Search Team Training

how do you look for a new preacher?

How do you suggest searching for a preacher that will be blessed by and a blessing to this congregation at this time? In this post, I give experience from 1961 to the present, with five congregations in full-time work and interim churches since 2007. This is an outline of a training day for the team directly involved in the search process. As always, the wastebasket is available for any ideas that aren’t helpful.

Presuppositions

     I begin the training process with some presuppositions.

  • I believe God loves His church. Jesus built it and died for it (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28). God is not only concerned about the church universal but each congregation individually. Several letters of the New Testament are to local groups of believers.
  • Since God loves His church and wants the best for it, we should invite Him to be part of this process. Remind yourself and others that His wisdom is available to those who pray for it (James 1:5) and work for it (Proverbs 2:1-5).
  • The process is as important as the product. Christians on the Search and Interview Teams, including the entire eldership, are not just doing a job but you are participating in an opportunity to grow spiritually. You can learn about God, about others, and about yourself.
  • Each committee should become a group before they see the first résumé or mention the first preacher’s name. A friend used to say, “I dream of a place and a time where Christians can get together and tell the truth.” The interview and selection process should be one of those times and places.
  • If one holds back, does not speak his mind, doesn’t ask important questions, doesn’t add helpful insight, or is in any way intimidated or compromised, the group and the church is deprived of group wisdom. To become a group will probably require several meetings before they are able “to get on with the Lord’s work” of selecting a preacher. I happen to believe that learning to get along with each other, discussing how we are going to conduct business including how we will settle conflict when it arises, and getting to know each other better in order to “stir up love and good works” is part of “the Lord’s work.”
  • The training day is designed to begin this process. It’s only the beginning. Usually, a group goes through three stages before it  is ready to function:
      1. Forming.
      2. Storming.
      3. Norming.
     I aim to include activities in the training day to begin those stages. I conducted these training sessions on a Saturday.

7:30     Breakfast. We start with a light meal. Eating together begins the group process. Many things happen when we are eating to bring us together.

After breakfast, I get the group into a circle. Everyone is facing everyone else. Everyone is on the front row.

Prayer is a part of our day at many different times. We pray for wisdom. We pray for the members of the search and interview team. We pray for the elders. We pray for the next preacher. We pray for the men who will be considered who will want to come but will not be selected.  We pray for this church and the body of Christ over the world.

8:00     Guidelines. I begin any group (counseling session, Bible class, Family Meeting, Stress Session in a monthly ministers’ workshop) with negotiating guidelines. Family (group) rules are usually unconscious, unspoken, but understood. That makes for difficult communication. I want the rules to be spoken, conscious, and understood. These are the boundaries that improve the possibility that “Christians can get together and tell the truth.” “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed” (Amos 3:3, NKJV)? The answer to that question is, “No!” Many discussions end in chaos or miscommunication because we didn’t talk about how we were going to talk. You can receive a free copy of the guidelines I use by subscribing to my www.newshepherdsorientation.com blog post reminders: GUIDELINES FOR A GOOD DISCUSSION: how to lead a peaceful conversation about powerful things .

8:35     Mixer, introduction. The people line up according to birthdays: January – December. They get into pairs. Each person interviews the other, preparing to introduce the partner to the group. Tell something about yourself and include something that no one knows about you until today. Each person introduces his/her partner.

8:45     What do you bring to this process? It is interesting how different people contribute to the search process. Some are good at calling, recording, leading the meetings, writing letters or emails, asking interview questions, arranging for visits to the congregation, keeping spreadsheets of where each candidate is in the process, preparing sermons on CDs or MP3s for others to hear. We learn more about that in this section of the training session.

9:15     What will you get out of this? Each person needs to examine his motives. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The search process is long and sometimes difficult and frustrating. Unless there is adequate motivation, the members will get discouraged. That can result in some people quitting and/or rushing the process to “get it over with” and end with less than excellent results.

