JEFFERSON CITY – The pastor is leaving. Now what?
Former Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) staffer Monty Hale said a church should select a transitional pastor. A transitional pastor is not an interim pastor.
“A transitional pastor is an intentional ministry. An interim comes in and holds things together (until a new pastor is selected). His (interim pastor’s) main ministry is a pulpit ministry,” said Hale, now South Carolina Baptist Convention director of pastoral ministries and the bi-vocational office. A transitional pastor with a church covenant will work from a few days a week to full-time. He is not a candidate for a regular church pastor. The transitional pastor has a short-term ministry. He might do some things that make people mad.”
A transitional pastor puts a church in a better position for the next pastor. It helps churches avoid going from pastor to pastor to pastor.
In rare cases where a transitional pastor becomes a pastor candidate, another transitional pastor is brought in. Ideally, a transitional pastor lays groundwork for the new pastor. Hale recommends such groundwork to equal two years of learning the community.
Hale is coming to Jefferson City to team with transitional pastor trainer/former MBC staffer David Waggoner to conduct a transitional pastor training conference. The event will address responsibilities of a transitional pastor, conflict resolution, training a pastor search committee, looking at the church history, seeing what is going on in the church administration and ministry, and helping the new pastor clearly see a vision.
South Carolina has about 225 transitional pastors, and maybe 40 are now available. Missouri has some 60 and about 20 are actively serving.
“Our DOMs do a good job to help in this partnership,” Hale said, adding that any church going through the transition time should consider a transitional pastor.
“Things are just different than they were 10 years ago for churches. It’s not a program, it’s a ministry. It’s a broad-brush training,” Hale said. “It’s a ministry through Lifeway, given to state conventions about five years ago.”
Hale said the transitional pastor ministry has been used with churches of 30 people to those with more than 700 in Sunday worship, adding that the upcoming conference is for all pastors, even those nearing retirement. He said that people who have gone through the training frequently tell him they wished they had known about the training earlier in their ministry.
Kenneth Mathes, transitional pastor at Centennial Baptist Church, Mexico, since March, shared his example in a recent report to the MBC : “A church in transition needs some successful events to build their confidence before calling a new pastor,” Mathes wrote. “The first event June 29-30 was a patriotic cantata. Another was July 14 when approximately 36 people met after morning worship to distribute 572 Bibles with information about Centennial and Vacation Bible School (VBS) fliers to our community. Our “Colossal Coaster World” VBS was in July with 71 enrolled, eight professions of faith and 23 new church prospects. To kick off the return of evening services in August, we held a Bible trivia night with a great number attending. We plan to repeat this in October. In September, Centennial will hold a concert for our community. We project having a new pastor on the field by the first of the year. The church is preparing with much prayer and anticipation.”
The MBC website says an effective transitional pastor “can be a time of growth in personal and congregational awareness, renewal, and celebration.” Gary Mathes, MBC pastoral ministries specialist and distant relative of Kenneth, believes transitional pastors are key to church revitalization. “It’s an effective tool to help churches in the interim,” he said. “A transitional pastor puts a church in a better position for the next pastor. It helps churches avoid going from pastor to pastor to pastor.”
For more information, go to the website http://mobaptist.org/pastoral-ministry/transitional-pastor-training or call Gary Mathes at 573-636-0400, Ext. 338.