What is interim ministry?
Some of you have wondered why we need an Interim Minister. If my company needs a CEO, they hire a head hunter and we have someone in three months. But a church and a business are not parallel organizations. A church is a unique creation of God to call people to faith in Christ, to make disciples, to serve those in need, provide care and support for one another, and to worship God. For whatever reason, God has chosen the church to be the hands, feet, mouth, eyes, and ears of Christ to the world. The bottom line for a church is changed lives.
A church is also a unique gathering of believers, fellow travelers and volunteers who have covenanted together to be the “Body of Christ.” Edwin Friedman, who was an expert on the emotional systems of churches and synagogues, said that faith communities are closest to nuclear families in their behavior and functioning than any other organization. We bring with us the best and the worst of our families of origin and develop “emotional patterns” as a congregation.
Consequently, when a faith community is between installed pastors, many members can become anxious. One reason for the anxiety is at least a perceived loss of stability and continuity. The community has lost a key leader. Another reason for the anxiety is a fear factor. Members are afraid because the future is uncertain and that energy and commitment will flag between permanent pastors.
A vital key to a faith community’s healthy movement through this time is the engagement of a person specifically trained to lead congregations in transition. Studies show that some of the most vital times for growth, reflection and renewal are between settled pastors. An interim minister does the same things a settled pastor does: preach, teach, lead, worship, visit the sick, weddings, funerals, baptisms, administration, etc. But an Intentional Interim Minister has another set of tasks as well. Intentional Interim Ministry is a congregational process that examines five focus points:
Heritage—what is our history? How does our DNA affect our ministry today? When have we been at our best and when were their times we could have acted differently? What’s unique about our theological tradition and denomination?
Mission—what is God calling us to do and to be? What are we uniquely equipped to do?
Leadership—how can we develop our leadership? Are there new leaders that God wants to raise up? Is our current infrastructure best suited for the effective operation of our ministry?
Connections—who is our neighbor? What are the needs in Wakefield that we can help meet? How can we better use all the resources TABCOM has to offer? How can we connect better to our town and our interfaith community?
Future—how do we prepare for new pastoral leadership? What is our vision? Where do we want our new leader to take us? Do we all have the same expectations for our new pastor? Has a fair compensation package, housing, and a job description been worked out?
Some of these focus points may be more appropriate for one church than another. There are no cookie cutter approaches. The work of discernment belongs to the congregation. The interim minister is a pastor, a coach and a consultant. I will ask probing questions, share what I observe about the folkways and practices of the church, suggest resources, and celebrate good work.
In the months ahead I’ll be working with the Church Council to engage in a reflective process to help FBC answer three important questions: Who are we? (Identity, Core Values, Bedrock beliefs), who is our neighbor? (Discovering the hopes and hurts of Wakefield and matching those needs with our assets), and what is God calling us to be and to do? (Vision for the future, what is our unique calling?)
I invite you to join me in prayer for openness, creativity, wisdom, and joy as we prepare for a rich and fruitful time of reflection and discovery!