Interim Pastors


I have recently returned from two days of Interim Pastor Training. For the fourth year in a row, the CCCC has sponsored a training by Interim Pastor Ministries at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. This year’s response was impressive as seventeen pastors attended what is possibly their initial step toward an encore career. Most attendees were currently pastoring a church and were considering what might be ahead for them.

As the pastors got to know each other over the two day training, they shared stories about how they had arrived at this place in their lives, and how they were approaching transition. Each story was slightly different. Some have made plans for two years into the future, while others are just coming to the realization that their time is ending in their current ministry.

One pastor who left his church six months ago candidly shared that if he had taken a sabbatical during his tenure at the church he would not have left that ministry. Facing a lack of energy and fatigue, he was approaching burnout. Now out of the pulpit for some months, his energy has returned and he wants to continue to serve God’s kingdom as an Interim Pastor.

In spite of the differences in their stories and how they arrived to this place in their lives, there was one thing each of these pastors had in common— the grief that comes from leaving a church family. A reality observed during the training is that we need to be aware that whenever there is transition from ministry, it will be tinged with pain. The impact of leaving a long term ministry, and the grief experienced by pastors themselves, left them with a desire to help mitigate some of what a church in transition experiences. With so much still left to give in terms of giftedness and expertise, these pastors now desire training to help churches that are in transition. 

One startling realization that came out of the training is that we are all interim pastors. None of us are in our pastorates forever. There will be a time for all pastors when we will no longer serve in our current setting. The best time to begin considering that fact the first day of your ministry. Having that reality before you will be a constant reminder that you are building the ministry for the next generation.

One professor recently told me that when we receive a call to a church we should plan to be there long-term but be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice if God calls us elsewhere. This is wise advice, and it requires us to stay tuned to God’s direction on whether to leave or to stay.

Many of our CCCC churches have been served well by an interim pastor who guided them through transition. These churches have become healthier and poised for growth as they have taken quality time to seek God’s preferred future. As pastors, we take note that ministry is a gifting and calling, not a job. We never really retire, just transition.

For more information on Interim ministries, click here.

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