Originality Rule

I make no claims to originality

When I started preaching at the age of 16, I’d never heard of exegesis or hermeneutics. I saw a book at the Gospel Advocate Bookstore on expository preaching and thought is was when you wanted to preach a sermon and expose someone for doing something wrong. I bought a sermon outline book, Simple Sermon Outlines, by J. C. Choate and used many of the outlines for my sermons during my last two years of high school. It never occurred to me I was plagiarizing. The book was printed to use for Bible study and presentation.

Concept: Copy paste buttons on the keyboard. 3D rendering.

The issue becomes a problem when a preacher claims borrowed material is his. It becomes a problem when a preacher or teacher does little or no Bible study on his own but only copies someone else’s material and presents it as his own.


I make no claims of originality. I was born ignorant. I didn’t know my A, B, Cs or how to count. Everything I know I learned from someone else.

Most of my sermons and classes came from others’ books, sermons, articles, and commentaries. One series of nine lessons I prepared from an idea in one sentence in one book I heard on cassette tapes. I don’t remember the book. I don’t remember the author.

I may preach one of two sermons from www.sermoncentral.com . I claim no originality.

There’ll be times when I’ll give the source. There’ll be times when I don’t remember the source. If you want to know where I got my information, I’ll tell you if I remember.

If I say I read it, I read it. I may not be able to prove it’s true.

When I say something happened to me, it happened to me.

When I use the phrase “less than fifty years ago, and less than five hundred miles from here” it means it’s something that happened, but I won’t disclose the people involved.

My commitment to you is I’ll continue to read, study, and listen to present sermons and classes I think will be helpful for us at the time. I learned from someone else. If you want to know my sources, ask. If I know, I’ll tell you.

How do you keep fresh and original and avoid plagiarism?
Please comment below:

Criticism Rule

a leader is more like a lightning rod than a cute wall decoration

My rule for criticism is: I love criticism! As a young preacher, I dreaded, feared, and avoided criticism. I equated it with failure. I should be able to study enough, work enough, visit enough, and be good enough so people would have nothing but appreciation for me and my work.

Log Home in the Middle of the Forest During Heavy NIght Time Lightning Storm. 3D Render Illustration.

I had a conversion experience with a counselor that changed my attitude toward criticism.

One Sunday, I’d received some stinging words. I made an appointment with James Jones, a counselor from the Atlanta area, who worked in our building at Central in Dalton, Georgia, the following day.

I wanted him to do two things:

  1. Agree I was right and those who criticized me were wrong. To me, it was clear. I was right. There was no reason for their criticism.
  2. I hoped, but doubted, that on one of his visits to our congregation he might work it into his conversation to these people it was hurtful to me for them to criticize me. It’d be good if they wouldn’t do it again.

I presented my case, awaiting his agreement, help, and encouragement.

He paused, as he often did, glanced at me a time or two, then said, “Did it ever occur to you not everybody likes Jerrie Barber?”.

Then I paused. That wasn’t the reply I expected and wanted. I had nothing to say.james-and-jerrie

James continued:

Not everybody likes Jerrie Barber. Not everybody has liked Jerrie Barber in the past. Not everybody likes Jerrie Barber today. Not everybody will like Jerrie Barber in the future. That’s facts. That’s reality. That’s the way the world operates. You have two choices:

  1. You can communicate verbally and nonverbally you don’t like and don’t want criticism. Few will criticize you — until they get ready to fire you. (That wasn’t good. I’d experienced that. The Best Day to Fire Your Preacher; 3 Ways I Helped Get Myself Fired. I didn’t like that option. I looked forward to the next.)
  2. You can let people know you’re concerned; you want to know what they think and feel. If you communicate clearly, sincerely, and often, they’ll tell you. And many times it’ll really hurt. But…you’ll learn things you’ll never learn any other way.

The conversation made sense and made a difference. From then, I’ve grown in welcoming and inviting criticism. It’s a Biblical concept:

Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge,
But he who hates correction is stupid (Proverbs 12:1, NKJV).

I started conducting a What Do You Think About the Preacher Night once a year in full-time work. I do a session or two in interim ministry. After services, I set the structure for good discussions, then open the floor for people to tell me how I can improve. (You can receive a free copy of Guidelines for a Good Discussion: how to lead a peaceful conversation about powerful things, for subscribing to New Shepherds Orientation — SUBSCRIBE.)

