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.
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!
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