Friday, March 28, 2008

The Last 100 Days or So

One of the chapter titles from my unwritten book, Lessons from the Farm, is entitled "Save the Short Rows till Last". Without going into great explanation, the point of the proverb is that you should do the hardest part of the job first. In many ways, this is how intentional interim ministry goes. The first congregational task, Coming to Terms with History, is difficult and lays the foundation for all the rest of the work. I have found this to be true in Bessemer City.

But that does not mean that everything is "smooth sailing" or "a piece of cake" during the rest of the intentional interim process. Even the current task that the Transition Team is working on has been intense. As the team has examined leadership and decision making concerns they have come to realize that necessary changes are not easy. The team will be presenting four recommendations to the church conference next month that will impact the election process of the local church board of administration. I will post these four recommendations next week after they have been presented to the congregation.

The team will also be developing job descriptions for some committees and volunteer positions in the church that currently have none. In the absence of clearly defined duties and boundaries "turf wars" can develop even in the church. I expect these job descriptions will be a real challenge to the team.

So the last 100 days or so of my time in Bessemer City promises to continue to be intense as I work with the transition team and as we also address at least two other congregational "hot buttons" over the next two months.
1) The purchase of a bus.
2) The plans for the building of future facilities.
Neither of these matters will be brought to conclusion before my departure. But my goal is that the major decisions about the direction of these matters will be settled prior to the arrival of the next pastor. If so, these will be two presents that I can give to him or her.

On a personal note - my wife and I signed all the papers yesterday to close on a house purchase. Our new home will be in Archdale, NC (just east of the High Point city limits). We are taking a step of faith that God will provide the opportunity for us to serve a church within commuting distance of Archdale as their Intentional Interim Pastor. Please join with us in prayer for God's will and way to become clear. Unlike Abraham, I know where I am going. But like Abraham, I am not sure what I will be doing when I get there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Snapshot of an Intentional Interim

The following list of traits, qualities, characteristics and skills of an intentional interim minister has been developed from two books: The Interim Pastor’s Manual and Temporary Shepherds, the notes of Les Robinson, Jr., and my personal experience.

Personal Traits:
1) Commitment – devoted to both Jesus Christ and His bride, the church
2) Adaptable – quickly assimilate into and gracefully exit from a church
3) Perceptive – discern systemic problems from observing surface behaviors
4) Self-differentiated – know who you are apart from the people or problems around you
5) Positive attitude – with God’s help, churches and people can change
6) Stability – staying calm in the midst of chaos
7) Teachable – always learning and not afraid to ask for help

1) Communication – both public preaching and personal interaction
2) Team Building – bring people together around a common mission/vision
3) Conflict Management – negotiate, compromise and mediate between parties
4) Crisis Intervention – stepping into a difficult place as a non-anxious presence
5) Organizational – establishing plans and procedures for the work
6) Stress Management – helping others and yourself find relief from intense situations
7) Pastoral – caring for people and giving oversight to church affairs

An Intentional Interim Pastor needs to have:

1) A sense of “call” to this work – sensing both the need in the church and the God given giftedness within himself

2) Training for the work – from previous pastoral experience, specialized instruction, and continuous education (reading books and attending conferences)

3) Tolerance for uncertainty in job security, term of service and frequent change

4) Flexibility in styles of worship, polity practices and methods of church operation

5) The ability to use varied leadership styles and approaches to problem solving in differing situations

6) A sense of humor that is capable of not taking self too seriously while maintaining a strong sense of personal worth and self-assurance

7) Emotional maturity that can connect easily with others without becoming dependent or interdependent upon that connection

If you would like to discuss intentional interim ministry in greater detail send an email to: I would love to dialogue with you!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

From There To Here

The faith journey from serving as an installed pastor to being an intentional interim has been an interesting one. Looking back, I can now see how many of my experiences over the 31 years of pastoral ministry have brought me to this moment. But over the last four years the pace of this journey has accelerated. Prior to four years ago I had never even heard of intentional interim ministry.

