Pastoral transitions: Times to thrive


By John Hall, Contributing Writer

Moses is one of the most recognized figures in the Bible. He takes on Pharaoh. He leads the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. God even gives him the 10 Commandments as they converse face to face.

He’s one of the greatest examples of leadership in all of Scripture, irreplaceable in his role in God’s story. But God’s story of redemption doesn’t end with Moses. It continues as Joshua transitions into leadership.

Today, many churches find themselves in times of transitioning leadership. Research consistently has shown the average tenure of a pastor is between three and four years, presenting regular opportunities for change within a congregation. These times can be difficult, but they don’t have to be. With a certified Intentional Interim Pastor from Texas Baptists, congregations can have respected ministers lead them through times of transition, helping the church prepare to thrive with new leadership.

“Any church can benefit from an Intentional Interim Ministry experience between pastors,” says Mark Brister, who has been preaching for 46 years, including several as an Intentional Interim Pastor. “It is a profitable experience for any congregation to take time to discover where they have come from, clarify how they go about making decisions, where they are headed as a church as Christ leads them, how they will partner denominationally and what kind of pastor will best benefit their church. In addition, the Intentional Interim Ministry can be highly beneficial following a long-tenured pastor, in a plateaued or declining church or in a conflicted congregation.”

In addition to preaching and providing pastoral care, intentional interim ministers work with transition teams formed by congregations that typically consists of lay leadership to help the church chart a course for future ministry. They have guided churches through a wide variety of transitions in the past and seek to use those experiences to help other congregations. They help a church study its:

  • Heritage: How did a church get to this point in history? By examining its past, a congregation is able to celebrate what it has accomplished and uncover any unresolved underlying issues within the church.
  • Leadership: How is a church structured? How are decisions made? A look at how the church works will help make sure the body is functioning properly.
  • Direction: Where is God calling a church to serve? Together, a church looks at the demographics of the neighborhoods around it and dreams of future ministries God may be inviting the congregation to launch.
  • Connections: How does a church best connect and work with denominational bodies such as Texas Baptists to grow God’s kingdom beyond its local community? Partners are key in helping a church have an impact globally, making disciples to the ends of the earth.
  • Future: It’s time to move forward. Once a congregation knows who it is and what it wants to do, the church develops a pastoral profile, elects a pastor search committee and works to identify and call God’s minister.

The intentional interim process brings a congregation closer together, encouraging trust and unity around a shared vision for ministry, Brister says. Members are energized and enthusiastic about reaching others for Christ.

Members have individually examined their spiritual lives and personal calling. They’ve been encouraged in some areas and made changes in others. One of the ways Brister helps some congregations do this is through a unique worship experience. He preaches about the need to let go of issues that have been pulling people away from their relationship with Christ, then leaders pass out note cards for everyone in the room. Individuals are encouraged to write anything they need to let go of on those cards. During the invitation time, the congregation is encouraged to bring those cards forward where shredders are waiting for them.

“In each case, we had 100 percent participation,” Brister says. “Following that altar call, we had the Lord’s Supper. A number of people settled issues with Jesus in those services that changed their lives and in turn the life of those congregations forever.”

Ultimately, intentional interim ministers seek to help people become spiritually stronger and the church become ready for the next phase in its ministry. The two go hand-in-hand.

“Churches are made up of people,” Brister says. “The healthier individuals become spiritually, the stronger the congregation’s health. Over many years and in multiple churches, the fivefold process led by the transition team, coached by an intentional interim minister has proven highly beneficial and has a proven record of accomplishment and success.”

Deciding to have an Intentional Interim Pastor can be the best choice a congregation ever makes. It can prepare a church for meaningful ministry for years to come.

Start by visiting texasbaptists.org/interim or contacting Texas Baptists Interim Services Team at 888.244.9400. Learn more about the process and how your church can begin its future today!

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