Break 

9:45     Centertown Church of Christ now—10 years from now. After the break, I bring people to tables with crayons and large drawing paper. I ask each person to draw a line vertically in the middle of the page. On the left side of the paper, each person draws his or her impression of this congregation now. On the right side of the page, each person draws his or her hopes and dreams for this church ten years from now. After everyone is finished, we come back into the circle and discuss the pictures. Everyone is learning what others see now and what they want to see in the future. These ideas will help form what they want to see in the next preacher.

10:30    Book “mustard seeds”. A few weeks before, I have given everyone a book on the selection process. During this session, each person shares some ideas gained that may be helpful in selecting the next preacher for this congregation. Some suggested books for preacher search . My recommended book is The Search Committee Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring Your Next Minister, by Don Viar.

11:15     Search Committee, Interview Committee, Elders. This is where we discuss the job description of each committee and the elders. It is necessary to have a clear understanding of what each group is and is not to do in the process.

12:00    Lunch.

12:45     Chain Letter. After lunch, I read a chain letter about preachers I received by email: Preacher Chain Letter .

1:00      Preacher of your dreams—preacher of your nightmares. It’s back to the drawing board for this exercise. As before, I ask each person to draw a line down the middle of the paper. On the left side, please draw a representation of the “Preacher of Your Dreams.” If you could get the perfect preacher, what would he look like? What is the kind of preacher would you want to come to this congregation? This will certainly include something about his stand for truth but also attitudes, mannerisms, and attitudes—both in and out of the pulpit. What should be his emphasis? In what areas would you tolerate weaknesses in order to have strengths in other areas?

     After everyone is finished with that, on the right side of the paper, please draw the “Preacher of Your Nightmares.” What would the opposite of the “Preacher of Your Dreams” look like?

     When all are finished, we get into the circle to discuss these works of art and visualizations of our expectations of the next preacher. I allow each one to tell about their picture and their preacher.

     My final question in this exercise is, “What if the preacher of your dreams is someone else’s nightmare? How will you work with others who have different expectations of the next preacher? That is the challenge of the selection committee—whether it is the elders during the whole process or whether a group makes recommendations to the elders for their consideration before making the decision. Will each person listen to the other and will each person express their thoughts and feelings freely to contribute to the final selection?

1:30      Barber’s Bullets for Preacher Search is a collection of my thoughts and observations as I have experienced and watched this process. I express my best judgment. As always, the wastebasket is available for anything not worth taking home. 

1:45      Evaluation. A good way for me to learn is to do the best I know how and ask others to help me improve. In evaluating the training session, I ask two questions?

  • What did you learn?
  • How can this training be better next time?

     We conclude at 2:00 with a prayer for God to bless the process and bless us to take advantage of this opportunity to grow in our faith in God, connection to each other, and improvement in our wisdom, skills, and attitude.

What suggestions do you have to prepare people for the new preacher search?

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The Search 1

who will participate?

It’s time to look for the next preacher. Who’ll have a part in the search and selection? How will the search be conducted?

Possibilities, Some Ways I’ve Observed

  1. Recommendation. Contact a favorite preacher, president or head of the Bible department of a Christian college, or the director of a preacher training school and ask for their best recommendation. Take their suggestion. Have him try out. If everything looks OK, offer him the work that night before he accepts an offer from another congregation.
  2. “Beauty contest.” Assemble a list of many good preachers. Invite them in to speak on successive Sundays. Give members a reply form. The one most members like, invite him to be your next preacher unless there were red flags during the interview.
  3. Elders serve as the selection group. They decide on a method of search. The elders go ahead with as many as they like, interview, check references, come to a conclusion with or without input from the congregation, and select the new preacher.
  4. Elders involve a group(s) to help in the selection process. I’ve seen this done three ways:
    1. Begin with a Selection Committee. This group receives resumes, asks for recommendations, makes phone interviews, and presents the Interview Committee with four names. The Interview Committee invites the four men and wives, to come to town for a Friday-Saturday visit for more detailed observation and interviews. An elder meets with this committee to keep the elders informed and up-to-date on the progress and prospect. This group recommends a preacher who comes to meet with the elders. If they find him qualified and a fit, he becomes the next preacher. Another possibility, which I recommend: the pick of the preachers visits with the understanding the congregation will have a voice in the invitation of the elders. I’ve known of churches who omitted this step and selected a preacher with a shady past. After he comes to the church and repeats past indiscretions, members say, “I could have told you so. But you hired him, and you gave us no opportunity to comment.”
    2. Have a Selection Committee who does the tasks of the two committees mentioned above. They narrow the field to four and makes recommendations to the elders. The elders invite the four men and wives for their interviews and interaction. They select one man to be considered for the work. That man comes to preach. They ask the congregation to give comments.
    3. Have a Selection Committee do all the work, invite the four men, decide on the best man, present him to the congregation, and receive a response from the group after his visit. The elders meet with him during his visit for try-out.

