By Ken Schroeder
Just a couple of weeks ago, someone asked me, “So how do you like being an interim pastor?” I responded, “I am not an interim pastor. I am a transitional pastor.” He gave me a look of incredulity and drilled down, “What’s the difference?”
While the two terms appear to be interchangeable, the differences lie in the intentionality of the transitional pastor. An interim pastor fills the gap or vacancy caused by the departure of the previous pastor by generally preaching on Sundays and leading the Wednesday prayer meeting or service. He may provide some additional leadership, but generally he has no specific charge for him to lead the congregation. He may even be considered as the permanent pastor.
With Transitional Pastoral Ministry, the congregation and the transitional pastor enter into a covenant relationship whereby the transitional pastor agrees to provide spiritual leadership to the church and lead the church throughout the transitional period.
The church agrees to be loving and gracious to the transitional pastor and his family and to pray for spiritual power in his life and work. The church further promises to relate to him as a God’s anointed leader for the task, to support his leadership, and to talk with him about personal concerns instead of talking about him to others.
Therefore, the transitional pastor becomes the lead pastor for the congregation. He leads the church through the spiritual, situational, and psychological stages of the transition that concludes with the church calling a permanent pastor.
The transitional pastor helps the church to view the church’s history through the eyes of Christ and assess the church’s current reality redemptively. By affirming biblical principles for church growth, he will lead the church to focus on kingdom results. He will guide the church in a complete review of its documents, procedures, and ministries.
He will also train the pastor search committee and assist the committee as a resource; however, he will not be available for a call as the permanent pastor.
In June the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Hammond, Louisiana, called me to serve as its Transitional Pastor. Since that time, I have come to love it and appreciate the value of a transitional pastor in a local church.
I believe that through the transitional pastoral process, the church I serve can become more effective as it learns from past experiences, frees itself from hindering traditions, and replaces discord with harmony.
As a result of the transition, the church will come to understand its mission and will develop church practices that should enable the church to fulfill its mission. Too often misunderstandings exist about the pastor’s role and his responsibilities which preclude his effectiveness in serving as pastor. The transition period allows for the transitional pastor to reset the expectations for both the pastor and the congregation.
This will likely mean that energy previously spent addressing conflict will be redirected so that the church enjoys an increased participation in ministry and mission.
Editor’s Note: Here is a YouTube link – www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xZGjWrMVLk – which further explains about being a transitional pastor. For a list of trained transitional pastors or to learn more about how to become one, please contact Bill Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org. There also will be training for any who is interested in serving as a transitional pastor Feb. 4-6, 2019 at Tall Timbers. Please call Pastoral Leadership at 318.448.3402 or 800.622.6549 for more information or to register.