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Intentional Interim

Intentional Interim

Consultation Ministries - Home

One of the most crucial times in the life of a church is during the interim between Pastors. It can also be one of the most opportune moments.

When a church is without a Pastor, there are several possibilities for the interim:
traditional interim, intentional or transitional interim, or the transitional process with a consultant.


Traditional Interim

The traditional interim is the more familiar of these possibilities. Interim pastors provide a much needed ministry to churches at a time when most aspects of the church's life and ministries are up in the air. This is a ministry most often available from retired pastors, who are able to offer the wisdom and caring of a lifetime of ministry.

The traditional interim pastor usually fills the pulpit and perhaps has some pastoral care responsibilities. There is often not much further involvement in the functioning of the church, although informally, people frequently seek the interim pastor's guidance. The interim pastor can also be tapped for a wealth of resources in denominational life. They usually know what's available and where to refer a congregation.

Intentional Interim
with a Consultant

In cases where a church may not be able to sustain an Intentional Interim Pastor full-time, there may be the option of having a traditional interim pastor while a consultant facilitates the Intentional Interim process. The consultant would work with the Transition Team, and the Transition Team would carry the primary interaction with the congregation.


Center for Congregational Health

Interim Ministry Network

Spirituality and Interim Ministry Resources

Consultation Ministries - "...though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence...." (Ezekiel 2:6)

Intentional Interim Ministry

Another type of interim has been referred to as transitional or intentional: transitional because the church is going through a time of major transition with all its concurrent dynamics; intentional because the church is taking the opportunity to be intentional about using the interim time to reevaluate and prepare for future directions of ministry. Any church would benefit from an Intentional Interim process, but it is particularly recommended for certain kinds of situations:

  • When a church's ministry setting is undergoing a critical change, such as the closing of a major employer, community change involving socioeconomic or population constituency; a rural church becoming surrounded by suburban growth, established churches experiencing long term members moving out of the community, etc.

  • There are also internal dynamics which indicate the need for an Intentional Interim, such as the departure of a Pastor who has had a tenure of 10 years or longer; moral indiscretions; conflict situations; or when the church is at critical growth points such as when membership increases from 75, 200, or 350 members.

  • In a time when 63% of all congregations in the U.S. are in decline, a congregation can use the interim time to educate themselves and reorient to a missional style of ministry.

The Intentional Interim is a congregational process that involves a five-phase movement of evaluation and envisioning, leading to a search for a Pastor whose gifts, abilities and experience best match the direction the church has discerned as God's call in its setting. I refer to these five phases as follows:

  • Taking a look at history;

  • Taking a look at the decision-making and power dynamics;

  • Taking a look at the relationships with the denomination and the larger body of Christ;

  • Taking a look at the call of God through prayerful envisioning;

  • Taking charge of the future through implementing ministries and the search for a Pastor.

For a church to engage in the Intentional Interim process, two steps are involved:

  • The first is to educate the congregation about the transitional process, and for the congregation to vote to do this type of interim. It is a congregational process, and it's greatest effectiveness occurs with the most possible congregational participation.

  • The second step is the search for a candidate for the Intentional Interim Pastor. Specialized training for this ministry is provided by the Center for Congregational Health,, and the Interim Ministry Network, Some transitional Pastors are certified by both organizations.

The Intentional Interim is a very healthy and rewarding process and allows the congregation to take ownership of its destiny. This is usually done by the election of a Transition Team, who works with the Intentional Interim Pastor in planning the involvement of the church throughout the process.

The Intentional Interim Pastor is very often full-time, carrying out the regular duties of a Pastor, and also facilitating the Intentional Interim process. Being full-time, the rule of thumb is that the salary would be at least that of the former Pastor with some extra considerations for housing and travel expenses. There are otherwise very little costs in doing the process.

Often a church looks at the interim as a time to save money and build the treasury. My experience is that frequently members' giving reduces when they do not see the need for as much finances. Quite often they make major purchases during this time, and when the church once again needs their financial support, they are too financially obligated to come back at the same level of giving. The interim time is probably better viewed as a time of financial investment in the church's future.
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Photography by Larry Glover-Wetherington, Copyright´┐Ż 2001.

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