Essential tasks

  • Finding closure with departing minister. It is difficult for a church to embrace a new minister when there are unresolved matters with the previous minister.
  • Connecting with the judicatory/denomination. The judicatory and/or denomination can offer resources and support to congregations in transition, but the judicatory and/or denomination first must know that a transition is occurring.
  • Making a plan for leadership during the interim time. When a minister departs, others must claim ownership of the minister’s essential tasks so that the church can continue to live toward God’s purpose.
  • Exploring the opportunity in the interim time. The interim period provides space for the congregation to understand itself, its context, and its call to ministry anew.
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Reflection questions

  • What do we need to lay down and what do we need to pick up as leadership changes?
  • What are our hopes and fears in this time of transition?
  • How might we learn and grow as a congregation during this unique season?
  • What must our congregation do to be ready for a new minister?
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Best practices

  • Conducting an exit interview with the departing minister
  • Covenanting with the departing minister around limits on contact with church members
  • Celebrating the departing minister
  • Working toward resolution of sticky situations
  • Researching congregational and judicatory/denominational protocols for search processes
  • Asking the judicatory for search resources and/or involvement as appropriate
  • Acknowledging the lay and staff leadership that is in place
  • Covenanting with a traditional or intentional interim minister

Tools

  • Considerations and questions for making the exit interview as fruitful as possible. Document from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) can be downloaded from here (scroll to “other available ministry resources”).
  • Explanation of various types of interim ministry from the Center for Congregational Health and Interim Ministry Network. Note that intentional interim ministry is not just for congregations in conflict. It can also greatly benefit churches:
    • with long-tenured departing ministers,
    • in changing neighborhoods,
    • experiencing a decline in membership, and/or
    • looking to do a new thing, but unsure what that thing is or how to go about it.
  • Sources of interim ministry candidates (in addition to denominational sources) from the Center for Congregational Health and Interim Ministry Network.

From the candidate's perspective

  • Could be serving elsewhere with no thought of seeking a new position.
  • Could be seeking a new call and keeping ears perked for opportunities. Might begin tracking your congregation’s progress through the transition time and looking for a position announcement.
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Are we ready for the next stage?

  • We have made peace with the departure of our minister.
  • We have mulled whether an interim minister would help us make best use of the transition time, and if so, we have covenanted with one.
  • We have named essential responsibilities and tasks that must be covered during the time between settled ministers, and staff and/or laity have taken ownership of those pieces.
  • We understand what our denomination/judicatory/congregational by-laws require in a search process.
  • We have checked into the helps available to congregations in transition from the denomination, judicatory, and/or other sources.

Go to next stage →