By Tracey Breashears Schultz, Bishop’s Associate for Leadership
Periodically, I am asked about interim ministry as a specialized call. Interim pastors and deacons step into leadership when a vacancy occurs. When a minister retires, resigns, or leaves to take another call, interims provide stability and journey with congregations through the transition and call process. Interims often come at a time when emotions are high. Congregations may be grieving their previous pastor or deacon. They may be anxious about what they cannot control or anticipate. Interims willingly walk into high anxiety or conflict-ridden systems and meet the challenges they face with grace and fortitude.
The tools and resources they share with congregations under their care are those from which many of us could benefit. This is why I recommend interim ministry training, not just for those who intend to be interims, but for any pastor or deacon who wants to brush up on their knowledge of and skills in family systems, leadership, navigating change, mediation, and active listening. The training is offered in two phases: (1) the work of the leader and (2) the work of the congregation. In other words, the learning is about what the interim can and should do and what is not theirs to do because it belongs to the congregation.
Additionally, there is some really nice and helpful teaching about the neutral zone, or the time when congregations are aware they are suspended between what was and what will be (William Bridges, Managing Transitions). This zone can be difficult, and it’s easy to get stuck there, but it is also full of possibility. Interims work to move people to be creative and willing to consider new ideas.
There are two key organizations offering interim training. Lutheran Transitional Ministry Association (LuTMA) is pan-Lutheran. The Interim Ministry Network (IMN), is ecumenical and interfaith. I encourage you to consider their trainings as you give thought to continuing education this year, and especially if you think you are or may be called to interim ministry.
I give particular thanks to those in our synod who are serving as interim ministers. It is a unique and much-needed gift.
If this ministry interests you, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to the conversation.