In April, 2004 the District Superintendent asked me to accept the appointment as pastor of First Wesleyan Church in Bessemer City, NC. Usually our churches call their pastors but this church had been through a time of conflict that resulted in the pastor and the entire lay leadership team resigning. In the absence of any local church lay leadership the District Superintendent informed the church that a pastor would be appointed to serve them for one year and that it would be me.

I spoke with a consultant that had worked with the previous pastor and lay leadership about the situation. He stated that the church needed an "intentional interim pastor". I asked what that meant and got my first exposure to the concept. I had no such training and a desire to be called as the installed pastor after the one year appointment was concluded.

We began to work the church through a "healing process" and to get it "back on track". Our efforts met with enough success that the church did call me to be their installed pastor. But as the months progressed three things became more and more clear:
1) the church really did need to work through the congregational self study part of the intentional interim ministry if it was going to be a strong and vibrant church again
2) my wife, Pam, had some chronic health issues with her lower back which were hindering her from serving as she had always done in the past in the role of the pastor's wife
3) as we researched what intentional interim ministry was all about, it became more and more obvious that my personality and giftedness were well suited to serve in such a role

Pam, my two prayer partners, and I sought God's direction from October, 2006 until February, 2007. At that time we all agreed that intentional interim ministry seemed to be the right thing to do. We presented the idea to the church's administrative board and gave them two weeks to pray over the idea. They were unanimous in agreement that the church and I move in this direction. When the presentation was made to the congregation it was enthusiastically received by the vast majority of the church membership.

So for the last year we have been on the intentional interim journey with this congregation. A journey that will conclude in 4 months. Only time and eternity will reveal the full impact of this experience. But the current evidence would indicate that the congregation is moving from a maintenance to a missional mindset. Four years ago, this was a congregation that was just showing up for "church" on Sundays and Wednesdays. During the last three months, congregation members have been involved in 12 mission or service projects that touched literally thousands of other people. While involved in these projects, our members spent an estimated 461 hours collectively in service to others.

In next week's blog I plan to share those traits and characteristics that seem to be most needed in someone serving as an intentional interim and where this faith journey seems to be going next.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Reflections from Vacation

After a three week absence - I'm finally back. Why has it been so long?

1) The week after the last blog I was at Southern Wesleyan University for a two day conference and then the next week my Leadership Development Journey group took a one day trip back to the campus to hear Steve DeNeff speak.

2) At the Transition Team meeting following the "HOT, HOT, HOT" congregational meeting the team set about the task of writing a Pastoral Profile for the search committee to use in their review of resumes. This proved to a bigger challenge than I had expected but the team got it hammered out. I had promised the search committee that the team would complete the profile before I left on vacation. The profile will remain confidential until the next pastor is called. After that time, my intention is to get it posted on this blog.

3) My wife, Pam, and I took a vacation to Amelia Island, Florida for a week. During the vacation we celebrated my 54th birthday. Vacation time often gets me into a reflective mode. I want to share some of those reflections that relate to my Intentional Interim ministry.

It was on another brief vacation to Isle of Palms, South Carolina that we first began the move toward Intentional Interim ministry. While reading the book: The One Thing You Need to Know by Marcus Buckingham I began to realize that I needed to find a ministry that was more focused on my strengths while requiring less expenditure from my weaknesses. I didn't know what new ministry that meant at the time, I just knew that if I was going to be a more successful servant some changes would be needed.

I recruited two prayer partners to join Pam and I in seeking God's will and direction. During a six month period of prayer and exploration we discovered the concept of Intentional Interim ministry and the four of us became convinced that this was a place of service where God had gifted me to serve well.

Even though Intentional Interim ministry has been a practice in several other denominations for many years, it is something new to The Wesleyan Church. To the best of my knowledge I am the only Wesleyan who has completed the training to be an Intentional Interim. But this does not mean that Wesleyan churches are beating down my door for my services. Like most anything that is new, there will have to be some churches that are willing to try it before others will consider the possibility.

So, I am just four months away from completing my Intentional Interim service at First Wesleyan Church in Bessemer City and do not know where, or if, I will be serving another Wesleyan Church as an Intentional Interim after this July. My intentions are to post another blog later this week about this faith journey. I want to also include some thoughts for anyone who may be considering the transition from serving as an installed pastor to an intentional interim. Until next time, thanks for reading.