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What is an Intentional Interim Pastor?


Every church, at some point, is going to experience a time of transition between lead-pastors. It’s not ‘if’ but ‘when’. That event in the life of a church may be expected (the word “succession” is used and it sounds so orderly and controlled), or it may unexpectedly catch everyone off guard (the word “chaotic” comes to mind).

Pastoral transition brings a body of believers into a season that even under the best of situations feels very uncertain. For what once was, is now gone.

Those who feel the uncertainty the most are those on the leadership team. For they are tasked with holding it together and planning a way forward. It’s as if they are thrust into the center ring under a blinding spotlight and asked to juggle chain saws: quickly bring a new pastor.…manage and oversee the current staff….supply pastoral care to the flock….chart a new vision and mission….solve any lingering issues or problems….and oh, don’t let giving drop!

How does an intentional interim pastor engage with a church going through such a transition? It’s helpful to identify that there are several different types of interim pastor, and each one contributes differently to a church in transition.

1. Pulpit Supply

Some churches simply want a man to come in on Sunday mornings and be the consistent voice. This person may not even live in the community but is present on Sunday mornings week-after-week to faithfully teach God’s Word.

2. Traditional Interim Pastor

This role expands that of pulpit supply to include a limited range of pastoral duties. The traditional interim has regular office hours, visits those in the hospital, counsels, performs weddings and funerals. An interim may attend leadership meetings. He acts as the pastor of the church (though usually with limited authority) until the search process brings the new pastor.

3. Intentional Interim Pastor

In this scenario, the church realizes it needs to choose to take a deep breath and intentionally prepare for a future of effective ministry. Therefore, someone with specialized training and experience is brought in to not only be the lead pastor, but also help the church evaluate itself, address any dysfunction or sin, seek the Lord for His vision for the church’s future, and finally coach the search team. The ultimate goal is to prepare the church for receiving a new pastor and launching into a future of Christ-honoring ministry.

4. Interventionist

Some churches in transition are in a dire situation. Its very existence is in question because of severe dysfunction and/or sin. The interventionist is given the authority to engage with the leadership team in careful assessment and the necessary surgery or radical changes to promote healing and see the return of church health.

Of the four types of interim pastors described above, my focus is that of an intentional interim. But I also know where you can find any of the other three. So if the need of your church is to explore having an intentionally designed “break” between pastors in order to heal…to evaluate…to listen to the Lord… and to prepare for who comes next -then I’d like to be of help. Contact me at: