How Does an Interim Help a Church Find a Good Preacher?

Brethren ask, “If you work with us as an interim minister, will you help us find a good preacher?”.

My answer,

I will help you with the process — but not with the person.

When I arrive at a church, I’m focused on helping them find a preacher that fits, is faithful in proclaiming the gospel, lives the message he preaches, follows the example of Jesus, and will bless and be blessed by the church.

Ways I Help

  • Preaching, teaching, talking. My first series of sermons encourages the church to not think about the next preacher but to think about themselves. Are we the kind of church that will attract the kind we preacher we need? Am I the kind of Christian a great preacher would want to work with?
  • Encourage everyone to take part in the congregational survey. A large part of the survey is helping the church think about what they want and need in a preacher. Every preacher cannot do everything. What are the most important qualities for the next preacher at this church? What do you want him to do? What do you want him not to do? How do you think he should invest his time? How should he lead his family?
  • Conducting a training workshop for the elders and others directly involved in the search. My aim is to share every good and bad thing I’ve seen or heard in the selection process. The group has outside reading before the training session. We spend the day forming a healthy group to work together in this important task.

Ways I Don’t Help

  • I don’t preach sermons on selecting a preacher. But few weeks go by without me saying something to consider when selecting a preacher. I share how preachers think, what they need, how to treat them, how to encourage them, how to criticize them (and how not to criticize them), ways to nourish his family, and other things people don’t know unless someone tells them. It’s difficult for a local preacher to talk about these things. It seems he’s asking to be treated special, wants a raise, or being selfish. I have no problem discussing these principles. I’m not trying to stay, get a raise, or be treated special. I don’t stay long enough for a raise. I’ve already signed a contract that I will not consider or be considered as the next preacher.
  • I don’t discuss individual candidates. Often I don’t know who’s considering and being considered until the new preacher is announced. If the church selects an excellent preacher, with God’s help, they did it. If the church shortens the process, gets anxious, selects the first one they can secure, and fails to check references, they’ll live with the decision. I didn’t do it. My commitment: “I’ll not serve as a reference for or a critic against any preacher in a church where I’m serving as an interim.”
  • I’m not present for interviews or “tryouts.” If I were present, someone might interpret a smile or frown as my approval or disapproval of the preacher. If someone asks me what I thought about his sermon, my answer: “I didn’t hear it.”

I enjoy helping people think about the process of getting a new preacher, trusting God to give wisdom, and rejoicing in the blessings coming from that.

What suggestions or questions do you have about helping churches and preachers make good decisions during times of transition?

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

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