Our church is committed to the Intentional Interim Ministry process.
Ed is currently serving in his ninth church as interim pastor. Graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and East Texas Baptist University, ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Corporate Coach U Graduate, Coach Inc.
Intentional Interim Ministry is designed to restore congregational health by offering a safe bridge between challenging times and the selection of the next permanent pastor. Congregations that resist an intentional interim pastor normally do so because they perceive that the presence of the interim pastor might delay the process of getting their next permanent pastor. This is a reasonable concern, but the answer is quite simple. No congregation ought to begin a search for a pastor until it has carefully thought about the direction it wants to move and the kind of pastor it needs. What are the congregation’s priorities? What type of leadership style does the congregation need? What pastoral skills are most important? A congregational self-study is critical to this process. However, few congregations are well equipped to accomplish such a self-study on their own. There are important questions that need to be asked and answered before beginning a search. The intentional interim process is designed to help a congregation determine its vision for the future by determining what the Holy Spirit is calling it to be and to do. By going through this structured process, the congregation is better prepared to find a pastor that can “equip them for the work of the ministry.”
Ed accomplishes this interim task with an “interactive preaching/teaching/coaching style.” I believe that sermons should not only be biblical, but also fit the lifestyle and culture of the congregation; and challenges them to move toward their vision, values and goals. The interim period opens the church to a time of dialogue about items that might be difficult to address during an installed pastor’s tenure. The interim period is the best time to clarify members’ differing expectations, hopes, and desires before the next pastor arrives.
|What is Intentional Interim Ministry (IIM)?
The interim period in the average church is used exclusively for finding the next pastor. Often, attendance, giving, and energy decline during the interim period, increasing the discomfort in an already anxious congregation.
Decades of studying the interim period by the Alban Institute, the Interim Ministry Network, and the Center for Congregational Health have shown the interim period can be a productive time to address key issues in a church’s life. Addressing these issues will improve the health of the church, while fine-tuning the understanding of the type of pastoral candidate that should be called next.
Churches which should particularly consider the Intentional Interim Ministry (IIM) include:
1. Churches that are losing a pastor after a significant tenure,
2. That need a fresh perspective on who the church has become and where it should go with its next pastor,
3. That have lost vision,
4. That find themselves stuck on a numerical plateau or in decline, or
5. That are experiencing conflict (or are in the aftermath of serious conflict).
Not intentionally addressing key issues means a church is likely to repeat its history. The next pastor will inherit unresolved issues, be sidetracked from God’s purposes, and possibly leave after a short tenure. Meanwhile, the church will be confused, fellowship will be hurt, and the cycle of an anxious interim time will return.
The interim period opens the church to a time of dialogue about items that might be difficult to address during an installed pastor’s tenure. The interim period is the best time to clarify members’ differing expectations, hopes, and desires.
Loren Mead’s original studies identified five tasks that should be addressed by churches in an interim period. With slight recent refinements, these “Focus Points” continue to prove to be the vital areas that must be addressed in a successful IIM.
The 5 Focus Points are:
· Heritage – It is vital to make time for healing within the congregation and for putting the service of the former pastor in perspective. There must be a time of letting go of the former pastor and for discarding old expectations, wounds, patterns and baggage of the past. Only when the congregation has let go of the former minister, can a new minister be fully accepted. At the same time, the congregation also needs to celebrate those things that have made her ministry strong and significant in the Kingdom.
· Mission – A congregation must periodically redefine a sense of purpose, direction and what distinguishes it from other churches in the community. The interim is an appropriate time to do this. It is also an ideal time to conduct membership and neighborhood studies to find out how effectively the church is reaching and serving its own community. A church that fails to connect and serve its community through missions and ministry becomes an endangered church. Many churches today have turned inward to serve their own members.
· Leadership – Every congregation today must be conscious of developing new leadership for the tasks of ministry and for incorporating younger and newer members into its body. The interim is prime time for reviewing the membership, its needs, and its ways of organizing, and for making decisions on how to best use its resources.
· Connections – A congregation has often learned to see the denomination through the eyes of its former pastor. With increasing polarization of theological differences, it is crucial that each local congregation clarify its mainstream theological belief. A congregation that does not deal with this aspect of its life runs a strong risk of calling a minister who does not align theologically with the congregation. This can be a devastating experience for the minister and congregation and lead to severe congregational conflict.
· Future – When a congregation has completed the four preceding tasks, it is ready to talk with candidates who can be a good match for the congregation. During this phase of the interim, the congregation prepares to receive a new leader and makes arrangement for call, installation, and start-up for its new minister.
The IIM calls the entire congregation to engage in a self-study of these five Focus Points so that the congregation unites in an understanding of these areas and in how to address any of these areas—including building consensus about any changes that must be made. The IIM approach improves the chances that the church’s ministry and the next pastor’s tenure will be effective.
The Transition Team
The church has put together a new team. This team is made up of trusted, spiritual, and wise leaders from the congregation. It will look much like a microcosm of the church.
The Transition Team does not take over the church. It does not do the work for the church. Instead, the team’s role is to develop strategies to engage the congregation in each process so that the church body will be impacted by the study and so the church members will feel ownership of decisions made in the interim period.
The “genius” behind the IIM is that the interim pastor must rely on the lay leadership of the church. It is the lay leadership that knows the church, the church’s culture, and the church’s history. The IIM pastor “coaches” the Transition Team, but it is the team that leads out in deciding what issues need to be tackled in each Focus Point, how best to get the congregation engaged in processing the issues, and when each Focus Point has been adequately addressed. This means that the Transition Team is also responsible for knowing when the church is ready to wrap up the self-study and begin the work of finding a new pastor.
How Long Does It Take?
From the start of the IIM period, to the calling of the next pastor, twelve to eighteen months will have elapsed, on average. A twelve-month period of self-study, followed by a 3-6 month pastor search is quite normal (this compares to the 10 – 12 months it takes, on average, to complete a traditional pastor search process). However, every church is different; and the more experienced IIM pastor you get, the more efficient he is in the use of time and process. The presence of high conflict, or other circumstances, can delay the actual process. It is important to note that the Transition Team determines the pace of the self-study and when the church needs to release a search committee.
Does The IIM Work?
Every Transition Team that leads a congregation in the IIM must design an original self-study, so it is next to impossible to compare rates of success. However, every church Ed has served as IIM pastor (since 2001) still has the same Senior Pastor they called using this process.