They’re not going to like your answer, no matter what you say, even though they desperately need your help.
“Will our church grow if we call you as our interim pastor?” This is a tough question.
It is tough because it shows they have absolutely no idea of the right way to hire an interim pastor.
It is a tough because (1) you have no idea whether they will or won’t grow; because (2) they more than likely won’t grow significantly during the interim period; because (3) it rests on some presuppositions that you’ll be challenging during the interim period and because (4) you might miss out on a job if you tell them straight.
Giving them the straight answer is the beginning of a relationship built on trust.
So, what’s the correct answer?
“No. In fact your attendance and membership may shrink. If your church completes the mission critical tasks ahead, some familiar faces may leave. They’ll eventually be replaced by new faces.
“But let’s focus. Increased attendance and income are not your objectives. Your objective is to remove obstacles that hinder you and prepare for effective ministry under your next pastor.”
Why do they ask the wrong question?
- They’ve been conditioned by pop Christianity
- It’s been a source of frustration for their previous pastors
- They think there’s something wrong with them (and there may be!)
- They’ve been trained in the wrong metrics of “nickels and noses”
- They’ve been deceived by American culture into believing “bigger is better”
Why is it the wrong question?
You can’t really blame them for asking, they just haven’t been taught the right way to think about the issue. You probably can’t even blame their pastors (although they should know better). The blame lies with our American obsession with newer, bigger, better – a value that’s pounded into us every day, even by “Christian” publications.
We’ve had an unhealthy 40-50 year love affair with growing bigger churches in the western church world.
Actually, we’ve had a love affair with the idea that bigger is better. I’ve been to a lot of church ministry conferences. Great events put on by helpful people about how to get better at doing church ministry. I go because it’s good to strive to be better in everything we do.
But the not-always-so-subtle message behind most of those seminars and conferences is “your church isn’t big enough.” And it doesn’t even matter how big your church is. The message is always the same. If it’s 50 people, it needs to be 100. 200? Needs to be 400. 1,000? Shoot for 2,000.
You get the idea.
This clues us in; it points us to a variety of reasons why it’s the wrong question to ask.
- It’s not based in a biblical ecclesiology
- It’s not their job to grow the church
- Their job, as a church, is to make disciples
- It’s the Head of the Church’s job to grow His churches
- “Healthy things grow” isn’t an ecclesiological truth, it’s only a metaphor
- Healthy churches continually push believers out into mission and, as a result, their attendance numbers remain relatively static
- If you let them entertain even a hint of an idea that they’re going to see growth during this interim period, you’re setting yourself and the church up for failure.
- Allowing the “nickels and noses” metric to go unchallenged is a failure on your part, and it leaves the next settled pastor exposed.
How do you respond – in your capacity as an interim pastor consulting with a potential client church – to the question of “will our church grow while you’re the interim pastor?” Click here to leave your comments below.
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