Between Preachers

Have you noticed? Often when a preacher has stayed a long time (5 years or more) and leaves, the next preacher usually stays a short time. And often he is tormented while he is there being unfavorably compared to the previous preacher.

One helpful approach in many congregations is the services of an intentional interim preacher. An intentional interim is one who prepared by study and/or experience in dynamics of transition and Biblical principles of leaving Egypt (previous state), wandering through the wilderness with complaining, wishing to make it like it used to be, and eventually entering the promised land where God’s people can enjoy another season of growth in carrying out the Great Commission. He understands he is temporary. He signs a contract. He will not consider or be considered as the next preacher of this congregation. He does what he has promised.

I have enjoyed preaching 54 years, 6 months, 14 days as of January 12, 2016. I have experienced frustration, helplessness, and seasons of depression while serving two unintentional interims. My wife and I studied interim ministry with the Interim Ministry Network 1998-1999. I went for a refresher course in March 2007, immediately before starting interim ministry. Gail and I have been working with churches BETWEEN PREACHERS since May 2007. We are working with the sixth congregation now.

An interim preacher provides the congregation with consistent, pointed, and challenging sermons and Bible classes while the congregation is preparing and pursuing the next located long term preacher. People can see a plan.

The interim will lead individuals, small groups, and the whole church in learning experiences to grieve the loss of the previous preacher, along with working on any present conflict, anticipating the next season of growth.

I will be making posts describing procedures and results of understanding that wilderness time is not wasted. God didn’t make a mistake by not sending the children of Israel into Canaan twelve days after they left Egypt.

If you read future posts, my aim is to give you “mustard seeds” for surviving and thriving through transitions. I plan to post on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month. If you find this helpful, please share this blog with your friends.

This is the first post of what I hope to be many on topics of transition and interim ministry. Please leave your name and email address in the box in the upper right-hand corner of this website.

What questions do you have about interim ministry? What would you like to see discussed in this blog?

If some or all these topics interest you, you’ll be rewarded for your time invested:


Overview of interim ministry
Our journey to interim ministry
What is the difference in change and transition?

My Approach to the Congregation in Transition

God, Church, and Wisdom
It’s not the job of the interim preacher to make a good transition
How much do you pay an interim?

Beginning the Season of the Interim

What are your rules?
Try not to learn very much
Use the wastebasket
Name memory rule
Communication rules
Criticism rules
Originality rule
Holding a family meeting

Projects that Help the Transition Process

Transition monitoring team
Timeline of this congregation
Introduction to the church and community
Self-study gives insight to desired qualities of the next preacher

Preaching and Teaching During the Interim

Let’s look at the church (ourselves) before we start looking for a preacher
Why do we have problems in the church and how can we solve them?
What do you do when God is late?
I want the church to grow…but do I want any more people?

The Search

Do you realize the church is “trying out”?
Who will take part?
Committee training
Checking references
When and how will the new preacher leave?

The Preacher Who is Considering and Being Considered

How were you approached?
Are they looking for you or just anybody?
Are you interested in this congregation or just anywhere?
How much are you learning about the church and the community?
Have you checked the church’s references?

I’ll be sharing in these posts the way I’ve done interim ministry from May 2007 until the present. This isn’t necessarily the best way. I’m still learning. Please question, comment, criticize, and suggest better ways to serve. When I write everything I know about interim ministry, I plan to conclude.

Thank you for your encouragement.

What questions do you have about interim ministry? What would you like to see discussed in this blog?

(Visited 93 times, 36 visits today)
Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

14 Responses to “Between Preachers

  • George Puckett
    8 years ago

    Dear Jerrie, Thank you for doing this type of effort. I have been through a lot of “preacher changes”, and few have gone smoothly. More planning and thought for this rather frequent event is a very necessary and beneficial thing. Keep up the good work. Thanks especially for the nice way you put “hard truths”.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      8 years ago

      George, I have appreciated your encouragement through the years. I hope to share something that will make it easier on all of us.

  • Keith
    8 years ago

    Thank you, Jerrie! I am looking forward to learning from you. I have an interest in doing interim ministry as I move into retirement years. I’d particularly like to do that in south Georgia where churches of Christ tend to be sparse. In addition to the topics you’ve listed, I would be interested in the nuts and bolts of how you get started – how you get the word out and find churches willing to go the interim route. I suspect for many congregations, that would be a new concept.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      8 years ago

      Thank you, Keith. I just added another topic. I hadn’t thought of that. I will be glad to tell you what I have done.

  • Thanks for the information Jerry. I’m sure that most churches have had a need or will need an interim minister at one time or another. Keep up the good work!

    • Rick, the rule is that after a long ministry (5 years or more), they will have an interim minister — either intentional or unintentional ministry. I’ve tried it both ways. Intentional interim is much more pleasant.

  • Charles Thompson
    8 years ago

    I have been interested in this type of ministry for several years. I retired a year ago and am enjoying preaching by appointment but am interested in your work. I would be interested in attending one of your siminars.

    • Charles, Thank you for your response. I have been considering leading a seminar in interim ministry. I taught several classes to a group of preachers while I was at LaVergne, 2011-2013. I am considering doing this after this work is finished in a few months. I would be interested in hearing of others who might like to participate.

  • John Wheeler
    8 years ago

    Having been that “sacrificial lamb” twice, I understand the problem. I followed one minister who had been with a church over 10 years and messed up and had to resign. I followed another minister who had been with a church over 15 years, he was a legend and retired. I was with both of those churches for only 2 years and they were very rough. Churches need to grieve their losses just like people do. And when they get to the Anger stage of grief – guess who is the target? At the first church, where the minister ‘messed’ up, I was told toward the end, “Everything was fine until you got here.” I was stunned – but that’s the nature of people when they have become close to their preacher – even when he messes up big time.

    Although, graciously, that 1st church did invite me back to speak at their 100th anniversary. One of the elders stood up and publicly apologized to my wife and me about not treating us well. That was one of the highlights of my 34 years in ministry. I have always tried not to burn bridges even when things were rough. That time it turned out well in the end.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      8 years ago

      John, Thank you for this personal example. This happens — over, and over, and over again. It takes time to grieve any loss. I commend you for leaving in a way that you could be invited back and confession and forgiveness could occur. This speaks well for you and that elder. That’s New Testament Christianity!

  • Rusty Hilliard
    8 years ago

    Brother Barber I really appreciate your efforts to put all of this into words. I followed a preacher who was only here for around a year. The man he replaced had been here for around 16 years, and was loved beyond belief. The brethren still mention how hard it was when the first preacher left, and the second man came. When I took the job here, there were scars which remained, and it has taken several years to move past some of that hurt. Thanks for your work.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      8 years ago

      Rusty, It happens. There are a few exceptions. I think there is a way that we would not need an interim, but most would not be willing to do what it takes to prepare: elders and preachers. I may write about it later — after I write everything I know about interim work.

  • AMEN!!! Jerrie…I, too, have been an Interim preacher and I found that it has been far better than marching a plurality of “fill-in preachers” and possible new hires across the pulpit…. The congregation hurts for a steady diet of spiritual food and gets seriously confused as to what’s going on with all the different men and subjects coming from the pulpit….In all my efforts in this vein, I’ve seen a much smoother transition from the interim to the new man….

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      8 years ago

      Tommy, Thank you for sharing your good experiences as an interim. I think it is a blessing to the congregation and the preacher. I often say, “I never met an interim (congregation) I didn’t like.”