Interim pastors are often recruited for the full-time position. It’s a natural response to wise leadership, confidence borne of experience, gracious pastoral care and an objective understanding of the church that resolves problems without becoming embroiled in them.
Although it feels good to be asked. We always decline the offer.
The written contract between the affiliates of Transition Ministries Group and the client church always states that the interim pastor will not be a candidate for the permanent position. There are many good reasons why it should be this way. Our colleagues at the Transitional Leadership Network have identified eight reasons why.
- You might interrupt healthy closure
- You might lose objectivity during the transition
- It may soften the ability to act with tough love
- It might lead to a less than ideal candidate
- It may put a cloud over a fresh start
- The different roles require different gifts
- You will avoid a potential conflict of interest
- You might be hiring an unintentional interim
In my experience #7 is actually at the root of #2, and #3. Self-dealing in order to feather your nest will tempt you to ease up on discipline lest your support wane. When you’re interested in the long-term status of the church (rather than focusing on the interim’s task of setting the church up for the next pastor) you lose objectivity and start wondering how you’re going to fit into the future.
There’s another important element that is suggested in #6. The strengths of a good interim pastor may be liabilities for a permanent pastor: the ability to objectify people and situations in order to do what’s best for the health of the congregation, the unflinching willingness to wade into the midst of trouble sooner rather than later, the radar constantly scanning for “change back” messages, the predisposition to speak the truth even when we know it will hurt.
These qualities are not prized in a settled pastor and often lead to …. wait for it … intentional interims becoming unintentional interims!
This sets up reason #9: There are plenty of candidates looking for permanent positions but there are precious few intentional interim pastors to cover the churches in need.
One of my adult children has a university degree in math. He teaches math in High School and Community College Like the rest of my children this one is bright (they get it from their mother) and could teach many subjects.
But there are plenty of English and General Studies teachers out there; in some states their a dime a dozen No school district in its right mind would have a mathematician teaching Shop classes.
You put the specialists to work in their specialty.
It’s the same with the intentional interim pastor. When one leaves the specialty to become a generalist as a permanent pastor the work suffers.