Our Church is Between Pastors - Now What

Now What?

In this season of uncertainty for a church the opportunity to learn, grow, and prepare for the future must not be overlooked.  My job as a Transitional Pastor is to address the needs of the church as an organization and the needs of the individuals who have attended, are attending and will attend. Preparing for the future means learning from the past and growing in the present as God reveals His plan. Through the transitional process I provide leadership to the church as we discover God’s will, God’s way, done with God’s chosen resources.

What is a Transitional Pastor

What’s the Difference?

A Transitional pastor is also referred to as an Intentional Interim Pastor. There is an important distinction to be made between an Interim Pastor and a Transitional/ Intentional Interim Pastor.

Interim Pastor

Traditionally the Interim Pastor is a maintenance position. They are not there to move the church in any direction but rather to ensure that the now vacant position is filled. Their main duty is Sunday morning preaching and service oversight. If someone needs to get married or buried they will step in until a suitable long-term pastoral replacement is found.

Two types of people fill this role.

A retired pastor is often found to fill the interim role of lead pastor. He has enough experience to hit the ground running and navigate the ins and outs of day-to-day church ministry. The retired pastor is not seeking the vacant pastoral job.

An unemployed pastor in some cases will be hired to lead the church through this time. The out of work pastor and the congregation/leadership may consider this as an extended audition for the vacant pastoral job.

Transitional Pastor/Intentional Interim Pastor

The Transitional /Intentional Interim Pastor is a building role. This individual takes on many of the duties of the lead pastor just like the traditional interim pastor does but is not seeking to maintain the previous direction of the church. They use this time between pastors to address past issues, mourn the loss of the beloved former pastor or console those hurt by the actions of a not so beloved former pastor so that the church can begin to look forward.

People who fill this role are committed to this type of ministry. There will be those who God calls for a season in their life but they are few and far between. Most of us have experience in regular pastoral roles but have been called to be temporary agents of change rather than long-term leaders. A Transitional Pastor/Intentional Interim Pastor may be retired from fulltime ministry or in the middle of their active ministry years.

Regardless of their age or current status, Transitional/Intentional Interim Pastors are not auditioning for the role of lead pastor. Their leadership is focused on:

Helping the church heal.

Defining what the church is called to do.

Helping the church find the person to lead them as they live out their calling.

An interim pastor auditioning for the open position is highly unlikely to say what needs to be said for fear of negatively influencing their chances of getting the job. If they are hired on permanently their tenure is often short because past issues remained unaddressed.

My calling is to work with the congregation and the leadership to prepare the church for the future and for the next pastor, who will not be me!


The Opportunity When a Church is Between Pastors

A Forced Time of Pause

Transition creates a forced time of pause. It is not only a time of healing but also a time to take a second look at how the church operates. During this time a comprehensive review of administrative procedures, operational guidelines, policies, programs and leadership structure along with the institutional approaches to Sunday morning gatherings, discipleship, prayer, outreach and meeting the needs of fellow Christ followers attending the church must take place.

Through this process all aspects of why we do what we do and why we do it that way can be questioned, affirmed, adjusted or completely changed. This type of review should take place regularly but is often overlooked or lacks the depth needed to truly understand God’s calling and the church’s response to that calling. A time of transition is a great opportunity to use this process to ensure that the future leadership and pastor of the church is handed a healthy, functional church.


Moving Forward

Closure – Construct – Continue

Transitional/Intentional Interim Pastors are specialists. We seek to move the church into a state of health or build on the existing state of health so that rather than a time of stagnancy or even regression, the time between pastors is a productive preparation for the future.

Closure – address the past and learn from these experiences

Construct – spiritual growth, creating an environment that is totally reliant on God

Continue – what is learned + growth that has taken place = moving forward

It is important to remember that churches in transition because of the negative actions of the previous pastor or because God has called a great pastor to move on, both experience difficulties. The time in between pastors is a time of healing.


Do We Need a Transitional Pastor

Take the Time to Get Ready – Now

It is too easy to hire the next pastor based on not being the “other guy” (the not so great previous pastor) or being just like the “other guy” (the great previous pastor). No one should pastor in the shadow of the failures or victories of their predecessor.

Every church has a history and a future. 

History cannot be changed and the future is unknown.

This statement means something different to everyone who reads it. For some it is a reminder of the difficulties faced and the difficulties that are sure to come. Others remember the good times and expect more of the same. Some view the past in terms of their own personal failings or someone else’s and the future as a chance to avoid making these mistakes again. Others see themselves as a contributing factor to the survival of the church through the years and would like to continue to contribute.

All churches, whether in transition or not, have the same types of people with the same types of views. Some views are accurate, others are a little off the mark, but none assess the church in terms of God’s calling.

History cannot be changed but our view of it can. The future is unknown but how we prepare for the future isn’t. The collective of Christ followers must seek to understand God’s plan for them without interference from unaddressed past issues and unsupported future dreams.

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