I want to let you in on a secret. Interim ministry is extremely challenging. Here are a few of the reasons why:
The minister enters a stressed system. Pastoral transitions are never easy on congregations, no matter how amicable the last minister’s departure was. So unlike a settled minister, who (hopefully) comes into a church that is excited and unified behind the new leader, the interim comes into a swirl of confusion, strong feelings, and worries about what will happen to the congregation while it is without a settled pastor.
The minister has additional duties in addition to the regular pastoral responsibilities. Trained intentional interim ministers preach, lead worship, provide pastoral care, and attend meetings. On top of that they guide the congregation through a period of self-reflection and identity redefinition, which involves a lot of additional meetings, equipping of leaders, attention to process, and anxiety management.
The minister quickly grows to love the congregation, even knowing that the pastor-parish relationship will be short-lived. Your interim minister loves you like a settled pastor does and is invested in you. Yet for the transitional minister there is anticipatory grief built into the relationship from the outset.
The minister never gets a break from wondering about personal financial stability. Some interim terms of call are as short as 3 months with an option to renew while others are as long as 12-24 months. A transitional minister must always be looking for that next opportunity while staying engaged with your congregation for as long as it is feasible to do so.
The minister is often looked past by the congregation. You love your interim minister. You can’t help it – though the minister’s tenure with your church is time-limited, that person is still walking with you through the church year and your personal milestones, joys, and griefs. Yet you are understandably excited for the day when your congregation will have a “real” (settled) pastor. The interim minister gets this, but some days this reality is more painful than others.
Be sure and thank your interim minister for providing the leadership that allows your church to harness the opportunities of the transition time. And definitely throw a big party for your interim minister when your journey together has ended.