Some ways churches engage interim pastors
For the past year I have had the privilege of serving as interim teaching pastor at Moody Church in Chicago. It’s been a fascinating experience and I am continually amazed at the people there and the legacy of the church. But having worked as a pastor in different contexts and watching trends and challenges that churches face, I can say with full conviction that when a church goes through a time of leadership transition, it can be difficult.
I’ve served as an interim for six different churches, from 9000 members to 35 people attending on a Sunday. Sometimes the interim has been just serving a healthy church, sometimes it’s been in a time of much tumult.
How a church goes through that time can determine a great deal about its future. As the key leader of the church, the pastor is a key to church stability, so when there is not a pastor in place, it can give rise to issues that require a pastoral heart, head, and hands. The time between pastors can test the mettle of the church. This time can certainly be a hurdle, but it can also be a ramp.
When a pastor leaves (or retires from) a church, it is common for the lay leaders to find someone to fill in until a new pastor is chosen. This is called an ‘interim’ pastor. The origin of the word ‘interim’ is a Latin term meaning ‘meanwhile’. Although it is easy to be discouraged when a good pastor leaves, the fact that there is an interim means there is an expectation that the church is not done.
I don’t know if there has ever been research on it, but my observation has been that the average time a church spends without a pastor is 6-18 months. During this time, most churches will try to install an interim. There are various types ...