Baptist churches employ interim pastors to temporarily take over pastoral duties after the death, resignation or dismissal of a pastor. Baptists vary in their approach to selecting and tasking interim pastors, but most expect the interim pastor to continue regular worship service, visit the sick and shut-in members and provide leadership in the transition between the old and new pastors. Baptist churches often prohibit interim pastors from being candidates for the new pastoral position.
The traditional approach to interim pastoral ministry does not seek to move the church in any direction during the interim period; instead, it contracts an interim leader to continue with the basic church ministries such as worship services and preaching. The intentional interim ministry approach views the period as a time to address issues in the church's life to avoid losing members or dollars. This approach is favored if a church has lost a long-time pastor or is experiencing conflict or decline.
Interim pastors are responsible for carrying out the ministerial duties of the congregation, including preaching during worship services, visiting the sick, administering baptism and communion, conducting funerals and weddings and serving as a resource for church committees. Baptist church associations, including the American Baptist Churches USA, encourage congregations to enter a contract with the interim pastor, specifying the duties to be performed. The American Baptist Churches USA has a sample contract that includes the following interim pastoral responsibilities: perform administrative duties, work with other church staff, assist in congregational communication such as bulletins, newsletters and correspondence and provide pastoral counseling.
Aid the Transition
Baptist congregations that opt for an intentional interim approach, ask the interim pastor to assist in the transition and pastoral search committee process. Because the intentional interim pastor has special training in the process, he can give guidance to the church by helping it to overcome difficult or hurtful circumstances surrounding the resignation of a pastor. The interim pastor can assist the pastoral search committee in identifying what characteristics it desires in a new pastor. The interim pastor can counsel and train the search committee, but should not interfere in its decision-making process.
In many Baptist congregations, interim pastors are required to be disinterested persons and therefore should not be candidates for the new pastoral position. The Roanoke Valley Baptist Association in Virginia warns that interim pastors who circumvent the normal pastoral search process to establish themselves as the new pastor can bring confusion to the congregation. Moreover, such an interim pastor may not be acting in the best interests of the congregation. Nevertheless, the association also acknowledges that there have been times when the interim pastor has become the full-time pastor and all has ended well.
- Tennessee Baptist Convention: Transitional Interim Pastor Ministry
- Tennessee Baptist Convention: A Guide to the Pastoral Search Process
- American Baptist Churches USA: Sample Interim Pastor Agreement
- Roanoke Valley Baptist Association: About Interim Ministry
- Arkansas Baptist State Convention: Options for the Interim Time in a Church
- Texas Baptists, Baptists General Convention of Texas: What is Intentional Interim Ministry
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