Whatever the method, there should be a clear understanding of the role of each person and group.  Develop written descriptions of the authority and expectations of each person in each group about what is and is not expected. Those expectations should be communicated to the congregation. Understand many will not listen, not understand, and forget. That’s the reason it needs to be written and repeated over and over during the search process.

Prayer to God for wisdom should precede, saturate, and follow the search for the new preacher.

What have you seen helpful in selecting a new preacher?

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10 Years in Interim Ministry

…we had a party!

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.

  1. Eddyville Church of Christ, Eddyville, Kentucky, May 2007-August 2008
  2. Hendersonville Church of Christ, Hendersonville, Tennessee, October 2008-December 2009
  3. Collegeside Church of Christ, Cookeville, Tennessee, March 2010-June 2011
  4. LaVergne Church of Christ, LaVergne, Tennessee, August 2011-June 2013
  5. Maury City Church of Christ, Maury City, Tennessee, September 2013-July 2015
  6. Northside Church of Christ, Jeffersonville, Indiana, September 2015-February 2017
  7. 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 never met an interim I didn’t like. Click To Tweet
  • 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.
Direction is more important than speed. Click To Tweet
  • 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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Timeline

are we growing, plateaued, or declining?

Before we decide where we want to go,  we need to know where we are.

How big is the congregation? “Oh, we run about 250 or 260. Of course, it was Family Day year before last since we hit that number.” “It seems like we’re gaining a few now. The parking lot looked like there were more cars than usual.”

Those statements may or may not correspond to reality.

The best way I know how to learn the facts is to average attendance and contribution for as many years as the church has kept records and plot the results on a graph. Growth or decline is clear. I know nickels and noses are not the whole story, but they’re part of the indication of the health of the church.

Early in the interim process, I ask for volunteers to collect and record this information. In one congregation, we went through boxes and boxes of old bulletins to assemble figures.

The easiest time of collecting stats was at Eddyville, Kentucky. Emma Walker had kept information for Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, gospel meetings, and Vacation Bible Schools since the church moved to “New Eddyville” in 1961.

We copied her hand-written books (I didn’t want to be responsible for loosing the originals), distributed them to people who transferred information to Excel spreadsheets, and drew charts on large paper.

In other congregations, we made spreadsheets, took them to Staples or Office Depot and printed large charts to display.Adding other information can help give a visual factual reminder of major changes in the congregation:

Adding other information can help give a visual factual reminder of major changes in the congregation:

  • Appointment and resignations or deaths of elders and deacons.
  • Names and dates of service of preachers, youth ministers, and other staff members.
  • Building programs or relocations of the church.
  • Other major events that have affected the congregation.
  • Plotting of national and world events can put additional perspective to the graphic history.

After we review and discuss graphs and events, we divide into small groups and encourage people to share their memories of pleasant and painful events in the congregation.

A copy of this timeline should be sent to each preacher the church is considering. Just as the search committee wants a résumé, recordings of sermons, and three references of each preacher they are considering, they should supply information to candidates to help them evaluate their fit in this church.

I’ve observed the night of the timeline discussion to be a time of celebration, shock, nostalgia, contemplation, and hope. It’s one way of helping a group come to terms with it’s history.

