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FIRST-PERSON: 8 reasons to hire an interim pastor

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – When a pastor leaves, it can be a difficult time for the church. Even if the pastor’s departure is somewhat desired by the church, it is still a very challenging season. One of the keys for success is for the church to hire a good interim pastor. Here are a number of reasons why most churches should hire an interim pastor.

  1. The church needs consistency. When a church chooses to use guest preachers every week, there is no consistency in the pulpit. This often leads to tension and confusion in the church.
  2. You protect the doctrine of the church. It is much easier to vet one interim pastor than to vet a different guest preacher every weekend. A church is more open for doctrinal errors when using guest preachers, especially when those guest preachers are lay members of the church who have no formal theological training.
  3. The church needs time to grieve. When a beloved pastor leaves, there is a time of grieving. Church members may not recognize that they are dealing with grief, but they are. It is important for them to work through that process before the new pastor begins so they will be emotionally ready to embrace him as their new pastor once he arrives.
  4. There is a leadership void. When a pastor leaves it creates a leadership void. If the church does not hire an interim pastor, two dangers exist. First, the void does not get filled and the church lacks direction. Second, the void gets filled with church members who should not be leading and who are reluctant to relinquish the role once the new pastor is in place.
  5. It gives the search team breathing room. The search team looking for the new pastor is under a great deal of pressure. They have a huge responsibility. Having a good interim in place will relieve some of that pressure and help them not to feel rushed.
  6. Fresh eyes. An interim pastor will have “fresh eyes.” He will have the ability and authority to address issues that exist with the facility, worship services, staffing, etc.
  7. New ideas. Most interim pastors have years of successful ministry. They will have lots of new ideas that can help the church continue to move forward during the interim period.
  8. Staff guidance. Even the most capable church staff will find it very awkward if nobody is filling the office of “pastor.” An interim pastor gives them someone with whom they can talk, plan and consult.

Churches might be tempted to simply schedule supply preaching for the duration of the interim period. While this will provide appropriate preaching and teaching for the church, there are other important aspects of ministry the church will receive if they hire an interim pastor. This should allow the church to continue moving forward, even in a season of transition. Consider calling an interim pastor when your church is in between pastors.

Stephen C. Rice is leader of the Church Consulting and Revitalization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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  • Stephen C. Rice