Leaving an Interim Church

finishing and saying good-bye

Someone, in one of our interim congregations, asked Gail, “Doesn’t it hurt when you have to leave a church after getting to know people and making new friends?”.

Gail’s reply was, “Yes, it hurts.”

“Then why do you do it?”

“Would it be better to get to know you, have friends for life, and hurt leaving, or never to have known you?”

The metaphor that makes sense to me is serving as foster parents. When a family takes a foster child, they know they’ll give up the child when their home is ready to reenter or when they’re adopted. The family will miss the child. But they’re doing a valuable service caring for this child during transition.

Some preachers and other humans don’t like to say goodbye. It’s uncomfortable. It hurts.

Life is hard. That’s part of the challenge of transition. People don’t want to hurt. They want to get comfortable quickly. Therefore, they want to:

  1. Get it back like it was.
  2. Hurry and get through this so we can get back to the Lord’s work, not realizing walking through the valley of the shadow of death is part of the Lord’s work.

I make a conscious effort to finish, get ready for the next preacher (which I’ve been doing since I started this interim), and say goodbye. That’s one of the advantages of the interim relationship. What I do in no way is trying to keep my job; I’ve already quit. I’m not trying to get a raise; I don’t stay long enough to get a raise. I have a limited time. I have a few opportunities to make a difference, as every person in every situation — limited time and few opportunities.

I enjoy connecting with all age groups. I begin playing with children the first day I arrive. We exchange high-fives. I tell them they are POWERFUL! I don’t want to not show up one Sunday with my absence being the first indication to the children I’m leaving.

About a month before we finish, when we know our departure date, I ask parents to start talking with their children about us leaving. As the time approaches, I talk to them, to their ability to understand, about us not seeing them each week. I invite them to come to see us at our new location or in Nashville when we’re there. Gail and I were thrilled a few weeks ago when a family from Northside in Jeffersonville, Indiana, showed up at our front door to visit. People become important to us, and it’s good to keep in touch.

Once we have a departure day, either when the new preacher comes or the end of our commitment, I begin saying goodbye. My model is something I read years ago:

The Five Acts of Dying

  1. Forgive me. If I’ve been hurtful or negligent in any way, I want to correct it before I leave.
  2. I forgive you. If any relationships need repairing, I want to finish before I leave.
  3. Thank you. Gratitude is good for the giver and the recipient. It’s easy to find occasions of graciousness to recognize and express appreciation.
  4. I love you. We’re not leaving because we don’t love you or like you. We’re leaving because this is what we do. We’re rendering a service. We’ve enjoyed and have been blessed by our time with you. We go to another church to bless and be blessed by them.
  5. Goodbye. I don’t use euphemisms such as, “It’s not goodbye, but so long. It’ll still be the same as when we were here. We’ll be back often.” That isn’t accurate. It won’t be the same. We won’t be back often. We’re working our seventh interim church. We don’t have time to visit previous places often. It’s goodbye.

I promise to stay away for a year. Even when we’ve been close to Nashville or our new interim, we don’t drop in on our immediate past interims. The new preacher and his family need to get acquainted with the church without our interruption.

I schedule a visit a year from our departure. We come back to visit and to do an evaluation. I am interested in how the transition is going for the church and the new preacher.

I like to ask and take notes on answers to two questions about our interim ministry:

  1. What went well?
  2. What improvements would you suggest? I love criticism. Suggestions from previous churches can improve our ministry at future churches.

Gail and I consciously say goodbye to people in the community. I start talking with my barber about our departure date. In smaller communities where we get to know people well, Gail has cooked “goodies” to deliver to people we’ve known and who have served us well: barber, post office, Y.M.C.A., and individuals in the grocery store in a small town.

Brethren have been gracious. They usually have a going away party for us. I’ve talked to preachers who rejected such offers because they said it made them feel uncomfortable. I suggest, if that’s true with you, be uncomfortable. It’s not just about you. Others need a “funeral” to say goodbye.