What have you done to help a congregation reflect on where they have been to move forward more effectively?

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Introduction to this Church and Our Community

would you want to work with this church and live in this community?

The first task of the search committee isn’t to hire this great preacher. The main goal of the great preacher isn’t to try to be selected by this outstanding congregation. The great question is, “Do we fit?”. One step in answering the question is for both to provide as much about themselves as would be helpful.

One way each church where I’ve served as an interim did this was to prepare a document giving an introduction to the church and the community.

The first congregation did this in a 3-ring binder. Succeeding churches did it digitally on their website or a CD.

[tweetthis]The first task of the search committee isn’t to hire this great preacher. [/tweetthis]

Some things included were:

Introduction to the Church

  • History.
  • Plans and vision of the future.
  • Leadership.
  • Ministries.
  • Statistics of attendance and contribution for several decades.
  • Results of self-study survey.
[tweetthis]The main goal of the great preacher isn’t to try to be selected by this outstanding congregation.[/tweetthis]

Introduction to the Community

  • History.
  • Recent census.
  • Schools for children and adults.
  • Local sports programs.
  • Medical facilities.
  • Transportation.
  • Recreation.
  • Other interesting things within driving distance of this community.

The best approach I observed in my ministry was from the Pleasant Ridge church in Arlington, Texas. I received a call one Monday morning. A gentleman said he would like to meet with me. He needed thirty minutes of my time. We agreed on 4:00 that afternoon.

At 4:00 p.m., two men arrived at my study in Dalton, Georgia. They identified themselves as elders of the Pleasant Ridge church. They had a package of information about the church and community. I informed them I wasn’t interested in moving to Texas. They told me, “We’re not asking you to move to Texas. Please consider this information and ask any questions you have. Think and pray about this and see if this is an opportunity you should consider. We’ll be in contact with you in a couple of weeks.” They had driven from Texas to Georgia to deliver the information. That began a three-month discussion. It was a memorable time of learning how to consider and be considered by a church.

They had a very detailed approach to let us patiently consider each other and whether we should work together.

Several years ago, a church selected a new preacher. He moved and had a great beginning. He helped the church by his preaching. He was serving in a great way. Everything seemed to be perfect.

But in a short time he was moving. Why? There wasn’t a Walmart nearby and his wife wasn’t happy without Walmart.

Those are things you can learn before you select a preacher and save confusion and moving expenses — coming and going.

[tweetthis]The great question for the church and the prospective preacher is, “Do we fit?”.[/tweetthis]

The information-gathering of the search is important. In addition to the facts we share with each other, we’re telling each other the amount about us we’re willing to disclose, the excellence and details of the work we do, and how much of what Jesus said we believe:

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32, NKJV).

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).

What are some things you would like to know about a church and community you would consider?

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Interim Ministry Workshop

September 21–23, 2017

What do you plan to do for the rest of your life? How will you use the wisdom you have gained by study and experience as a preacher? For ten years, Gail and I have enjoyed interim ministry in seven congregations. We have continued to learn and grow. We have been encouraged by brethren in all these places. Some of you have the ability to offer a great service. I would like to share what I am learning with you. We will meet in the beautiful new facilities of the Charlotte Heights Church of Christ, 6833 Old Charlotte Pike, Nashville, Tennessee 37209.

Three things to do to take advantage of this opportunity:

    1. Mark your calendar for September 21-23
    2. To answer any questions, contact Jerrie Barber:jerrie@barberclippings.com(615) 584-0512
    3. Reserve your place in this workshop: I want to participate in this workshop

Reserve my place in this workshop

Eddyville, Kentucky

The cost is $317.49 per person.

Hendersonville, Tennessee

There is a minimum and a maximum number of participants:
The minimum for the course to be conducted is — 1. If no one shows up, I won’t talk.
The maximum is 20 people, total. We will be doing group sessions. Twenty will be the limit.

