Saturday, June 30, 2007

Laying the Groundwork

Our Transition Team has selected Psalm 40 as our foundational scripture. Verses 2 and 3 are our key focus: "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD."

As the team reviewed the last five years of our church history we reached the conclusion that we have been stuck but that we want to move forward. But we don't want to get better just so we will feel better but so that we can get back to the mission of the church. So this slogan has been adopted for our intentional interim ministry: Out of the mud and onto the Rock. Singing a new song, bringing others to Jesus.

The Transition Team reviewed the last fifteen years of the church looking for both positive and negative moments/events. The following positive moments/events were identified:
building the Family Life Center, starting the Preschool, times of prayer emphasis, committing to give 10% of our income to missions, starting the 11 am contemporary worship service, and offering the Upward basketball program to the community. The common denominator of these positive moments was: others. In our best moments the congregation has been focused on ministry to other people. As the negative impact moments/events were reviewed it appeared that they centered on times of pastoral leadership transition.

After this analysis the team has determined to help the congregation to celebrate the positive moments in our history while also closing the chapters of our history which hold painful memories so that we can move forward into the future God has planned for us. To this end the team is planning a Unified Service for July 29th. Your prayers are appreciated for God to guide the team as they plan for this service, for God's presence to be evident in the service and for God's people to respond to His promptings.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Transition Team

The Transition Team is one of the critical components of Intentional Interim ministry. In fact, it may be the single most important element.

The Transition Team is:
* A group of trusted and respected individuals selected by the congregation to guide the process of becoming a more healthy church.
* A group of maturing (spiritually, emotionally and mentally) leaders who are respected for their both their skills and temperament for group work.
* Representative of the entire congregation with all of its diversity.
* A critical strategy as it communicates the message: this is the work of the congregation.
* A model to the congregation – looking for God’s movement, will and purpose for the future of the congregation.
* The group who determines when the church is ready for the L.B.A. to begin the search for the next Senior Pastor.
* A new group with a new group life leading the church toward a new day of congregational health and wholeness.

Our Transition Team is made up of ten members. There are five men and five women. There are five representatives from the 9 am worship service and five from the 11 am worship service. There are older adults, middle aged and younger adults. Some of the team members have been in the church 40+ years and others have attended for less than 5 years.

The team began meeting the first of June with an overnight retreat. We have been meeting weekly as we plan our first congregational event for July 29th. This event will focus on our first task of "Coming to Terms with History".

Team members have made the following covenant agreement with each other.
We will…..
Pray and seek God’s guidance,
Abandon selfish motivations,
Listen to each other and congregation members with sensitivity,
Seek to engage the congregation to spiritual health,
Respect our pastor and church leadership,
Respect each other’s dignity and privacy,
Share a common message to the congregation,
Strive to model healthy group life in Christianity community,
Make decisions by consensus.

I am so pleased with the start that our Transition Team has made and am enjoying working with them so very, very much. They are developing into one of the best working groups that I have ever been a part of.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Five Developmental Tasks of Intentional Interim Ministry

The Transition Team is leading our congregation through these five developmental or transformational tasks:

1) Come to Terms with History – We will attempt to put our past into perspective. We will celebrate our victories and mourn our defeats. We will take time to heal from our hurts and determine how best to discard old expectations and patterns of the past.

2) Exam Leadership & Decision-Making Concerns – Every congregation needs to develop new leadership for the tasks of ministry. We will focus on this development and our organizational processes for making decisions.

3) Look at Our Denominational & External Relationships – We will see how we can make better connections to The Wesleyan Church and to other churches around us so that we can understand our place in the larger body of Christ.

4) Clarify Our Congregational Identity – We will seek to discover both our church and our community distinctives at this time. In so doing we will redefine our sense of purpose and direction for the future.

5) Commit to the New Pastor & Future – Having worked together to find our true identity and God’s design for us we will affirm our intentions to team with our new pastor as together we work for the building of God’s kingdom.

Some are more important than others, but all of them are needed. These five tasks are in many ways interconnected and overlapping.

My next post will provide more details about the Transition Team that I am working with during the intentional interim ministry.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Beginning A New Era of Ministry

After serving for 30 years of pastoral appointments with The Wesleyan Church I am now beginning the adventure of Intentional Interim Ministry. What makes this adventure somewhat unique is that I will be serving as the Intentional Interim Pastor for the next year in the same church where I have served as pastor for the last three years. In future posts I will explain in greater detail what Intentional Interim Ministry is all about and how this ministry process is going in Bessemer City.

In this first post I will give background of who Intentional Interim Pastors are and what they do. An I.I.P. is an experienced and specifically trained minister who feels a unique call from God to serve in transitional churches for a 12-24 month period. It is understood by both minister and congregation that the I.I.P. will serve only for an interim time (the time between installed pastors) and will not be a candidate to be the next installed pastor of the church. The I.I.P. performs the same tasks that an installed pastor would do: preaching, teaching, pastoral care, administration, counseling, weddings, funerals, etc. But the I.I.P. also works with a Transition Team selected from the congregation. This Transition Team leads the congregation to work on five developmental tasks that enables them to become a more healthy community of faith. These five developmental tasks will be explained in the next post. After the Transition Team has completed these five tasks the congregation begins the search for their next installed pastor.

The biblical model for an I.I.P. is John the Baptist as he prepared the way for the coming of Christ. An I.I.P. helps a congregation get ready to embrace their new pastor and the future that God has planned for them.