Solomon stated a good principle when he wrote:

Better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of all men;
And the living will take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For by a sad countenance the heart is made better (Ecclesiastes 7:2, 3, NKJV).

End well to release the church to love their next preacher and his family and to start clean with the next church in your ministry.

What have you found helpful in good endings?

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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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Transition Monitoring Team

what are people thinking, saying, asking, losing, fearing, and hoping?

In my first interim, the elders asked for help with communication. They said, “Members won’t tell us what they’re thinking.”

As soon as we arrived, Gail and I started visiting families in the congregation. We asked three questions:

  1. What do you like about this congregation?
  2. What would you like to see improved?
  3. What can we do while we’re here to help you?

Ninety percent of families we visited said, “We need help with communication. The elders won’t tell us what’s going on.”

I picked up the idea of a Transition Monitoring Team from William Bridges in his book, Managing Transitions. He makes a case for this type of group:

Leaders usually assume that all the feedback they need will come up through regular channels and be voiced at staff meeting in reply to the question, “How are things going?” Such is seldom the case…Ed Carlson, the former CEO of United Airlines, used to call it the NETMA problem — Nobody Ever Tells Me Anything” (pages 48, 49).

I set up the TMT as soon as I arrive at a new congregation with twenty people on the team. I want ten volunteers. I ask the elders to select ten people: five who like you and five who don’t.

It should be clear at the beginning — this is a transition monitoring team — not a transition management team. This group has no decision-making authority. Their work is to report what they’re hearing in the congregation.

The first meeting is to go over the purpose of the TMT and negotiate Rules of Discussion. We agree on how we’ll conduct ourselves in this role.

There is an emphasis on the rule of confidentiality — what we say here stays here. I’ve seen no better illustration of everyone understanding and participating in this guideline than the flood wall in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Around the town, the wall has several places where cars and people can pass through until the Ohio River starts rising. Then they fill gaps in the wall. Some are large enough for two cars to pass through. On the sides of large openings, are small openings the size of a door in our house. I ask, “How many gaps have to be left open for water to get into Jeffersonville flooding the town?” The answer is obvious. In reports of the TMT, sources of comments and reporters are confidential.

The group meets once a month. We do three things described in a letter I send out on Monday preceding the meeting:

Brothers and Sisters,

The next meeting of the Transition Monitoring Team will be Sunday, 5:00 p.m., January 8 in Room 101.

Our agenda:

1. What have you heard from people and how should you respond? As you hear comments, feel free to take notes and bring them to the meeting.
a.  What are they saying?
b.  What are they asking?
c.  What do they fear?
d.  What are they losing?
e.  What are their hopes?

2. What “mustard seed” did you get from reading Transitions, chapter 5?

3. How are you dealing with this transition and other transitions in your life?

We will be finished in 60 minutes or less.

As can be seen, meetings have three parts:

  1. Reporting. What have you heard since the last meeting? Members express what they’ve heard people say about the church and the transition. No names are attached to the source or the reporter. Members of the TMT can talk to themselves and report things they think the elders should hear. These results are recorded by a member of the team, typed, and given to the elders after each meeting.
  2. Sharing “mustard seeds” of what they’re learning. Each member of the team is given a copy of Transitions, by William Bridges. He explains the process of transition. There are predictable steps: an ending, a new beginning, and in the middle a neutral zone where people are confused, blaming, depressed, and wishing we could “get things back like they used to be.” When we understand this is expected, we can be less anxious than if we see all these human responses as sinful, dangerous, and indications that things are falling apart. I believe health is catching as well as disease. This group will come to understand the process. When someone is in despair saying there’s no hope, they understand and can communicate these feelings are normal. We’ll get through the wilderness of the neutral zone and enter the promised land of the new beginning if we don’t lose hope.
  3. Personal application. As trust grows in the group, three or four months, people begin to share how much of their church anxiety is tied to anxiety related to personal, family, and business issues. Many tell how principles they learned in the group have been helpful to them in their personal life.

