“Interim Ministry is a way for a congregation to take an intentional ‘time out’ to seek renewal and make a significant change in its organizational structure, its mission, or its pastoral life.”
Introducing Interim Ministry A Process of Change for Congregations Copyright © 2010 The United Church of Canada
We have started our Intentional Interim Ministry time here at Living Spirit United Church. I will sometimes use the blog and newsletter space to talk about different aspects of this unique journey that we are on together.
Intentional Interim Ministry is all about walking through a time of change, or transition with our eyes, and our hearts open to God’s guidance. There are lots of different circumstances in churches that suggest that an Intentional Interim time would help:
- a pastor has served a congregation for a long time, especially pastorates of 15 years or more.
- the missional direction or financial viability of the congregation is unclear.
- there are major changes in the demographics of the congregation or in its surrounding community
- the congregation is struggling to deal with the loss of a beloved minister
- there is a boundary violation on the part of the pastor such as an incident of sexual misconduct or financial malfeasance.
- disagreements and tension permeate congregational life and block effective decision-making
This is not an exhaustive list. When any one or more “complicated” circumstances are a part of a congregation’s life and these result in a minister leaving, the congregation’s natural desire is to just hire their next minister as soon as possible and “get on with it”. The set of “complicated” circumstances may seem to leave with the minister, but if a congregation does not take an intentional time out, the next one or more pastoral relationships often fail, with new ministers and congregations ending up living through painful un-intentional interim periods. Choosing to take an intentional time out gives the congregation the space to work through their “complicated” history.
Here is what we can expect to gain from an Intentional Interim Ministry time:
- a renewed sense of itself and the relevance of its mission
- new energy, plus the knowledge and skills to make decisions about its future
- discernment of God’s call into new life, and renewed faithfulness and confidence to follow it
- an understanding of the congregation’s identity within the wider United Church community
Intentional Interim Ministers are specially trained in:
- facilitating and enabling change
- restorative justice: resolving conflicts and healing old issues
- being a listener, a consultant, a teacher
The Intentional Interim Minister does not do this work “for” the congregation- she/he works in “partnership with” the congregation. The most important leadership for the Intentional Interim Ministry time comes from the congregation’s Transition Team, that is made up of members of the congregation, a representative from presbytery, and the Intentional Interim Minister to achieve agreed-upon goals during the interim period. Please start thinking and praying about who you want as members of the transition team, and pass along their names to me so I can talk with them about this important work.