Many of these individuals know full well that they have “a lot of good miles” left in them. While they’re not as energetic as they once were, they’re a lot smarter than they used to be in how they use their time and energy, and actually accomplish more than they ever have. They’re not ready for sitting by the fireside or even for working part time at the hardware store.
In some very important ways they are actually at the top of their game. Their Christian character and emotional intelligence are far superior to what they were in the past. Their preaching is better than it has ever been. Their leadership and management skills are well-honed and effective. They love people more than when they were younger and are a whole lot more patient with them than they were thirty years earlier, or even ten years earlier.
And yet, as we all know, most churches want young pastors to try to draw a young crowd. It’s not Biblical, of course. In the Bible, age is honored, not youth. I could rant about this at length, but I suspect I’d be “preaching to the choir.”
A great alternative for many older pastors is the ministry formerly known only as the “interim pastorate” and now called by a variety of terms. Whatever you call it, the interim pastorate isn’t what it used to be. Increasing numbers of interim or transitional pastors are now deliberately using the “in between time” in churches as a great opportunity to bring about congregational revitalization.
Today’s interim or transitional pastors are conducting church health assessments, mediating church-wide conflicts, training and re-training lay leaders, guiding congregations through structural changes, mentoring staff members, leading strategic planning processes, coaching long-term pastor search committees and much, much more.
Between Pastors: Seizing The Opportunity, by Canadian authors Cam Taylor and Alan Simpson, is a welcome addition to the still-sparse but growing list of books on this vital subject. To my knowledge, before the 2005 publication of David Miles’ excellent reTurn Resource Kit, there was nothing in print by Evangelicals on interim ministry.
Ten years later I made my own contribution with REDEVELOPMENT: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches. I’ve now discovered that one year earlier, Taylor and Simpson and their publisher, Outreach Canada Ministries, gave us another substantial resource for interim ministry.
Unique to Between Pastors are sections on:
- Helping interim congregations with grief and closure, related to the departure of the previous long-term pastor
- Facilitating relationship renewal among church members
- The importance of good chemistry between the transitional leader and the church’s lay leadership
- The calling to transitional leadership
- Leading change and managing conflict during the interim time
Anecdotes written by a number of guest authors are also an enjoyable feature of Between Pastors.
In short, if you are an aging pastor who is uncertain about your future, you would do well to consider the impact you may yet make through interim ministry, and if you seriously consider interim ministry, you would do well to study Between Pastors as part of your training program.