The interim period, in simplest terms, is the time between pastors. This period is, however, far from simple. The church must continue to function. Worship needs to happen. The board must lead. The staff continues to work. Members must be taught and cared for. Visitors and new members must be introduced to the life of the church. It is here that an interim pastor fits into the plans of your congregation during the clergy leadership vacancy and the search process.
A congregation approaching an interval without a pastor has several options for pastoral support. Understanding these will help the board and the search committee determine their preference for ministry support.
•First, denominational or regional offices can help determine whether a trained interim pastor is available to serve your church.
•Second, retired pastors can be engaged to serve for a specific time period, perhaps until a new pastor is called.
•Third, the board can decide to use local pastors, or perhaps retired pastors, as weekly guest pastors.
Interim pastors, sometimes called transition specialists, will provide the best support. They have been trained to help congregations end their relationships with previous pastors, conduct self-study and discern new directions, identify and develop new lay leaders, rethink denominational relationships, and build commitment to a new future. An interim pastor might be willing to commit from twelve to eighteen months of service. He or she may come to your church in a part-time or full-time role.
A good a sensible article. But here is a question. Is the interim period a sensible invention? Everyone has seen parishes that shoot straight down hill when a rector leaves and don’t recover, if they recover, until the next rector is named. Everyone is aware of large parishes that really want to name their associate rector as rector when the sitting rector departs. Does the interim period really make sense in practical terms, or is it another one of the customs our church has committed to which slowly drains our congregations of life?