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Intentional Interim Pastoral Ministry is an Art More than a Science, Post One

Tom HarrrisSaturday, October 14, 2017

This week I had the opportunity to speak to the leadership, and some invited guests, of one of my favorite organizations that seeks to recruit, train, place, resource, and coach interim pastors for congregations.

It is Interim Pastor Ministries.

My relationship with the people of Interim Pastor Ministries goes back almost nine years when its current executive director—Tom Harris—was serving as interim pastor for a church in Atlanta, GA, and saw an invitation where I was leading a church consultation weekend where others were invited to observe a Friday night session. He signed up, attended, and we talked briefly.

I few years later Tom become the executive director for Interim Pastor Ministries. Three years ago, he saw another invitation where I invited people to shadow me through a four-day weekend experience with a church. He signed up, we had extensive conversations during that weekend, and since then we have been together a dozen times.

The most recent was this week in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Tom is a smart guy. Interim Pastor Ministries was chartered in Arkansas in 1990, has its corporate offices in Michigan, but he and his COO both live in Myrtle Beach. Do you need any more evidence that he is smart?

But, being smart is like a science, and great intentional interim pastoral ministry is more an art form. It is a dance. Finding denominations and congregations who realize they need to deploy great intentional interim pastors is one step of the dance.

Recruiting prospective intentional interim pastors is a second step. The third step of training them can be a challenge. Tom and his staff seek to figure out what they need to know, while at the same time many prospective interims believe they already know everything because they have been in pastoral ministry for several decades.

Waiting for the right congregational situation to come along for the right interim pastor is the most difficult dance step. It is a God thing. It involves a spiritual call and a ministry match between a congregation and an interim. Interim pastors can be impatient as they try to figure out what they do in the meantime as economic support is an issue—even for those retired from their primary ministry career.

Timely and fresh resources plus continuing education is an important step in keeping intentional interim pastors fresh and innovative. Coaching these pastors as they address both the opportunities and the challenges of the congregations they serve is another essential step.

Ultimately it is like a dancer—even a troupe of dancers—learning various steps in a performance until the individual steps are second nature, and the full performance is put together into an integrative whole. It can be a thing of great beauty.

And, we have not even started talking about the congregations being served yet.

That Tom is a smart guy. Not a bad dancer either.

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