Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 235: Myth of the "Interim Pastor"

Interim pastor…this is a title given to usually a staff pastor that is filling in while the senior pastor has stepped down or was fired. According to one website, an interim pastor is defined as “someone who helps fill the role of minister at your church while you are on a pastor search. It is a temporary position and the job description varies widely depending on what the church needs.”

I have had experience in this area twice and I served under two different pastors within a year and a half time that had moral failings. There came a time when the board would ask me to be the interim pastor. In my first youth pastor position, this idea only lasted a week or two. Where I am currently I stayed the interim pastor until I became the pastor. Through both of these situations however I learned that what the board deems as an “interim pastor” is really just an “interim speaker.” Let me explain.

When a pastor ends up leaving a church usually the board is so programmed that any interim pastor that comes in and tries to do a few things differently, it really ends up ruffling their feathers. I remember in my first position when the pastor left, they left his name on the church bulletin for a month or so. I questioned it (being the interim pastor) and you would have thought I was the enemy. Keep in mind this was not a good situation as to why the change took place. Whether a pastor or interim pastor…you are given that position to do what? PASTOR FOR GOODNESS SAKES! That means make decisions…am I thinking just way to simple about this? Here in, Waupaca I began to make some changes to the bulletin and when the former pastor came back for a visit and the lingering kid’s pastor saw it…ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE that Sunday. Over a bulletin change you might ask? Yes…stupid isn’t it? Now you know why I am a wee bit cynical of church politics.

This is what I have discovered…if you are a staff pastor filling the role of “Interim pastor” because the pastor left on good terms or bad terms and the board was just so close to that former pastor. You are expected to be nothing more than a puppet with the board being the puppet masters. The actual title given should be “interim speaker”. They do not want you to make decisions for the church as the pastor would. They want to keep you in control. Now of course this will not come out, they will stay very close to you and be supportive. Once you decide to do something different though…you will be smashed. When you end up being a pastor even for a few months, more than likely they will have someone come in to speak so you can remain silent in the pew on Sunday mornings. Logically you would think the people on staff would step in because they KNOW the church....just another fine example of how backwards things can be.


  1. This is why in some churches an interim speaker is classified as "pulpit supply"...they want him (or her) to come in and preach the Word, or as much of the Word as their church will allow, but the speaker has no authority beyond that.

  2. Enjoyed the post. I'm currently wrapping up an interim role before leaving ministry for a new calling. In my denomination "interim" is always a pastor called in from outside the parish (actually very few of our churches have multiple pastors on staff anyway) and they are not allowed to remain after a new pastor is called. The benefits of this are obvious--everyone knows the role of the interim pastor. It also empowers the interim pastor to lead the congregation through important visioning sessions and lead them in healing if necessary. I can appreciate how in your definition and circumstances, an "interim" label can be confusing/frustrating.