During this interchange, I promise to do three things:

  1. I’ll listen to what is said.
  2. I’ll write it down.
  3.  I’ll think about it.

I’ve received some helpful suggestions. I show I’m willing to listen to criticism and not get defensive. I set a precedent. I encourage people to come to me at any time to tell me how to improve. I believe anyone who finds salmonella in my refrigerator and tells me about it isn’t hurting me. He’s helping me.

Once I invite people to tell me how I can be better and do better, it takes the sting out. When they do, and I thank them, I gain credibility and often build better relationships. I sometimes write personal notes to those who do an outstanding job criticizing me — especially if it seemed difficult for them.

There’s a modification to this rule: I don’t accept anonymous criticism. I won’t receive and act on second-hand criticism. Since 2011, I’ve this in my contract: “Any criticism of Jerrie Barber will be directed to Jerrie Barber and it will be welcomed. Jerrie Barber does not accept anonymous criticism.” Interim Minister — Transition Consultant Job Description and Contract, page 2, # 8)

That means should anyone approach me saying, “We’ve had some complaints about…”, I reply, “I don’t accept anonymous criticism. Please have the person or persons talk to me. I’ll treat them with respect and appreciation.”

Should a person persist (which I haven’t experienced), I’d reply, “I cannot respond. It’d be going against my contract.” It’d also be going against scripture. Jesus told us to bring any complaint against a brother by going to him ALONE. (Matthew 18:15).

A leader is more like a lightning rod than a cute wall decoration. A lightning rod rises above the building, saying, “Hit me, hit me.” The potentially destructive charge is transferred to the ground. The building is protected. Leadership, greatness isn’t for cuteness and admiration. It comes with service and often pain (Matthew 20:25-28).

I communicate this information the fourth week in a new interim. About this time, I conduct a one-hour workshop on Criticism. After this, people test whether I meant what I said or not. Depending on my response, I have the opportunity to increase or decrease my credibility.

But that happens to any leader, whether he articulates the way he handles criticism or not.

What suggestions do you have for dealing with criticism?
Please comment below:

Communication Rules

how will each know what the other is thinking?

I was just beginning my ministry at a new congregation, shaking people out of the building on a Sunday night. A sister came to me, shook my hand, and roared, “I’ve been sick two weeks, and nobody came to see me — not even the preacher!” I was surprised and embarrassed. I was surprised because I didn’t know she’d been sick. I was embarrassed because she said it in front of several other members. I was trying to get off to a good start in my new work.

Communication word cloud concept. Vector illustration on white

I asked her if her doctor knew she was sick. She said he did. I wondered how he found out. She said she told him. I replied, “That’s the only way the good Lord gave me to learn things.”

About seven years later, I didn’t think my salary had kept up with my expenses. It hurt my feelings because the elders hadn’t given me a bigger raise.

“What did the elders say when you told them?”

Well, I didn’t tell them. I thought elders ought to know things like that.

Paul wrote:

For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11, NKJV).

You don’t know what I think unless I tell you. I don’t know what you think unless you tell me.

I hope no one  fails to ask for what they need, then I fail to do what I didn’t know they wanted me to do, and they want me to feel guilty. I hope this doesn’t happen. If it does, I won’t cooperate by feeling guilty.

My commitment to you: I’ll tell you what I think will be helpful:

  1. From the Bible.
  2. From my experience and observations. Remember the waste basket is always available.

My request from you: Please tell me how I can be helpful to you.

Tell me when you are sick, if you want me to know. Tell me if you would like a visit or, if you’d rather I pray for you and not visit.

In my early ministry, I visited everyone in the local hospital every day, twice if they were very sick, and three times if they were dying. You didn’t want to see me the third time the same day. That was a bad sign.

On surgery day, I came to the hospital before a person received a “happy shot” and we prayed. I sat with the family during surgery. After the person was out of surgery, I went to their room, had a prayer; then I left the hospital…until a day in Dalton, Georgia. Marlene Griggs approached me one Sunday morning and said, “Jerrie, Bob’s having knee surgery Tuesday. I’d appreciate it if you would NOT come to the hospital and sit with us during surgery.”

I was shocked. How could I break my rule?

She continued, “You know how anxious I am. I don’t want to have to entertain someone. I’ll have my Reader’s Digest. Steve, Carol, and Leigh Ellen will be there. Are you going to be in town Tuesday?”

I replied I planned to be in town.

Marlene continued her communication, “We expect everything to go well. But, if something bad were to happen, would you come to the hospital?”

