If the stats are to be believed, more than a thousand pastors in the United States leave the ministry every month. Whether they resign, are asked to leave, or simply retire, anytime a pastor leaves the ministry, it leaves a void in a church. And when that pastor is the lead pastor, it can have some serious consequences in a church. The church is left without leadership, without a consistent voice from the pulpit, and without someone to help carry out the church’s mission. If a church is without a lead pastor for too long, congregation members can start to get discouraged and attendance can start to decline.
In times like these, some churches choose to work with an organization that provides interim pastor ministries, such as VitalChurch Ministry. VitalChurch Ministry is a nonprofit organization that offers a variety of services. At the core of what they do is send interim pastors to churches that are in between lead pastors. Their interim pastors typically serve at a church for 18-24 months. During that time, they help lead the church, and also help prepare them for their next lead pastors.
Prior to sending one of their interim pastors to a church, VitalChurch Ministry requires that the church participate in a diagnostic analysis. The purpose of this church assessment is to find out what the church is currently doing well and what areas could use some attention. At the end of the assessment, VitalChurch Ministry will produce a detailed report that the church can use going forward. It provides the church with an accurate picture of their current reality, as well as prayerfully considered recommendations for how to address any pressing issues. When the VitalChurch interim pastor arrives at the church, the assessment results can help guide his time there, so he can adequately prepare the church for their next season of ministry.
Unlike many interim pastors, who simply do their best to maintain the status quo in a church, the interim pastors from VitalChurch Ministry do their best to facilitate positive changes in a church during their time there. They consider themselves “Christ-centered agents of change” who seek to “…discover where God is leading the church, and then to work with the church to graciously guide the congregation and leadership there.” In other words, they don’t just come to a church to preach on Sundays and oversee the church staff during the week. They are there to usher in any needed changes so the church can be a healthier, more vibrant place—where people learn what it means to love and serve the Lord.
The interim pastors at VitalChurch Ministry can also help the church with the pastoral search process. They can guide the congregation in determining what pastoral gifts are needed to best lead the congregation, and then help them find candidates with those gifts. By doing so, they help the church enter their next phase of ministry, so the church can continue to minister in their local community long after the interim pastor’s time at the church is done.