Cookeville, Tennessee

The concepts we’ll discuss will be good training for any preacher and his wife. Gail and I had an introduction course in 1996. We went through Interim Ministry Network training in 1998-1999, seven years before I started interim ministry. I took a refresher course in March 2007, before starting interim ministry in May of that year. The training and what I learned helped during those last years of full-time ministry.

LaVergne, Tennessee

Preachers’ wives are encouraged but not required to attend this workshop. Gail and I went for training together.

Maury City, Tennessee

Schedule

Thursday, September 21, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Friday, September 22, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Saturday, September 23, 8:00 a.m.-noon

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Topics:

  • The story of our journey to interim ministry.
  • Family Systems, the framework of working with groups.
  • Is there any hope for this church?
  • The work of the interim preacher — to guide and coach a process.
  • Contracts, opportunity to clarify expectations — objections to written contracts.
  • Compensation for an interim.
  • Making contacts, getting the word out that you’re available for interim ministry.
  • Rules. (Differentiation)
  • Initial Family Meeting.
  • Projects.
  • Preaching during the interim.
  • The interim’s wife — discussion, Q & A with Gail.
  • The Search — training those who will be searching for the new preacher.
  • The Preacher.
  • When you don’t need an interim.
  • Conflict management.

Sikeston, Missouri

Three things to do to take advantage of this opportunity:

    1. Mark your calendar for September 21-23
    2. To answer any questions, contact Jerrie Barber: jerrie@barberclippings.com(615) 584-0512
    3. Reserve your place in this workshop: I want to participate in this workshop

Reserve my place in this workshop

Self-Study Survey

What kind of preacher do we want? Will that kind of preacher want us?

Most Christians have an idea of the characteristics of the preacher they’d like to have. If the last preacher was their good friend, they probably want another just like him. Those aren’t available. If they didn’t like the former preacher, someone who is exactly opposite him would be good. There’s none of those.

Most want a preacher who lives like Jesus, studies like Paul, loves like John (when he was older), and visits and ministers like the Good Samaritan. It’s good to know what you are seeking, or you won’t know when you find him.

Have you thought about what prospective preachers are looking for in a congregation? How do they know if they fit the opportunities and expectations of the church? Are you aware the church is “trying out” as well as the preacher?

One helpful tool is a Self-Study Survey. I helped congregations administer one of these in each church where I’ve served as an interim.

There are several parts:

  1. Demographics: age, how long with the congregation, travel time to and from services.
  2. Involvement: roles, attendance, increase or decrease in involvement and why.
  3. Evaluation of programs and services of the congregation.
  4. How the congregation is like or different in its makeup compared to the community.
  5. Possible tasks of the future preacher and which are most important.
  6. Evaluation of the worship of the congregation.
  7. Thoughts on what makes a good sermon.
  8. Convictions on certain issues.
  9. Three open-ended questions:
    1. What would you tell the next preacher at this church?
    2. What advice would you give the elders of this church as they proceed?
    3. Please make any other comments that would be helpful for the health of this congregation during this time of transition or in the future.

The survey is anonymous. We don’t ask for names or save IP numbers of computers used.

Most congregations where I served used SurveyMonkey, an online survey tool. Paper copies are available for those who prefer and those who want to think before starting on the computer.

Filling out the survey takes forty-five minutes to an hour. We wanted, and have obtained, a number of at least half the Sunday morning attendance to complete the self-study.

My observations after administering and reading every word of surveys in six congregations:

  • Not everyone thinks alike. Some people who have different understandings are sitting on the pew with me — or very close.
  • Christians are at different stages in their growth, understanding, and service.
  • People have different expectations of a preacher.
  • The results of the survey can help men who are considering and being considered as the next preacher.
  • Open-ended questions are powerful. People have an opportunity to say what they’ve wanted to say. I’ve seen a change in the way those were shared. In the first two congregations, answers to the open-ended questions were not shared with the congregation. In the third, a committee summarized and paraphrased the answers to share with the church and prospective preachers. In the last three, answers were shared with the church and prospective preachers. I prefer the latter. The work of the search committee or elders is not to make the church look perfect, but to let a preacher know the challenges and opportunities before he gets there. This is one way to do this. If this isn’t the group he would like to serve, now’s the time to learn that. The best time to get a divorce is before you get married.
  • From my perspective, the most helpful thing about the survey is the thinking going on in the person completing the survey. Many have never thought of how complex leading and preaching to a group of people can be. Not everyone will get everything they want.

