By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
The interim pastorate has evolved over the years. Many churches now look for a transitional interim pastor (TIP) when a pastor moves on.
“Transitional interim pastors have skills and resources that can help any church through the change of pastors,” observed Steve Holt, church services director for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Holt stressed that a transitional interim pastor is not just an “interim preacher.”
“Through training, skills, experience and giftedness, he is especially prepared to lead the congregation through that period between the departure of one pastor and the arrival of the new pastor,” Holt said.
The ministry of the TIP includes the work that is usually associated with a regular pastor.
However, by virtue of the distinct character of the interim period, the TIP will have the opportunity to help the congregation in specific ways, such as:
• Helping the congregation work through the grief it is experiencing over the loss of its previous pastor.
• Facilitating the renewal of trust in the office of pastor (in congregations where the pastor has broken trust).
• Assisting the church in resolving unfinished business that may be crippling the church.
• Leading the congregation to rediscover and reaffirm its unique calling and mission.
• Assisting the congregation in its understanding of call and ministry, which will enhance the congregation’s effectiveness in partnering with its new pastor.
• Renewing with the congregation an understanding and appreciation for fellowship and reconciliation.
• Helping to develop a stronger, more effective pastor search committee.
• Assuring that the ministries of the church will continue with quality and without interruption (worship, ministering to the sick and shut-ins, education ministry, administration of the ordinances, weddings, funerals, meetings, etc.).
• Preparing the church for a positive experience with the next pastor.
Holt noted that churches need to have reasonable expectations of what they can expect from a transitional interim pastor. He noted the TIP needs to be accountable to the church, either through the deacon body or a designated group authorized by the church.
In addition, the TIP should not be a candidate to become pastor of the congregation and both parties should acknowledge this in the beginning of the process, Holt said.
The church should have assurance that the TIP will remain with them until the church calls a new pastor or the congregation deems his services are no longer needed, he continued.
Holt also suggested that a trained TIP might be able to assist the pastor search committee, but only if asked. A TIP should not interfere or unduly influence the work of the committee, Holt said.
Holt stressed, however, that a successful pastoral transition is not solely dependent only on the TIP.
The church membership must also do its part to assure the congregation will come out of the transition better off than when it started.
He offered some suggestions for churches:
• Be willing to work through any issues that would hinder the ministry of the next pastor.
• See the interim period as a time of spiritual growth and organizational refinement.
• Strengthen the fellowship of the church with the help of the TIP.
• Undergo a thorough evaluation of the overall health and efficiency of the church and its ministries.
• Be willing to change or adapt ministries for greater effectiveness.
“We are in one of the most critical and challenging seasons North American churches have ever faced,” Holt observed.
“The stress and strain of this season is widely evident as I talk with pastors and church leaders across Tennessee. The need for healthy pastoral transitions is more important now than ever before. I feel blessed to be able to offer the transitional interim pastor ministry to the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention as an effective means of negotiating those key transitions,” he said. B&R — For more information about transitional interim pastors, contact Holt at email@example.com or 615-210-4532.