Would I Like to Work as an Interim Preacher?

Several years ago a friend called and asked, “Do you think I’d enjoy being an interim preacher?”.

My answer: “If you enjoy preaching in a church where ⅓ of the people don’t want you when you come and 100% are praying several times a week you’ll leave quickly, you’ll enjoy interim ministry.” (“Father, bless our search committee and elders to find us a good preacher soon.”)

In interim ministry, there’s an unusual relationship.

You’re the preacher. You just arrived. You’re leaving. You’ve already resigned. Your time is limited. It’s in your contract:

It is understood that under no circumstances will Jerrie W. Barber consider or be considered as the next full-time preacher for this congregation.

If it’s not clear in the mind of the interim preacher and the congregation, there’ll be confusion, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings.

I need to know who I am, why I’m here, communicate my role, include it in the contract before my first Sunday, and do what I said I’d do.

It’s good to understand normal feelings during the interim. The regular working of the congregation has been interrupted, even if there’s no additional conflict.

Many have lost frequent interaction with a good friend. Grief is normal after a loss.

A common response to a time of transition is to “get it back like it used to be.” To some, that’s having a designated preacher who’s committed to the distant future.

I often have people say, “It’s time for us to find a new preacher and “get back to the Lord’s work.” Remember Israel leaving Canaan. After they doubted the Lord’s ability to deliver them from the inhabitants of the promised land, wandering in the wilderness forty years was the Lord’s idea and “the Lord’s work.”

I can have a preacher here by a week from Sunday. I know enough desperate preachers who’ll go anywhere quickly. I make no guarantee for the fit. It might be better to pray often, fast if helpful, follow a good process, and get a good preacher.

I enjoy working in this capacity. I’m not “the main guy” and won’t stay long enough to become “the main guy.” If I can help a fellow preacher escape the pain of being an unintentional interim minister, I’ll feel good about that. If I can help, train, and encourage the congregation to select a preacher who fits and who will serve well, my work has been fulfilled.

But not everyone is suited for this. It’s good to evaluate. One thing is encouraging. If you try serving as an interim for eighteen months and find you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again.

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

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