There are two ways to find an interim pastor (or any pastor for that matter).

Cast a wide net.

Wait for something to swim into it.

Or use one of these.


This post is Part 3 of an ongoing (by fits and starts) series about how to retain a skilled interim pastor. Part 1 offered guidelines to help determine what kind of interim pastor your church needs, and suggested developmental tasks to prepare the church for the interim pastor. Part 2 explained how to evaluate an interim pastor that fits your congregation’s needs and how to avoid the “paycheck pastor.”

Once you settle on the type of interim pastor and developed ways to evaluate candidates you’re faced with a problem. How do you find qualified interim pastors?

There are two ways: use a drift net or a speargun.

Use a drift net to find your interim pastor

Most churches default to drift nets to find pastors. This is nothing more than casting a wide net across the church’s network to see what drifts in. Calls or emails go out to denominational offices, a few seminary websites and perhaps a few “ministry job” websites are examined. Someone may even contact a respected pastor or two to ask for referrals.

Then, we wait to see what comes swims into the net. We haul it up occasionally, cull through the resumes and, if nothing is found, throw the net back out.

The advantage to the drift net is that it doesn’t require much work, just a lot of patience. Just rely on others to get the word out and send referrals your direction. One disadvantage is that anything and everything will swim into the net and the percentage of “keepers” will be fairly small. Another disadvantage is that the best fit for your church may not swim into your net (maybe she is gainfully employed and hasn’t been looking for the next assignment, or maybe he’s “out of network” so no one in your circle knows him).

Use a spear gun

I grew up in Minnesota. On lakeshore property. My brothers and I spent a lot of summer hours (well, what few summer hours there were) fishing off the dock or out of an old scow. I never really had much patience for still water fishing, especially because the youngest of us could throw a bare hook over and haul something up. I felt like I was laboring under Ahab’s curse, sitting there for hours, waiting for one of the dimmer fish in the school to hit my line.

The first time I went scuba diving I forever laid aside the rod and reel.

A diver has the unique ability to swim to where the fish are, pick out the tastiest fish browsing on the reef and bring it aboard for that night’s dinner!

I think that’s the right way to look for a pastor, too. Even an interim pastor.

Hunt him down. Go find her, approach directly and … well, the metaphor breaks down, but you get the idea.

So how do you “hunt” for an interim pastor?

Well, you first have to work through Parts 1 and 2 of this series. Once you know what you’re looking for, plot your strategy:

  1. Develop an interim pastor profile that describes your church’s current condition, factors that led to this point and the need for an interim pastor, and the specific skills you’ll need in an interim pastor (e.g., “the ability to resolve bitter conflict” or “the ability to create passion and a mission and vision” or “experience in restructuring church finances”)
  2. Divvy up the following list of places to search among the leadership team and assign people to make phone calls, emails and regular correspondence with each groups or individuals in the following categories. Remember, the goal isn’t to just throw the need out there but to aggressively ask questions, request referrals and extend the network – you’re looking for that one person who fits.
Contact agencies that specialize in training intentional interim pastors

There are other agencies that train interim pastors, but these are two that have established reputations and excellent resources. Be sure to tell them exactly what you want and – if appropriate – let them know that you don’t want a “legacy pastor” who’s trying to finish his career with a paycheck. You want an interim who has specific training or experience dealing with the problems your church needs to solve.

Contact your denomination’s interim pastor training agency

This is a partial list; I’m sure there are other denominational agencies training interim pastors. If you know of any I’ve missed please let me know about them in the commentssection. Keep making phone calls until you find the person or persons in these agencies who actually know the interim pastors that have received agency training. Then, tell them the same thing suggested above re: what your church needs.

Contact graduate schools that have specialized training for interim pastors

Sadly, these are few and far between. But there are a few!

Contact other churches that have used interim pastors

You’d be surprised what you can learn by searching for “interim pastor” at!

Ask interim pastors you find by Internet search to refer you to colleagues

The tribe is fairly small. You’ll find a lot of interim pastors just by doing an internet search. Contact them, tell them what’s up with your church and ask, “Who do you know that’s in your same ministry that would be a good fit for us?”

We love connecting our colleagues in this work to client churches!


Don’t sit around and wait, only to grab the first interim pastor that flops on your deck. Go look for that person! Ask lots of questions and be clear on your needs and expectations. You’ll probably find what you need in fairly short order.