Does your church need an Interim Pastor?

Signs Your Church may benefit from an Interim Pastor

Originally by Lavern Brown, (online at  edited for ELCA congregations by Bishop James Hazelwood 

One of the questions I am often asked following the announcement of the departure or retirement by their pastor is as follows:

“Should we rush into finding a new pastor right away or should we have someone come and help us figure out what’s best for us?” 

My answer is “it depends.”  I do believe there are certain situations when I would encourage a congregation to consider a trained intentional interim, especially if the church meets any of these criteria: 

The pastor is leaving after a lengthy tenure (experts differ over “lengthy tenure”, with figures from 8 to 25 years).

The church churns its pastors (a new one is called every few years).

The pastor leaves under duress (forced out) or due to inappropriate behavior or misconduct.

The church’s leaders can’t identify or agree on the church’s mission.

It has been three years since the last ministry evaluation (everything is reviewed for “mission fit” and amended as needed).

It is a “commuter church” (members are very different from those who live near the church).

Attendance has plateaued or declining (people coming in offset those who leave).

The church faces significant financial challenges. 

Any church entering the transition between permanent pastors should pay careful and prayerful attention to these signs. If not there is a danger the leadership might simply set the congregation of a repeating pattern.  While there are no guarantees in life, except death and taxes, a trained and qualified interim pastor can be a very helpful option for congregations in transition.