On the surface, it might appear that serving in intentional interim ministry could be a pretty sweet gig for a seasoned pastor! They get to travel the country and experience life in a variety of cities, while getting paid to do what they’ve been called to do—pastor churches. They get the chance to meet and serve with believers in all kinds of different churches. They have the opportunity to help churches in need. Maybe best of all (in some people’s minds), each job is temporary, so if the church is not a good fit, there’s an easy exit at the end of the interim period.
While all these things are true about intentional interim ministry, they don’t tell the whole story about what’s involved. Serving as an interim pastor can be very rewarding, but also very challenging, because churches in seasons of transition come with many unique challenges.
Before we add a new interim pastor to our team, we make sure they are well aware of everything that interim ministry entails. We provide them with plenty of training to equip them for this type of ministry, but we also do our best to make sure an individual is truly called to intentional interim ministry—because it’s not for everyone!
Here are three situations that an intentional interim pastor must be prepared to face in their ministry:
Practices That Are Not Serving the Church Well
Intentional interim pastors need to be ready for the pushback they will likely experience when they discern that the Holy Spirit is guiding the church in a different direction or is asking the congregation or leadership to change the way they’ve been doing things for many years.
Just like anyone else, people in churches can get stuck in their ways—sometimes to their detriment. There will be those within the church who will resist when presented with new ways of doing things. Interim pastors need to understand that this is just part of the process and rely more on what they hear the Holy Spirit saying, rather than those within the church who say, “But that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
While it’s true that there is interpersonal conflict in any church—churches are made up of flawed humans after all—churches in transition or crisis often have conflict in abundance. Sometimes, it’s that very conflict that has brought the church to the place where they need an interim pastor. Maybe their last lead pastor left the church (or was asked to leave) due to unresolved conflict, or the church had a split over a major issue that they were unable to resolve.
Every interim pastor at VitalChurch Ministry receives extensive training in biblical conflict resolution and reconciliation using the path outlined in Matthew 18:15-35. Several of our interim pastors even have advanced degrees in counseling to aid churches that are struggling with deep or long-standing interpersonal issues.
As an organization, we are very prayerful and deliberate about which one of our interim pastors we place at a church. We do our best to match the pastor and congregation for the best fit possible. However, it’s not always a perfect fit. Knowing this, we ask our pastors to be adaptable and do their best to fit into the church culture in which they are placed. In other words, interim pastors do not go into churches with the intent to change the church’s culture or their congregational distinctives—unless, of course, the church culture is toxic, destructive, or otherwise unhelpful to the spiritual growth of its congregation.
Those best suited for interim ministry are pastors who can adapt to different churches—whether those churches are traditional or contemporary, small or large, rural or urban. God works in many different types of churches, and our interim pastors are there to support any church that is seeking to honor Him in their ministry.
As we stated earlier, at VitalChurch Ministry, we firmly believe that interim pastoring is a calling. Not every pastor is suited for this type of ministry. Before we add new pastors to our team, they go through an extensive interview process and our leadership team prays fervently over every hiring decision. When new pastors join our team, they undergo extensive training and mentoring before being sent on an assignment. You can be certain that any pastor who is placed to your church is called to and equipped for the work of interim ministry!
If you would like to learn more about how VitalChurch Ministry’s interim pastors help churches in transition, contact us today.