(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column of those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.)
Since I have been retired, I have had the privilege of serving eight different churches in the position of Interim Pastor. For those who do not understand what that term refers to, let me shed a little light on the subject.
An Interim Pastor is a preacher who fills the pastoral office when a church finds that they are without an active pastor. Maybe he retired. Maybe he left for another field of service, but whatever the reason, the church is in need of someone to fill the pulpit each week and also help the church with some pastoral duties. The Interim Pastor also will assist in finding another pastor for the church if the people desire for him to do so. The Interim Pastor can also be a healing balm for a church and he will provide a period of time for the members to get over losing their beloved pastor and begin to anxiously anticipate the man who will soon fill the Pastoral office. But in the meantime, an Interim Pastor will certainly develop relationships with the people to help them until a new Pastor arrives on the field.
After retiring several years ago, I was immediately contacted by a church family and I began my journey into the Interim Pastor field. When I left the full-time pastorate, I wondered if anyone would ever want to hear me preach again but thankfully, the Lord has kept me busy helping churches during their interim time. The delightful thing about such a ministry is that one gets to meet a variety of people from church to church and he can engender friendships which will last forever. When the church finds a new man to fill their pastoral position, the interim Pastor will step aside and wait for the Lord to show him another place of service. In the Lord’s timing, an official of a church which has lost its pastor, will call about enlisting the help of the Interim Pastor to assist them while they search for a new Shepherd of the flock.
Many times, a church will find that they will be renewed and revived under the leadership of a good Interim Pastor. He is a new personality with different skills. He is also a different voice in the pulpit which will give the church a fresh perspective. A renewed sense of energy and expectation will have a chance to take root and grow so that when a new Pastor comes on the field, he will find a place eager to follow his leadership and have a new burst of commitment and growth. The Interim Pastor fills a very important spot in the life of a church. I thank the Lord for men who fill the Interim Pastor position for a period of time.
Some churches fall in love with their Interim Pastor to the point that they will ask him to become their full-time Pastor. While this works from time to time, it is generally not something that is successful. I always make sure that a church understands that I am not seeking a pastorate and that I am not available for their open position. I am always flattered that a church would invite me to fill their Pastoral position (and it has happened on more than one occasion) but I politely decline.
So, Interim Pastors are an important part of church life. They are really essential to the health of the church as they fill the important position of Pastor while the church is without one. When the new pastor comes to the church, he should find that it is functioning properly and has been properly fed the Word during the interim time. Pray for men who function in the capacity of Interim Pastor from time to time. It is a difficult task but one that contributes to the health of a church during a crucial time of transition. I thank the Lord for those Churches who have let me serve them as Interim Pastor and look forward to helping any others that might call on me.
Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 48 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 30 of those years. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com