JEFFERSON CITY – Months between a pastor leaving and a calling a new leader to a church can be stressful and uncertain at times, but 52 newly trained “transitional pastors” are ready to help any church that asks.
The Sept. 25-26 training workshop at the Baptist Building was the first transitional pastor training certification through LifeWay in Missouri, and will likely be the only one until fall 2013.
Spencer Hutson, church strengthening team leader for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), said the period between pastors is treated by many church members as the “hold things together, keep things going” period. For nominal church members it is likely to be the “wait and see” period. With effective transitional leadership, the period between pastors can be very productive – a time of growth in personal and congregational awareness, renewal, and celebration; and a time when people are attracted by congregational worship, evangelism, fellowship, and discipleship, and personal and family ministries of the church. In short, a church doesn’t need to wait for a new pastor to grow and thrive.
It is not, however, a quick fix for a pastor-search committee or an immediate bandage for a church emerging from internal conflict. A transitional pastor differs from shorter-term interim or pulpit-supply preachers, and transitional pastors are usually men who feel God’s calling to specifically work with churches in transition.
“The transitional pastor and the congregation will agree how they want to do things, then they will work through a process together over nine to 18 months,” Huston said. “Together they will look at their health as a church, see what their strengths and weakness are, examine the demographics and see if they need to make any changes to reach their community. They can also help with any conflict resolution that needs to happen. I think most churches would benefit from going through the transitional process before they call a pastor.”
Hutson said the idea is gaining in popularity with churches large or small seeking their next long-term pastor.
“We got four or five calls in the last week from churches that were interested in it,” he said. “Some churches have examined the process and decided that it may be good, but it isn’t for their church, and that’s OK.”
The MBC maintains a list of trained transitional pastors, and can make a series of recommendations to any congregation wanting to take advantage of the process. For more information, contact Hutson at 1-800-736-6227.