The Interim Pastor

[excerpt from The Pastoral Search Journey: A Guide to Finding Your Next Pastor]

The interim period, in simplest terms, is the time between pastors. This period is, however, far from simple. The church must continue to function. Worship needs to happen. The board must lead. The staff continues to work. Members must be taught and cared for. Visitors and new members must be introduced to the life of the church. It is here that an interim pastor fits into the plans of your congregation during the clergy leadership vacancy and the search process.

A congregation approaching an interval without a pastor has several options for pastoral support. Understanding these will help the board and the search committee determine their preference for ministry support. 

  1. Denominational or regional offices can help determine
    whether a trained interim pastor is available to serve your church. 
  2. Retired pastors can be engaged to serve for a specific
    time period, perhaps until a new pastor is called. 
  3. The board can decide to use local pastors, or perhaps
    retired pastors, as weekly guest pastors.

The Value of an Interim Pastor

The period your church is without a “settled” pastor (that is, permanent—or as permanent as any pastor can be) is crucial in the life of the church. An interim pastor can be invaluable to a congregation, performing whatever tasks are mutually agreed upon with the board. Leading worship and providing pastoral care will probably be high priorities. Even though members may not voice their concerns, they will wonder who will fill the pulpit and whether the preaching will be good, who will preside at funerals and weddings, who will baptize, who will call on the sick, who will provide counseling—all critical components of pastoral care. Members of the pastoral staff and other church employees may feel confused or anxious. Some individuals may have been wounded by the previous pastor or may be hurting over the loss of the pastor. In addition to leading Sunday worship services and helping with pastoral care, the interim pastor can be a tremendous help to the board and search committee.