I warn the elders they may be shocked at the first report or two from the TMT. In churches I’ve served, most of the shepherds weren’t aware of thoughts and feelings of many in their flock.

In one church, one of the elders was a professional counselor in private practice. Monday morning after I’d given the elders the first report from the TMT, this shepherd-counselor called+, “Jerrie, after reading the report of the Transition Monitoring Team, I’m depressed.”

My response, “You need a good counselor.”

There’s hope. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, NKJV). In the context, Jesus was talking about revealed truth from God. But the principle applies to any part of truth. When you know what people are thinking, feeling, saying, and doing, you can prepare to make an appropriate response.

What questions do you have about a Transition Monitoring Team?

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Staff Meetings

coordinating and growing individually and as a group

Unity isn’t an accident looking for a place to happen. I often hear youth ministers, preachers, administrative assistants, and other members of the team talking about either bad or practically non-existent relationships among those who work out of the church building. I ask about their staff meetings, celebrations, and time they spend together. The answer often is, “We don’t spend time together.”

I’m not surprised that camaraderie isn’t great without aiming for it and working for it. I’ve enjoyed in four of six interim congregations having other people who are part of the team. We’ve had weekly staff meetings.

These weren’t always welcomed. As we began at one congregation, I asked, “What kind of staff meeting would you like to have?”

The reply from more than one person was, “None.” They told me previous staff meetings were times when they were reprimanded and embarrassed. I can understand their aversion to that kind of meeting

In some congregations, we have one or more elders who come to staff meetings. In some, they rotate. In others, it’s the same elder each time.

I begin with rules. Family rules are usually unconscious, unspoken, but understood. I spend the first meeting discussing and negotiating rules for staff meetings. I like to discuss them, agree to follow the guidelines we’ve negotiated, then review them six months from the beginning and adjust to achieve better results.

Here are guidelines for the staff meetings at Northside, the church I’m serving now:

 

For Staff Guidelines in PDF, click here

For Staff Guidelines in Word document, click here

There are three parts to our staff meetings:

  1. Bible study and prayer. We read a book of the Bible, a chapter a week. We spend about 30 minutes reading and discussing the chapter. The way we select a book to read is to give everyone a piece of paper. Each person writes the book they would like to read in staff meetings. We draw one to start, finish it, then draw for the next book. Eventually, everyone gets to study the book he or she suggested.
  2. Coordination. We discuss what’s going on in the congregation: regular services and projects, special events, the bulletin, people’s schedules, and other things that need to be coordinated.
  3. Staff development. This consists of reading 3-5 pages from a book encouraging growth in a group of people who work with others. It often takes a year or longer to read a book. But at the end of the year, we have ideas and a vocabulary enabling us to work more effectively. Some of the books we’ve read in staff meetings:

Conrad — Alabama Star;
30+ years at Northside!

Our staff has times of celebrations. We celebrate birthdays. It’s the responsibility of the person having a birthday to remind us it’s time for a birthday party. We go to a restaurant of their choice. Different groups have their rules on paying for the meal. In some, each person pays for the honoree’s meal and brings a card for the birthday.In others, elders allot money from the budget to pay for everyone’s meal. In one church, we enjoyed birthday parties so much we celebrated half-birthdays. Six months after each person’s birthday, he or she alerted us the half-birthday was coming up. We went to a restaurant of their choice; each person paid for their meal, and the honoree brought a birthday card for himself and told why he deserved the card.

It’s also good to schedule a time to say good-bye. When a staff member is leaving, we have a meal together and say what we need to say to reflect on our time together.

When the preacher, youth minister, administrative assistants, and other people who work from the church office like each other, get along, and work well together, people learn that. They notice the relationship, appreciate it, and may imitate it in their interactions with those close to them.

The opposite is also true.

It’s my observation that time and money spent in developing better staff relationships are wise investments and produce valuable dividends.

How have you improved staff cooperation?

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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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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.

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.

screenshot_99

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:

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?
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.”

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?
Please comment below: