Why Have an Intentional Interim? Why Not “Get on with the Lord’s Work”?


The preacher has been at the congregation for several years and is leaving. It may be he is:

  • Moving to a new location.
  • Retiring.
  • Dismissed.
  • Disabled.

But he is no longer your preacher.

How will you select your next preacher?

  1. A quick way to bring pain to your congregation and the next preacher may be the way you’ve always done it. Advertise in brotherhood newspapers. Contact Christian colleges and preacher training schools for recommendations. Schedule 6-12 preachers to “try out” immediately. Listen to input from the congregation. The elders select the best one.
  2. Taking time to pray, think about who you are, what qualities in a preacher you need in your church now, checking references, and finding a preacher who fits.

Sources of Possible Distress During the Interim Time

  • Confusion and anxiety often invade a church during a change of preachers. Or they may not have to invite confusion and anxiety. In come congregations, conflict was already present and may have contributed to the change of preachers.
  • From the outside, when the church starts looking for their next preacher, they often meet anxious preachers who need to move and want to start “trying out” and interviewing quickly. Or, they may not have thought about moving until you contacted them. Now they and their families are upset about whether they should consider relocating.
  • Members wonder, When are we going to find a new preacher and “get on with the Lord’s work?”. After a week or two following the announcement the preacher is leaving, they begin asking, “When do we start hearing new preachers?”.

Is there a way for elders to find wisdom during this difficult and opportune time — a time to bless the church during the transition and the new preacher who will fit and be blessed by becoming a part of this church with a vision for the future in the will of God?

I understand a time of transition can be difficult and confusing to the elders, preachers, and the congregation. Two of my five full-time churches were unintentional interims. In my first congregation, I was too young to know better. The second, I was old enough to know better but did it anyway. It was the most painful years of my ministry. But the painful experience gave me the determination to try to keep others from the same fate.

After serving five churches full-time and working with eight others as an interim, I’ve learned a few “mustard seeds” that can assist elders to lead their congregation during this time. I bring suggestions for a productive transition. I also bring a wastebasket to use when elders had rather do it some other way.

My Interim Principles

  • I have no desire to be your next full-time preacher. I am an intentional interim. I will with you while you are selecting your next preacher.
  • We will negotiate an agreement that will be mutually beneficial.
  • The usual working agreement is six to eighteen months.
  • The cost is adjusted to the size of the congregation.
  • The interim time is an opportunity for learning and growing spiritually while you are in transition.

Advantages of a Good Interim Process

  • Avoid going through the selection of another preacher in two to four years.
  • Selecting a new preacher without thinking about fit is like a family with five children buying a two-door car rather than a van.
  • When we get so uncomfortable with a lack of sameness, we may choose without thinking. We often make unwise decisions that hurt for a long time.

I’ve worked with churches where they felt anxious and compelled to quickly find another preacher while they were in grief about the departure of their last preacher so they could get everything back to normal.

After trying the quick approach, I’ve seen leaders who grew and learned how to feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable when they were following a plan that made better leaders and led the congregation to make better transitions in their lives for the rest of their lives.

Here are some who say it was helpful, Click to read: Letters of recommendation

This is my summary of the interim process:

When a preacher stays a long time, usually the church doesn’t like the next preacher. I volunteer to be the next preacher they don’t like. During the six to eighteen months Gail and I work with them, they have time to grieve their losses and wisely select their next preacher.

For a longer version: this book describes how we do it: Buy on Amazon

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

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