventional circumstances (retirement or to pursue another opportunity) could do well with a transitional pastor. On the other hand, a church that is in the midst of conflict, is unclear on their mission and vision, and/or has experienced some sort of difficult or unexpected circumstances would be better served by an intentional interim pastor. Your church should prayerfully consider the type of help you need during your transition time.
How VitalChurch Ministry Approaches Intentional Interim Pastoring
Even among intentional interim pastors, there are various ways to approach this type of pastoral ministry. At VitalChurch Ministry, we always begin our work with a new church by conducting a thorough church assessment, which we call our Diagnostic Analysis. We believe this is a vital part of what we do, as it allows us to identify a church’s true issues (not just the presenting issues).
Once we know what specific areas need attention, we prayerfully consider which one of our interim pastors we will send to the church. We want to match a pastor’s unique gifts and skill set with the needs of the church. Our pastors truly immerse themselves into the churches they serve—becoming a part of the body. They address the things that hinder the health of the church and guide them toward renewal and vibrancy. Our pastors typically stay at a church for 12-24 months, preparing the congregation to search for their next lead pastor from a posture of health.