I told her I would.

Marlene said, “I appreciate it. If I need you, I’ll call you.”

Wow!!! What good communication. I began to reflect on my previous practice.

I now have a new policy: please tell me how I can be helpful in any circumstance. I’ll try to cooperate.

When I was serving as an interim at the Collegeside congregation, I met the best communicator indawn-reeves-2 Cookeville, Tennessee — Dawn Reeves. The Sunday I explained my Communication Rule, Dawn came to me after services and said, “When I have an operation, I want you to visit me, and I want you to bring chocolate. I don’t have any surgery scheduled, but when I do, please visit and bring chocolate.”

And it came to pass before I left Cookeville, Dawn Reeves had surgery. I visited and brought chocolate. Why did Dawn Reeves receive chocolate from me when others didn’t? Because she asked for it. She is an excellent communicator.

I encourage us to follow Dawn’s example. There would be less disappointment if we told people what we wanted from them.


I use electronic communication. I am active on Facebook. I post a “thought of the day” on Twitter. I email and Message.

I won’t ask anyone to connect on Facebook while I serve as an interim in this congregation. I will confirm anyone who requests me to be a friend on Facebook.

Anyone from this congregation who follows me on Twitter, I’ll follow.

I use email and Message to communicate facts such as time and place to have lunch. I don’t do counseling, Bible studies, or try to settle disagreements by Message or email. For those, I like to look someone in the eye. I’ll be glad to set a time and place by Message or email.

What is a communication principle you’ve found helpful?
Please comment below:

Name Memory Rule

what happens when I don’t remember your name?

We’ve been doing interim ministry more than nine years. We’ve worked with six congregations. There are more than 2,500 people that attend those congregations. Frequently, when I’m in a group, someone will ask, “Do you know who I am?”. The answer is often in the negative. The situation is awkward. Embarrassment is felt by both sides of the conversation.

Memory word on puzzle pieces with holes to illustrate missing memories and losing ability to recall names, past facts, faces and other things that were once memorable

I’ve found letting people know in the beginning about how I remember names is helpful.

I know how to remember names.

I’ve been through the Dale Carnegie course five times. I was a student the first time in Madisonville, Kentucky starting in August 1969. Besides the Bible courses I took in college, the Dale Carnegie course is one of the most helpful learning experiences in improving my preaching, study, and working with people. After graduating from that course, I served as a graduate assistant four times. I also took the Dale Carnegie Sales course.

I know how to remember names.

The laws of memory are

I — impression
R — repetition
A — association

Six common ways to make associations:

B — business
R — rhyming word
A — appearance
M — meaning
M — mind picture
S — similar name

I know how to remember names. I can quote the rules.

However, I often forget to practice what I know. Therefore, I don’t remember a couple hundred or more new names quickly.

Let me ask you — do you enjoy someone coming to you, putting you on the spot, and asking, “Do you know who I am; do you remember my name?” I’ve asked that question to 2,500+ people and I haven’t had a person raise a hand indicating they welcome that encounter.


It’s encouraging to me. Because no one likes that, I know how everyone is going to treat me. We are followers of Jesus. Jesus taught us how to treat people in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NKJV).

My rule is this:

If you’re in a hurry for me to remember your name, I’ve found that having a meal with someone improves my memory. Feel free to schedule that soon and let’s get acquainted.

This has worked well. It’s true. I’m a slow learner. I don’t like to embarrass myself and others. People have understood and cooperated.

I’m doing this for myself. But I am also doing this for the next preacher. In some congregations where I’ve worked as an interim, most people don’t remember a new preacher coming. Their former preacher had been there many years and knew everyone. It’ll be easier on the new preacher if people don’t put pressure on him to remember their names the first week.

Please leave comments below:

Beginning at a New Church — My First Three Rules

clear expectations reduce conflict and disappointment.

I like to begin with rules — guidelines, expectations. Family rules are usually unconscious, unspoken, but understood. That means we rarely think about them, and neglect discussing them. But when someone violates a family (group) rule, he is in trouble! The group will discipline or shun a rule-breaker.

Close up view of a colorful yellow carpenters level ruler and right angle lying on planks of new hardwood together with a pencil for measurements in a carpentry construction DIY and joinery concept

family-rules-leather-bookI think there’s a better way. Let’s discuss how we’re going to relate to each other. What do you expect of me? Let me tell you what I expect of you. Let’s negotiate. Then let’s hold each other accountable for what we agreed to do.

