Policy on Interim Ministers Becoming

Installed Pastor of the Church

All mainline denominations and interim pastor organizations are unanimous in the policy that an interim pastor must not move to become the pastor of the interim church. This is a well-tested position and the reasons follow:

  1. Background Factors Congregations are often quite vulnerable to poor and short-sighted decision-making in their interim times. Most congregations come to a ready appreciation for their interim and in 99 % of the churches at least a few of the members will call for the interim to become the next pastor. The statistical data available indicates that an unusually high percentage of interims-turned-pastor will not survive as pastor for more than a couple of years, which throws the church quickly back to another search period. A great interim will not necessarily make a good pastor. There are real differences.
  2. Ethical Factor
    1. An interim pastor has a distinct advantage over all other possible candidates who may be considered for the call.
    2. A congregation is often sorely tempted to abort its self-study and search process for their next best pastor for the convenience of calling the interim.
    3. When these circumstances occur it lures other clergy to avoid the call system and to use the interim pastor route to achieve a pastorate they desire. There are many situations where this practice has created strong animosity among the clergy.
  3. Church/Pastor Dynamic Factors
    1. Interim pastors, we believe, have a specific agenda which calls for true neutrality toward the church' s decisions to call. Once the interim comes to desire the pastorate, she/he loses the objectivity required of an interim and in subtle and not so subtle ways begins to influence church and search committee thinking and decisions.
    2. Once the congregation realizes that this option is open to them, it is most likely that the congregation will polarize. Some with reservations or with no desire for this interim to become pastor will be alienated from others within the membership.
    3. Interim pastors clearly viewed as temporary leaders have much more freedom and ability to effect needed change in the interim church.
    4. When a vote is taken to call an interim and it is insufficient to effect the call, churches are truly split, and the interim pastor looses any ability to continue to lead the congregation.
  4. Conclusion

    There are rare circumstances when this policy has been ignored and the church and pastor went forward to many successful years of ministry together. There are also some unusual circumstances that may warrant a preliminary understanding between clergy, church and denomination at the outset of an interim start that opens the door to the eventuality of a call. These exceptions in no way abrogate the need for the policy.
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