Recently I have had the privilege of working with churches that are going through the potentially unsettling experience of a pastoral change. In less complex times churches would seek to make it through such a time on their own or aquire what was sometimes called, an interim pastor. The idea in that model of transition was that a seasoned pastor would be hired to preach on Sundays and do some pastoral care ministry including visitation and counseling. This was profitable enough but now a more transformational kind of ministry during these times is being developed through what is called, transitional pastoral ministry.
In a transitional pastoral ministry, a seasoned and well-qualified pastor who may be trained and gifted in transitional work is called to work as a coach with a church for a period of up to one year on issues that may have mitigated healthy church ministry in the past. It is an ideal time for a church to look at renewal on a number of different levels including the improvement of relationships and general communication, the development of more effective organization, and the expansion of passionate ministry through a clearer sense of vision. A transitional pastor is in an ideal position to offer this kind of help because such a person can be more direct toward leaders and the congregation since long-term security is not an issue.
Another major benefit of transitional pastoral ministry is that such a pastor is able to prepare the church to conduct the best possible search for a new pastor when it is ready to do so. The search can be conducted from the perspective of church health through systematic guidance of the transitional pastor. By this means the new pastor has a better chance of being successful because the match has been well-planned in a context of trust and clear communication.
I was greatly helped in my desire to feel better equipped in this kind of ministry recently through a modular course conducted on Transitional Pastoral Ministry by Outreach Canada. For further information about transitional pastoral ministry you might also contact Cam Taylor who works with Outreach Canada to develop a network for those interested in this kind of ministry. One of the presenters in the course, Gerry Teichrob, shared very helpful information from his own experience in this ministry in recent years. Gerry has a lot of practical help to offer in this ministry. I am in the process of developing my own distinctive approach in this role. Any one of us would be happy to try and answer your questions about how your church can experience an effective transition through this kind of ministry.