This week, let me outline some intricacies of interim ministry. There are interim ministries…and there are intentional interim ministries. In the last 15 to 20 years, the ways a minister and congregation can handle the interim time have multiplied and specialized. An interim can be simply someone who does the minimum to keep the church going. Or, an interim can be a part-time or a full-time minister who works to keep the church on an even keel until a new minister is procured. Or, you can choose (and have chosen!) an intentional interim minister with specialized training in the dynamics of transition.
Engaging in an intentional interim ministry is a way of saying: we’re not just a holding pattern until a new minister is found and can begin work. This interim time can be an extremely useful and fruitful time of introspection, self-evaluation, healing, repair and discernment for the community of faith.
There are five general tasks that the interim minister helps the congregation to look at and evaluate. These are some of the questions for each of the areas:
- HISTORY: Where have you been? How have you been shaped by your past? What people or issues or experiences are still casting a shadow over the present time? What strengths, gifts and core “DNA” are and will continue to shape what the congregation is and how it functions in the world? What has been the best of the congregation? What has been the worst? Where are there festering wounds?
- IDENTITY: Taking a realistic, hard look at what the congregation is now. What is its reputation in the community, how do members see themselves as a congregation, are there disconnects between those two things? What are the essentials that define the character of the congregation?
- LEADERSHIP & INVOLVEMENT: How does the leadership function? Is the organizational structure of the church functioning well, or in need of repair and redevelopment? How do people get involved, acquire, share and use power and influence? Are their unhealthy cliques or “fiefdoms” that keep others excluded? How is conflict and communication managed?
- CONNECTIONS & CONTEXTS: What are the resources, support, and connections that the congregation has outside itself? How strong is the denominational affiliation, how engaged is the congregation in its community? Are the demographics known? Is the congregation focused outside itself or has it become more inward-focused and isolated?
- FUTURE: Where is the hope? Where is the energy to move forward? Is there a guiding vision or is vision something that is needed? What needs to be repaired, renovated, replaced, rebuilt in order to allow the congregation to move forward into a healthy future?
These are the 5 general tasks and arenas of focus of an intentional interim time. Next week, I’ll talk a bit about my personal “take” on these tasks.