Answer: When I walked out of the last day of my interim training, in 1999, I remember muttering, “I sure wish I had taken this course back when I was in seminary, before I became a pastor. It would have saved me from a lot of hard knocks and the early mistakes I made.” That response continues to be echoed by students, year after year. Why is this so?
First, interim pastor training teaches rarely taught skills that also apply to all ministers, especially “installed” pastors. For instance, do you know how to negotiate a reasonable workload that helps the church understand, and agree to, the priorities of your duties? This can be done, while at the same time protecting the minister from burnout and neglect of family time (helping to model family priorities for your church members, too). The relatively simple process clarifies what the church is getting for its money . . . and how much money should be on the table—an always awkward conversation.
Second, interim pastor training deals with common church issues. The interim time is the ideal venue for addressing these difficult issues. After all, the interim pastor is eventually leaving, so the risks of professional suicide are minimized for the culprit who digs in where angels fear to tread. Nevertheless, a new pastor will also have a major window of opportunity to address key issues. Furthermore, if you are a pastor who has been at a church for a longer season, you will gain insights into the costs of addressing ongoing problems. You will be better able to decide if your church’s issues can be dealt with, if you’re the right person to do so, and if it’s worth the risks. For instance, we look at the different expectations of pastors based on the size of the church. Church members (and many pastors) know nothing about the differences. Today, churches are often going up, or down, in attendance, without adjusting the expectations of the pastor’s role. Pastor terminations/resignations are often rooted in this lack of understanding. Naturally, the class offers tools to address these common issues, as well.
Finally, interim pastor training is meant to help students learn to “do the next pastor a favor.” When you begin a new pastorate, it will help you to understand what should/could have been done, and whether those issues were addressed, during the interim time. It is not unusual to hear a pastor say, “That search committee lied to me.” The search team didn’t lie by overtly telling untruths. The team lied by not disclosing all the truth. The search team didn’t overtly talk about a cover up. Each person on the team just knew intuitively, “We better not mention __________, or no one will ever come to be our pastor.” The Interim Pastor class will help you interview with a church with deeper insights of what you should be looking for and questions you should be asking.
The Interim Pastor, MFPMN 5113, will be offered during the Summer term at B. H. Carroll Theological Institute as an online course. It can be taken for full credit or audited. The class includes eight sessions of one week each, with students able to do the work on their own time during each week. Successful completion of the class (credit or audit) is recognized by the Baptist General Convention of Texas as meeting the requirements for serving Texas Baptist interim churches.