Some tell me they don’t like rules. But we still have them. There are things we like, things we don’t like, things we’ll tolerate, and things we won’t tolerate. It’s good to know them. The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) is a rule, a good rule.

My second Sunday in a new interim, I begin with my rules, expectations. I explain these same three guidelines in meetings and workshops.

#1: Try not to learn very much. This has been my aim since graduating from college and not having to take tests. When I read a book, attend a seminar or lecture, or listen to a podcast, I try not to learn much. I usually can’t recreate the outline. I probably missed several points.

Although I try not to learn very much, I want to get something helpful to make a difference in the way I think, act, and relate to God and others. I call it the “mustard seed” principle. Jesus told His apostles if they had faith of a grain of mustard seed, they could move a mountain (Matthew 17:20).

#2: You have permission to sleep. I don’t know how much sleep you’ve had. I don’t know what kind of medicine you’re taking. I don’t know how hard you’ve worked. Sometimes people nod and even take a nap when I’m speaking. I won’t be offended.

It used to bother me. I thought it was an insult to my preaching. But you can learn many things from the Bible. In Acts, chapter 20, a man was preaching. A young man went to sleep, fell out a window, and died. Who was the preacher? Paul. Good preacher or bad preacher? Good preacher. Someone going to sleep doesn’t necessarily mean the preaching is bad.

A guy flung all over the couchWe can gain wisdom from reflecting on our experiences. I started preaching when I was sixteen years old. One Sunday, in November 1962, I was preaching at the Wolf Creek Church of Christ, in Hickman County, Tennessee. I was about half way through the sermon. I said, “In Hebrews 10:24, 25, we read…” I fell to the floor. I went to sleep during my own sermon. Two doctors examined me and came to the same conclusion: I was exhausted. I’d played a basketball game Friday night. Both teams kept a full-court press going the whole game. My father was building a rock house. I hauled rocks all day Saturday. I went bowling Saturday night. I arose early Sunday morning to study.  About half way through the sermon, it was time for a nap, and I took one.

As I’ve thought about this, if I sleep when I preach, I shouldn’t be upset if other people sleep when I preach.

#3: Feel free to use the waste basket. We’ll have someone to empty it at the end of each session. I like to put a filter on the waste basket — the Bible. If God said it, don’t throw it away. And we’ll be reading much of God’s word. However, there’ll be times when I say, “I think; it’s my observation; this is the way I see it.”img_1306

I think it’s pretty good. But you may not think it’s worth taking home. Feel free to use the waste basket.

In announcing these three expectations, I’m recognizing what people are going to do anyway. What I’ve promised is I’m not going to get upset and angry.

  1. I won’t be giving tests. The Lord will do that. I’d rather a person get one concept that moves him closer to the example of Jesus than to be able to recite every point.
  2. People may nod or sleep. That’s their condition or choice. I won’t be monitoring the situation and making loud noises to keep them awake. Each person can be responsible for himself.
  3. A person may disagree with me. If he asks, I’ll explain. If he persists, my reply, “This sounds like this may be waste basket material to you.”

I’m working on defining myself and letting the church know what I expect and what responses I’ll give to different situations.

More rules to follow in the next post.
Please comment below:

How Do You Get the Word Out?

how do people know you would like to work as an interim?

Someone asked a few months ago how to get the word out that you’re available. Unless a preacher is independently wealthy, which I’m not, it’s scary to begin working with congregations, resigning before you get started — effective in eighteen months, and then start the process again.

Microphone radio mic retro old broadcasting stand

How do you let it be known you are available and willing to work as an interim?

God has blessed Gail and me for the past nine years to be involved in this ministry. Here’s my story:

