For churches in a season of transition—when they’re in between lead pastors—bringing in an interim pastor can be a great decision. This is especially true for churches without a team of pastors in place who are capable of taking on the preaching and leadership duties in the absence of a lead pastor. For denominational churches, the denomination may be able to supply a church with an interim pastor as they search for their new lead pastor, but what about independent, non-denominational churches? Not many of these churches have someone on staff or in their congregation with the gifts, abilities, and time to dedicate to leading a church for as long as it takes to find a new permanent pastor—especially since the pastoral search process can often take more than a year. These churches often look to bring in an interim pastor to help them through the transition time.
Where Should Churches Look to Find an Interim Pastor?
Some churches are blessed to have someone already in their congregation who can step into the interim pastor role. This may be an associate pastor on staff or a retired pastor who is willing and able to come out of retirement for a season to serve the church. But for the many churches that don’t have a clear choice, they have to find an interim pastor from outside their congregation.
There are individuals who put themselves out there as interim pastors for hire. These are often people who have served as lead pastors in the past, and for whatever reason, prefer the role of interim pastor. They might like the regular change of scenery, or the experience of serving in a variety of types of churches. Hopefully, they also feel called to the specific type of ministry that is interim pastoring. These interim pastors are often found through word of mouth. For example, someone in the church knows someone who attended another church in which that interim pastor previously served. The church would then contact the independent interim pastor to see if he would be a good fit to serve as their pastor in the transition period.
There are also organizations that specialize in providing churches with interim pastors. One such organization is VitalChurch Ministry. They train and send out interim pastors to churches throughout the United States. They work with churches large and small, independent and denominational, rural and urban. They currently have a team of made up of more than a dozen interim pastors, so there is almost always a pastor available when a church has a need. VitalChurch Ministry matches churches with the interim pastor who will be the best fit, based on the church’s needs and the pastor’s experience and giftings.
What Does an Interim Pastor Do?
The duties of an interim pastor can vary. Some interim pastors are brought in only to preach on Sundays or to serve as church consultants, while others take on all of the duties of a lead pastor, including preaching, staff leadership, organizational development, conflict resolution, ministry evaluation and development, or even a theological reboot.
At VitalChurch Ministry, their interim pastors take on the full role of pastor. According to their organization’s website: “The intentional interim pastors at VitalChurch function not as consultants, but as pastors, with each bringing his own pastoral gifts and strengths to bear on the intentional interim process. Our pastors are not looking to maintain the status quo, but to act as Christ-centered agents of change for churches facing difficult circumstances.”
Before a church brings in an interim pastor, they need to do an honest evaluation of their current circumstances. Do they just need someone to “fill the pulpit” while they search for their next lead pastor, or could they use the transition period as an opportunity to make some needed changes. The answer to this question will determine what type of interim pastor they should bring in.
To learn more about the interim pastors at VitalChurch Ministry, visit their website: https://vitalchurchministry.org/