In many churches in the United States, the church is primarily run by a lead pastor. Yes, the church may have a governing board of some sort, but in general, the day-to-day operations and the teaching are handled by a lead pastor. Larger churches may have a team of pastors on staff, but even still, there is typically a lead pastor who makes many of the decisions and guides the congregation.
So, what happens when that lead pastor steps down, is let go, passes away unexpectedly, or becomes too ill to continue in the role? Some churches choose to bring in an interim pastor—one who will step into the role of lead pastor in a temporary capacity, until a new lead pastor can be found.
If you have determined that hiring an interim pastor is the best course of action for your church, you have several options.
Some churches are part of a denomination, and those denominations may have interim pastors that they can send to churches in need of one. With a denominational interim pastor, the pastor will have the advantage of already being familiar with your church’s beliefs, and may already have ties to your church. Denominational leadership may be able to help oversee the process of drawing up an agreement between the interim pastor and your church, and may even check in on occasion to see how things are going.
For churches that aren’t part of a denomination, or those that are in denominations that don’t have a team of interim pastors, the process of finding an interim pastor can be a bit more complicated.
One option is to look for people who hire themselves out as interim pastors. These are typically retired pastors looking to help out churches in need temporarily. These may be local pastors, or those who are willing to travel and serve at a church for an agreed-upon amount of time. These types of individuals can be hard to find, however. They don’t generally advertise their services and rely mainly on word of mouth to find interim pastoring positions. But if you can find someone who would be a good fit for your church, and has the availability to serve your church until you can find a new pastor, this can be a great way to go!
Another option would be to work with an organization that specializes in providing interim pastors for churches nationwide. These organizations typically work with all types of churches—large or small, urban or rural, traditional or contemporary. A good interim pastor organization will work hard to place an interim pastor in your church who is a good match with your church’s beliefs and culture. Some organizations, such as VitalChurch Ministry, have a team of interim pastors who are also trained to help churches address any issues they may have during the interim period. They can work with church leaders, staff, and the congregation on things like conflict management, organizational development, or even help them articulate their mission and vision as a church body.
Even though an interim pastor only serves temporarily, it’s important to find someone who is a good fit. This means someone who will be willing to teach within the bounds of your church’s doctrinal statement, will adapt to your church’s culture, and be able to meet your church’s specific needs.