  1. When I thought about the concept, I began to talk to anyone who would listen, and probably some who wished they didn’t have to listen. Our Journey to Interim Ministry.
  2. John Parker and I started a monthly newsletter When Your Preacher Leaves: Interim Services for Churches Between Ministers in June 2006. We had articles relating to interim ministry, books that were helpful, and a report of our activities during the month. John started interim ministry earlier than I did.
  3. Barber Clippings was a blog I started in December 2006. This is the one I used. It is free and easy to start and maintain: Blog Instructions .
  4. About this time, Jill Parker build a website for me. I tried to post every tool I had that would be helpful for churches and preachers in transition. It worked well until it needed to be changed. I contacted a company who build a website and instructed me how to maintain it.
  5. John and I ended our newsletter in October 2014.
  6. I started my blog, New Shepherds Orientation, in January 2015. I used Michael Hyatt’s WordPress theme, Get Noticed. It’s more expensive than many other themes, but it’s easy to use and looks good. He has a helpful video for people wanting to set up a WordPress blog: How to Launch a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 20 Minutes or Less: A Step-by-Step Guide. I don’t think I finished in twenty minutes, but I was able to set it up and have continued to maintain it. New Shepherds Orientation and this blog, dealing specifically with interim ministry, Between Preachers, has been helpful in getting connected with congregations who consider my services. It’s my impression that elders usually spend considerable time on my website before giving me the first call. They have the opportunity to learn more about the concept of interim ministry, and become better acquainted with me: About, check my References from elders and comments from members where I’ve worked for the past forty+ years.
  7. I choose to be active on Facebook. I communicate blogs posts, book “mustard seeds,” meetings, workshops, and the times I’ve been available for interim ministry. I have a New Shepherds Orientation page where I share information on leadership workshops and ideas on interim ministry. I am grateful for the amount of free advertisement available by internet, social media, email, and other web-based tools.
  8. I am on Twitter — @JerrieWBarber.
  9. There have been two times in the past nine years that I didn’t have a congregation interested when I completed an interim. These two times my habit of adding people and facts to my Contacts paid off. As of today, I have 5,589 entries in my Contacts list on my iPhone. Not everyone in my list has an interest in my interim ministry — plumbers, electricians, mechanics, doctors, etc. But many of them do have an interest. I composed an introductory letter about my work. I went through my list in alphabetical order sending out individual emails — many with personal comments — to people I thought might know of some congregation that could use my service. The first time, in January 2010, I sent out 700 emails. I stayed up one entire night sending out emails. The second time, July 2013, I sent out an even 1,000 emails.

These are some of the ways I have “put out the word” about my availability. This may sound complicated. But it started a quarter a century ago with talking about an idea I thought would be helpful. I found other people had the idea before I did who had studied and developed principles I could learn and adapt. The steps that followed were months and years apart. As I view the process, I can say I believe Paul when he wrote, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NKJV).

I am receiving more and more calls for this work. For those interested, I am considering a three-day training session on interim ministry next year. Please contact me if you would like to know more: jerrie@barberclippings.com.

What have you found effective in letting people know how you would like to serve in any area?
Please comment below:

“I Don’t Think We Need to Write It!”

objections to written job descriptions and contracts

We don’t need to write anything down. We’ll just trust each other like Christians, and I promise you we’ll take care of you and work out any problems that come up along the way.” And that’s been the beginning of disappointing “agreements” between leaders and their new preacher.

Handshake 760

But what could go wrong when we’re all sincere, honest, and faithful brethren?

Let me suggest a few things I’ve learned from the University of Hard Knocks, whose colors are black and blue and the school yell is, “OUCH!”.

Some possible agreements:

  1. What do you expect of me?
  2. What are my responsibilities?
  3. How will I know if I am doing well, mediocre, or if I am in danger of being terminated?
  4. Will I know that in advance of termination or will I be informed on the way out?
  5. What spiritual support will I receive?
  6. How often and when will I meet with the shepherds?
  7. As your preacher, how many weeks do I get for vacation?
  8. Will these be with or without pay?
  9. How many weeks do I have for workshops and gospel meetings?
  10. Who arranges for speakers when I am gone and who pays them?
  11. Are there provisions for medical and life insurance, car mileage reimbursement, provisions for continuing education or lectureships or seminars, reimbursement for half of social security, retirement, or other benefits?
  12. When I decide to leave, or you decide for me to leave, will there be severance compensation until I relocate?
  13. How long will that be?
  14. Etc., etc., and etc.

If any, all, or some of those are discussed, how many in the group remember them fifteen minutes after we agreed on them?

In the last two posts, I wrote about the importance of specific written agreements. Not everyone agrees with that concept. Here are reasons people have for resisting.

