Joe Walker, one of the elders at Eddyville, Kentucky, called me in May 2006. He asked if I would consider coming to Eddyville to do my first interim. I told him I was committed to Berry’s Chapel through the first Sunday of April 2007. He said, “We’ll wait.” That began meetings and discussions with the elders, Randell O’Bryan, Doyle Walker, and Joe Walker. We thought, talked, prayed, and visited. We decided to begin in May 2007. Ten years after beginning, we had a party at Patti’s 1880’s Settlement in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. Gail and I met the elders, Randell O’Bryan and Joe Walker and their wives, Martha and Cheryl (Doyle Walker died after we left), and enjoyed bread in a flower pot, strawberry butter, and pie with a 9” meringue. To me, the main course was incidental.
We are working with our seventh congregation.
- Eddyville Church of Christ, Eddyville, Kentucky, May 2007-August 2008
- Hendersonville Church of Christ, Hendersonville, Tennessee, October 2008-December 2009
- Collegeside Church of Christ, Cookeville, Tennessee, March 2010-June 2011
- LaVergne Church of Christ, LaVergne, Tennessee, August 2011-June 2013
- Maury City Church of Christ, Maury City, Tennessee, September 2013-July 2015
- Northside Church of Christ, Jeffersonville, Indiana, September 2015-February 2017
- Shady Acres Church of Christ, Sikeston, Missouri, April 2017-present
Observations Over a Decade
- I never met an interim I didn’t like. Brethren have been gracious to us.
- I have been and continue to be shepherded by shepherds of congregations we served. That hasn’t ended since we left. Gail had surgery in January 2010. An elder’s wife came to stay with Gail while I went to Freed-Hardeman University Lectureship. Elders from more than one interim church call to encourage me, check on how Gail and I are doing, and ask about the work in the congregation where we’re working.
- The work is getting easier. I’m learning more. I experience fewer doubts that I’m going to do what I said I’d do — move on. I’m not on a long try-out with this church. In earlier congregations, some wondered if I were trying to hang on as long as I could, or maybe I wanted to be the next preacher. After six churches, it’s evident I’m an interim preacher. I’ve already quit. I’ll leave when you get a preacher or when the agreed time limit is over.
- Elders struggle with giving up deacon work and being shepherds. We’ve had this discussion, and we’ve worked on it in every congregation. After fire-fighting and picking up after deacons for decades, it’s difficult to start a plan of preventive care.
- Elders who shepherd plan for it, commit to it, work it into their schedule, make it a priority, report, and are accountable to the congregation to do what they promised to do. Meeting with families and people who are doing well but need someone to say, “I’m proud of you; God loves you; I can see Jesus in the way you live; you’ll make it raising your children; you can finish strong in your old age; have you thought about a new challenge in your life?; tell us about your spiritual growth; share with us how we can pray for you”, won’t happen accidentally and won’t be accomplished in your spare time. It takes commitment and action. Direction is more important than speed. I’d rather see shepherds commit and complete one visit a month than to start with two or three a week and quit in two months.
- One of the biggest mistakes of the selection process is getting in a hurry. Being on a selection committee is hard work. People get tired. Your favorite man turned you down. The second favorite didn’t come. Let’s get the next available person.
- The next mistake is failing to check references adequately. Many times when the committee gets to checking references, they want someone to confirm the preacher they’ve fallen in love with is the best preacher available. That’s a mistake. Faith (trust) grows through creative doubt. If he’s good and a fit, he can stand the scrutiny of a thorough check. If he isn’t good or doesn’t fit, you don’t need him.
- From the perspective of Jerrie and Gail Barber, interim ministry is delightful! There’s nothing we’d rather be doing. We’ve worked with more than 3,000 people in ten years. Many of those will be special to us for the rest of our lives. We’ve lived in seven different communities and enjoyed people and places. Some of the cultural and culinary highlights: best catfish sandwich at Echo Charlie’s in Eddyville, Kentucky; Drakes Creek Park and Indian Lakes for running in Hendersonville, Tennessee; Poke Sallet Festival in Gainesboro and J. T. Watts Gen’l Mdse. in Nameless while living in Cookeville, Tennessee; Demos Restaurant and Accurate Automotive, where we bought two cars that are serving us well with no repairs after 150,000+ miles, in the Laverne area; finding contented and grateful farmers and the Olympic Steak House (the restaurant by which we judge all others) at Maury City, Tennessee; the Big 4 Bridge for running and great neighbors in the “Old Folks Village” in Jeffersonville, Indiana; Lambert’s and The Original Fried Pie Shop in Sikeston, Missouri.
- There’s more work in interim ministry than we can do. We’re limited by driving distance from Nashville. We’re limited by time. There are opportunities for more people to work in this ministry. That’s one of the reasons for the Interim Ministry Workshop September 21-23.
What questions, comments, observations do you have?
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