How would you use your wisdom and insight gained from a vocational interim pastor’s experience to answer this email?

Earlier this week I received the following email from a brother looking for some answers or at least some resources. I wasn’t sure exactly what he needed or how I could help him.

How would you respond to him?

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Here’s his email:

Hi,

I saw a link to one of your articles via the Aquila Report. I’m curious, we went through a pastoral transition a little over a year ago; in fact about this time last year we brought on a pastor who by everyone’s agreement (specifically the elders of our church) was strictly an interim pastor. He wasn’t interested in being permanent, the elders were not interested either. But as time went on, he became interested in becoming our teaching pastor on a part time basis (he teaches at a seminary). As it turned out, our search committee put him forth to the elders who approved him and announced him as the candidate to serve in that capacity. Two weeks later our congregation voted him in!

It’s possible around the time of his calling by the elders, I had seen your site or other interim pastor sites. I didn’t know if hiring our interim pastor would be a healthy thing for our church. It’s water over the dam now, but do you have any articles addressing the type of situation that happened in my church? I appreciate any links you might provide. Thank you!

I sensed that this friend had contacted us because something was bothering him. Perhaps it was the phrase “I didn’t know if hiring our interim pastor would be a healthy thing for our church.”

Maybe he was looking for some advice on how to adjust to the situation. Perhaps he was looking for help in steering the church away from the  turbulent waters that may crop up in these situations.So I replied in this way.

Greetings,

Good to hear from you; thanks for your email.

This could work out well for your church, at least I hope so.

In this situation – based only on what I know from the email – I would advise both the pastor and the elders to be especially sensitive to issues arising that weren’t dealt with during his interim period or during the candidacy.

When an interim steps into a permanent position – and they are almost always offered – or when a junior staff pastor or associate pastor is moved up, some of the clarifying discussions important to a thorough search process are neglected.

This emerges later on down the road in the form of unmet expectations that were never discussed.

We make it a policy that an intentional interim will not be a candidate for the permanent position because we tend to specialize in the more dysfunctional churches. They often require hard work and dealing with conflict by the interim pastor. If he has a notion that he might become the permanent pastor he could be tempted to short-change the interim tasks lest he minimize his favor with the congregation.

If you’re a vocational interim pastor, how would you have responded to this man’s inquiry? Did I make a mistake by suggesting trouble where there may be none?