  • “If we don’t trust each other any more than that, we have no business working together.” It isn’t a matter of trust, it’s a result of imperfect memory. After that, each will regard the other with suspicion and distrust. Each is sure he remembered correctly. A way to eliminate that is to write it, sign it, distribute it to all parties, scan it, save it on your computer, back it up to external hard drives (I use three in rotation), secure it in the cloud, and put the original in your safe-deposit box in the bank. Since I’ve done that, I’ve never had a disagreement on details of my agreements that wasn’t solved by reading the document.
  • “In my daddy’s day, people just shook hands and did what they said they were going to do.” If it worked for your daddy, I’m pleased. My experience is I forget. We had written agreements with our children when they were growing up. Every time I remember having a disagreement, I was wrong. I wasn’t trying to cheat my children. I forgot the details. When we checked the document, I had no trouble doing what I promised to do.
  • “I don’t think it’s spiritual for brethren to have to write every detail. It seems like Christians should be able just to agree and do what they said they’d do.” In His two big agreements, the Old Testament and the New Testament, He chose to have details and stories recorded in writing. Some of the big agreements, He wrote in stone — twice! When the first copy was deleted by breakage, He had another copy made and placed in a safe-deposit box (the Ark of the Covenant).

My conclusion: the only people who don’t need to write their agreements are those who’ll never forget and who’ll never die — and they need to work only with people who’ll never forget and never die. Otherwise, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and damaged relationships are likely.

What are your thoughts and what’s been your experience in recording and keeping of agreements?
Please comment below:

How Much Do You Pay an Interim?

what is fair compensation for the interim preacher and the congregation?

In each discussion with a congregation considering inviting me to work with them, we get to the question, “How much do you pay an interim?” My consistent response for nine years, “Pay me what you paid your last preacher.”


Five reasons I think this is a good and fair request:

  1. You need an interim who’s as good at his work as your last preacher was at his.
  2. Paying your interim the salary you paid your last preacher is fair for small, medium, and large congregations.
  3. You’ll pay your next preacher as much, or more than you paid your last preacher. I’ll help you hold the place in the budget for him.
  4. A worker is worthy of his pay. If an interim preacher has spent his life learning, applying, and teaching the principles of transition, his knowledge and wisdom are worth that of any other consultant of comparable ability.
  5. People show respect, value, and credibility by compensation. Not every church has followed this principle, and I agreed to work with them. Observation: when a church did significantly less, it was also expressed in their attitude toward me. They expressed that by what they paid me and by the way they treated me while I was there. I just wasn’t that valuable. Non-verbal communication is powerful. Although I was paid well and lived comfortably, their response to that suggestion was the first sign of how I’d be regarded by them. I’ll ponder this in the future.

It’s expensive to be an interim.

We live where we work. We’ve lived in two houses owned by churches for use by their preacher. We’ve rented three apartments. We’re now renting a house close to Northside where we’re woking, and paying utilities.

We’re maintaining our house in Nashville. We pay utilities, property taxes, insurance, and mowing. We don’t move to a new location. We live there, bringing our clothes, computers, and an interim bed. Brethren loan us furniture while we’re working in a location. They pick it up when we leave. What isn’t loaned, Gail buys at a thrift store. This helps the most unpleasant part of our interim ministry, relocating every eighteen months.

God has been good and provided for our every need and most of our wants. I appreciate the support of brethren to permit the enjoyable work we’ve been doing for nine years.

What are your thoughts about compensation for interim preachers?
Please comment below:

Interim Minister Job Description-Contract

good relationships begin with clear understanding and mutual agreements

I didn’t know I was supposed to do that.” “You said you were going to do it.” “You agreed to pay me ninety days after we announced I was leaving.” “We don’t remember that.” “Check your notes.” “It’s not in our minutes.” “Some said they don’t like the length of your sermons; a lot of people are upset.” “Who are they?” “We can’t tell you. That information is confidential.”

Contract 760

How do you settle these disagreements?

You don’t. If no one made an effort and took the time to write agreements, make copies for all parties, and keep them safe for future reference, you won’t solve these disputes to everyone’s satisfaction.

The only person who doesn’t need written agreements is the person who’ll never die and who’ll never forget anything. If he isn’t writing his agreements, he needs to be dealing with people who’ll never die and will never forget anything.

It took me ten years and much pain to learn to make agreements of expectations and record those in a job description-contract.

Before writing a job description-contract, I like to have several hours of getting to know each other. I want to hear why the church wants an interim preacher. What are their expectations? What is their understanding of what I’ll do and how long I’ll be there? What is the difference in an interim minister and fill-in preaching? What is our understanding of transition? Who will be involved in it? How much does each person want to grow or do we just want to get everyone else straightened out? What are tasks and groups that need to be involved in the transition process? How much interaction will there be between the elders and interim preacher?

