Interim pastors, permanent pastors for that matter, will enjoy reading William Avery’s Revitalizing Congregations: Refocusing and Healing Through Pastoral Transitions (affiliate link) for its clear, simple style, for its useful information and for the mirror it holds up for us to look at our ministries.

In the preface the author identifies his target audience:

The primary audience for this book is any pastor or lay leader who wants to renew or revitalize his or her congregation. This book will be particularly helpful also to any pastor assuming a new call or appointment. In most cases, the new pastor will not have had the benefit of an intentional interim as a predecessor, and so will have to do some of the healing work done by the interims portrayed in this book.

The six chapters of this case study demonstrate the importance of intentional interim ministry. Each chapter tells the story of a congregation that traversed a difficult transition with the help of a trained interim Each chapter follows the same basic outline. It begins with a description of a church in crisis, a brief history leading up to the crisis, an analysis of the intentional interim pastor’s leadership and a concise statement about the church’s future prospects.

One value in this book is its pan denominational point of view. Avery studies a cross-section of denominations that Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, United Methodist, Episcopal, and Congregational churches. This demonstrates that an intentional interim process will work in any church. The key proviso is that the church must be willing to embrace needed change.

Avery also demonstrates that pastors with a variety of gift mixes, temperaments and experience can succeed as intentional interim pastors. Although the interim pastors studied in this book differ widely from one another, they had several traits in common.

  • They listened to the congregation
  • They prioritized the problems to be dealt with
  • They were clear about the temporary nature of their assignment
  • They did not shy away from critics and did not allow them to hold up the work
  • They focused the church on its purpose and how it should connect its purpose to the community

This short book will reward every pastor – permanent or interim –  for taking the time to read it. I found Avery’s statements about the nature of the crises helpful in evaluating churches where I have served previously. His observations about the work of the intentional interim pastors reminded me to keep first things first.

Book Info: William O. Avery, Revitalizing Congregations: Refocusing and Healing Through Pastoral Transitions (affiliate link) (Bethesda, MD: The Alban Institute, 2002), 152 pages.

Want a copy of the book?

I will happily give my copy of this book to someone who makes a comment on this article.  The book is clean and unmarked. The covers are in good shape. Drop a comment. A name will be picked at random and I’ll send a My copy of the book to the winner.