This is a question that should be asked much more often than it actually is.
Churches often mistakenly think that the best route after a lead pastor leaves is to promote a pastor who is already on staff to the vacant position. On the surface, this seems to make sense. There will be little or no “downtime” from one lead pastor to the next. The congregation is likely already familiar and comfortable with the current staff member. He can hit the ground running, since he will already have an understanding of the church’s vision, ministries, and culture, and know the other staff members, key volunteers, and the elder board.
But the simplest or most expedient solution is not always the best one.
By no means do we think that a church shouldn’t promote from within. We just believe it should be done with caution and lots of honest deliberation and prayer. You want to be certain that the pastor you are considering for promotion is truly the man God is calling to that position.
But even if you are certain that your church’s next lead pastor is already on staff, you can still benefit from bringing in an intentional interim pastor.
An Intentional Interim Pastor is More than Just a Temporary Pastor
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the intentional interim pastors at VitalChurch are so much more than just temporary pastors who are there to preach the Sunday message. There are plenty of people out there who can preach a great message, but our interim pastors are there to lead churches during their time of transition and effect real and lasting change where it is needed. During the interim period, our pastors do things like help churches re-evaluate their mission and vision, address underlying or systemic issues, make church governance more effective, and clarify staff roles.
At the end of the interim period, churches we work with know who they are. They have a renewed sense of purpose, and are ready to take on their next phase of ministry. Whoever the next pastor is who will take the helm, he will be stepping into a healthier, more vibrant place! What better gift could you give a new lead pastor?
Going Through the Pastoral Search Process with an Interim Pastor
Should a church even go through a pastoral search process if they think they already know who their next lead pastor should be? The short answer is yes.
If the internal candidate is, in fact, the man God is calling to shepherd your church, this will be solidified in the search process. If he isn’t, that will also be revealed in the process. Going through an official search will also give your congregation more confidence in the final decision, knowing that other options were explored.
The interim pastors at VitalChurch have navigated the pastoral search process with many churches. If your church could use help in this area, our pastors are more than equipped to do so.
One Church’s Perspective on the Topic
Karlene Walter was on staff at a Massachusetts church that brought in VitalChurch to take the helm for 18 months after her church’s lead pastor abruptly left. They decided to hire an interim pastor despite having two associate pastors already on staff who were willing and able to lead the church. She offers her perspective on the benefits of utilizing an interim pastor, rather than just promoting from within right away: “An outsider may wonder why we spent so much money and took so much time to vote in a lead pastor who had been in our midst all along, but it took an objective outside group to diagnose, expose and begin the healing process from the organizational and emotional sickness that we were harboring. This side of heaven, we will always be a work in progress, but thanks to VitalChurch, we are an emotionally healthier church and have a growing body that is blessed by seeing God work in our region.”
This church, and many others we have worked with, needed the outside perspective and expertise that the VitalChurch interim pastors can provide. They could have just promoted one of their associate pastors as soon as their last lead pastor left, but they took the courageous step to address their issues and truly transform their church in the process.
If you’d like to learn more about how an intentional interim pastor can benefit your church, contact us. We’d be happy to talk with you about your church’s specific situation and see how we can help.