The contract-job description is an official statement of understandings we have reached during our discussions.

Items in Job Description-Contract

  1. Job description.
    * Preaching.
    * Teaching.
    * Staff meetings.
    * Organizing transition projects and people.
  2. Relationship with elders and staff.
    * Meetings.
    * Communication.
    * Evaluation.
    * Criticism guidelines.
  3. Contract.
    * Salary, other benefits.
    * Moving.
    * Time away from the congregation.
    * Study at home and building.
    * Length of work together.
    * 90-day notice of termination.
    * Clear no consideration of taking the position as the next full-time preacher.

Two critical agreements:

  • “Any criticism of Jerrie Barber will be directed to Jerrie Barber, and it will be welcomed. Jerrie Barber does not accept anonymous criticism.” A principle I’ll emphasize is delivering mail to the correct person. Matthew 18:15–17 applies to preachers as well as other Christians. I don’t respond to, “A lot of people are upset…some people said.” I look forward to visiting with each person individually. I appreciate criticism. It helps me grow. I don’t accept second-hand criticism.
  • “It is understood that under no circumstances will Jerrie W. Barber consider or be considered as the next full-time preacher for this congregation.” This is one thing distinguishing interim ministry from fill-in preaching. I’m not here to see if we like each other and to determine if I want to be the next preacher here. I’m not here to take brother Last Preacher’s place. I’m here to help the church make a good transition and to make it easier on the next preacher.

I plan to discuss compensation in the next post.

Here’s a copy of my present contract: interim minister contract .

How have you found written job descriptions-contracts helpful or unhelpful?
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It’s Not the Work of the Interim Preacher to Make a Good Transition

interim ministry isn’t fill-in preaching

Jerrie, our elders need fixing. Our deacons don’t deak. You need to get members who left to come back. People need to give more. I’m not giving because of what the elders did. What are you going to do to deal with all these problems?”

Helicopter Parents 760

Not much.

Quite a bit — if what I teach and preach is true and practiced.

Edwin Friedman says one of the greatest mistakes of GOOD leaders is over-functioning.

The work of the interim minister is to help the congregation grow — navigate through a good transition during this time of change from one preacher to another.

Interim ministry is not fill-in preaching. Fill-in preaching is showing up at appointed times and speaking. And good preaching can do much good. But interim ministry calls for more. It’s an opportunity to help people think about what’s happened and learn from it. I do this from the pulpit, in smaller classes and groups, and in individual conversations.

Different circumstances may call for an interim:

  1. The preacher resigned.
  2. The preacher died.
  3. The preacher was fired.
  4. The preacher retired.
  5. The preacher stayed for a long time.
  6. The last several preachers stayed a short time and left unhappy.
  7. The church is in conflict.
  8. The church is at peace — so much peace for so long it’s about to die. There’s a lot of peace in a cemetery.
  9. The church is at peace. The last preacher stayed a long time, did a good job, left because he chose to go and believes he made a good decision. People miss him because he was a good preacher, a good servant, and a true friend. No one will ever be able to replace him.

The church needs to grieve his absence to get ready to consider who will be the next preacher.

And if you’re looking for the one you just buried, that person is in the cemetery.

All these call for a time to think and learn from what’s happening.

In my early ministry, the only method of conflict resolution I knew was to talk with people involved. I found if I talked to one first, I always talked with the one who was right. I knew he was because he told me he was right and the other was wrong.

My next step was to get the wrong one to come in to talk. The one who was right and I would get the wrong one to repent, and everyone would be happy. They would send me a thank you note and Christmas cards every year.

I’ve never received my first card from one of those peace conferences. I didn’t know and practice Proverbs 18:17:

The first one to plead his cause seems right,
Until his neighbor comes and examines him (NKJV).

My responsibilities and opportunities are to teach, coach, and encourage people in conflict to follow Jesus and His teaching. If I try to do the work for others, it probably won’t work. And if it did, the people failed to exercise their responsibility to follow the Lord’s way of repairing broken relationships. If I did their work, they didn’t grow from a lack of exercise.

I can’t grieve for another.

I can’t find the way out of lostness for another.

I can’t express and find relief from anger and despair for another.

I may be able to help someone find a better way through the wilderness between the Red Sea and the Promised Land.

My goal is to help, not replace, Christians who are finding their way to a new beginning.

In blog posts that follow, I’ll relate specifics about what I do as a guide on this adventure.

What have you found helpful when your stability and peace was disrupted?
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