One of the most spiritual things a person can do is to think. One of the differences in fill-in preaching between preachers and interim ministry is the interim minister leads in several planned activities to encourage members to think about themselves and their relationship to the Lord, the effectiveness of the congregation and how it is serving Jesus, their community, and the world, and the transition going on in this church and their lives.

What would you do to help people make the transition after a long ministry?

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Opening Family Meeting

introduction to transition and interim ministry for the church where I'm ministering

At the beginning of each interim, usually on the first Sunday night following evening services, I hold a Family Meeting to get the process started. In two larger congregations, 600 and 1,400 in Sunday morning attendance, I went to Bible classes for this discussion. This provided an opportunity for more people to participate in the discussion.

I begin with the Discussion Rules. I start each new group with negotiating the Discussion Rules: Sunday morning Bible Class, Wednesday night Bible class, Staff Meetings, Transition Monitoring Team. When I had gone over the Discussion Rules the second time in one congregation, a perplexed brother asked, “How many times am I going to have to listen to those rules?”.

My reply, “Every time we start a new group. And you haven’t heard anything yet. You’re on the Transition Monitoring Team. We’ll take an hour to negotiate the rules at the first meeting.” Read more about Discussion Rules .

During this first Family Meeting, an information session for the entire congregation, we are setting structure and expectations of the next year to year and a half of our work together.

  • In the first part of the meeting: 
  • Recruit people for specific transition tasks (I will discuss these in following posts):
    • Transition Monitoring Team: a group to tap into the grapevine of the church and communicate to the elders what people are thinking, feeling, asking, saying, fearing, and hoping.
    • Welcome to our congregation and community: a document or part of the website to introduce the prospective preachers to the congregation and the community.
    • Timeline of this congregation: a compilation of the history, attendance, and contribution of the congregation from the earliest records until the present.
    • Conducting a self-study: an extensive questionnaire to let members tell who they are, evaluate the strengths and needs of the congregation, and describe the type of preacher needed at this church now. This will be set up as an on-line survey with printed copies for those who prefer that to using an electronic tablet or computer.
  • Planned sermon series:
    • Carving Ears, Cutting Out, Calling Angels, or Crucifixion, requirements for a follower of Jesus. Luke 9:23
    • How to Survive the Storm and Enjoy the Sunshine, dealing with conflict in the church. Acts 6:1-7
    • I Want the Church to Grow, But I Don’t Want Any More People, overcoming my discomforts to reach out to people unlike me and people I don’t like.
    • What Do You Do When God Is Late?, setting my clock with God’s clock.
  • Workshop once a month on Sunday night, a longer lesson on a practical topic.
  • Leadership Training Classes. 
    • God’s Great Servants, conducted on Wednesday night for elders, deacons, other men and young men who desire to be leaders in the church, their family, business, and other areas. These classes are for the administrative part of leadership.
    • Learning to Love My Friend(s), classes in the homes of the participants. We learn to have a greater appreciation of Jesus as my Friend, become a better friend to others using Jesus as the example of a perfect friend, and encouraging telling others about our best Friend by word and example. The study is about the pastoral part of leadership.
  • Read my contract, including my salary and housing allowance — if the elders permit. Early in my ministry, I didn’t want people to know my financial arrangements. I’ve learned that full disclosure of all agreements helps people understand and eliminates many questions. They already have the answers. Interim contract…read more.
  • Questions and comments.

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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.

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?
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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?”

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.

[tweetthis]Helicopter parents rarely produce responsible adults.[/tweetthis]

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.

[tweetthis]It doesn’t seem wise to marry a week after burying one’s spouse.[/tweetthis]

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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