VitalChurch Ministry has placed many interim pastors in churches around the country, and some even in other parts of the world. Our interim pastors take churches through an in-depth process of church revitalization where they help churches get to the heart of their issues and address them. They also help guide churches in the direction in which God is leading, and none of this is a simple or fast process. Typically, our interim pastors stay in churches for more than a year.
It goes without saying that when a pastor ministers to a congregation for a year or more, the congregation often bonds with that pastor. They become comfortable with his style of leadership and preaching, and may be reluctant to bring in someone who is less known, or a stranger altogether.
Over our years in interim pastor ministries, we’ve had multiple churches want to hire one of our interim pastors as their new permanent pastor, and we always have to tell them that, unfortunately, this is not an option. In fact, we now write it into our contracts with churches that our interim pastors cannot be considered for a permanent pastor position. We do this not because we don’t want to lose any of our staff members (although we don’t), but for several other important reasons.
Our Pastors Are Called to Interim Pastor Ministry
Serving as an intentional interim pastor is a very different thing than serving as a permanent pastor in a church. Our interim pastors have unique gifts and spiritual qualities that make them very well suited for this role. They aren’t just called to be pastors; they have all been called to the specific ministry of interim pastoring. One of our interim pastors, Gregg Caruso, put it very well when he said, “Some pastors are called to a church. We are called to the church.”
Our Mission Needs to Stay at the Forefront of Everything We Do
At VitalChurch, it is our mission to revitalize churches in crisis or transition and see them reconciled and restored to unity, with gifted leadership in place, gospel values embedded, effective governance, and an exciting mission agreed upon.
Our interim pastors need to stay focused on that mission. They are there for a period of time to be agents of change. By leaving open the possibility that an interim pastor could be considered for the permanent pastor position, it could compromise his ability to effect change. He could be thinking about how he could keep his job and may avoid addressing important issues that could rock the boat. Our interim pastors need to be free to do and say the hard things, even if it makes them unpopular with some in the congregation or church leadership.
A Fresh Start for the Next Senior Pastor
Ministering to churches in crisis can be difficult. It’s not unusual for our interim pastors to leave especially challenging church situations with some “baggage.” They may have been part of some especially heated conversations or had to make some difficult decisions for which they received some backlash.
By requiring that someone else come in as the next senior pastor, both the church and the new pastor get a fresh start. Many of the church’s major issues have already been dealt with during the interim period, and the church is on a new path toward health and revitalization.
A Fairer Pastoral Search Process
A pastoral search process in which the interim pastor was a candidate could be somewhat tainted. The pastoral search committee and the congregation would be very familiar with the interim pastor, and probably much less familiar with the other candidates. It could be difficult for a church to be objective or to discern God’s will regarding the pastoral candidates when they feel strongly about their interim pastor and want him to stay.
In addition, it could put the church in a difficult position if they were to choose not to hire the interim pastor as the next permanent pastor, since not hiring him could feel as if they were essentially “firing” him. Our policy of not allowing interim pastors to be considered for a permanent position takes this pressure off of churches.
Keeping the interim pastor from being considered as a candidate also frees him up to aid the church in the pastoral search process. All of our interim pastors have been trained to walk churches through the process and help them discern who God is calling to be their next senior pastor.
Is your church looking for an experienced interim pastor who can walk your church through your current state of transition or crisis? We’d love to talk with you about how VitalChurch can help. Contact us to learn more about our interim pastor ministries.