Leo Tolstoy summed up the dilemma of all Intentional Interim Pastors:
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
An Intentional Interim Pastor1 cannot fulfill her call without coaxing, counseling, praying, encouraging and – when needed – pushing change.
An Intentional Interim Pastor who doesn’t approach his call intent on reworking the congregation isn’t a change agent, he’s pulpit supply.
But that’s what God calls Interim Pastors to do – push people out of their comfort zones. And that’s what churches call us to do.
That alone is sufficient reason for Interim Pastors to be deliberate change agents.
6 Reasons Interim Pastors Must Push. Hard!
- God is our client
- The Head of the Church calls us to our client congregations
- Interim Pastors are vocational change agents
- Interim Pastors are deliberate agents of “Second Order Change” (Who suffers the travails that attend Intentional Interim Ministry just to leave the church unchanged?)
- Client churches call us to help them make changes
- Change is good for the people in our client congregations
Use Best Practices
The study of Change Management offers many insights and tools Interim Pastors should master. Implementing the Best Practices will smooth over some of the rougher spots in transition. Intuit provides a helpful summary, “10 Best Practices in Change Management“.
- Ease up the pressure (a challenge I face because of my temperament!)
- Fully integrate the change (insure that the change flows out to every program, ministry, leadership group and church activity)
- Communicate the change at all levels and at all times
- Monitor changes as they are implemented (Don’t be afraid to tweak changes and make ad hoc accomodations)
- Recruit help (Focus first on the early adopters, then recruit people newest to the church, then key influencers – build momentum)
- Make the benefits of change relevant to those who stand to lose the most
- Make the change desirable (Use your sermons, counseling sessions, meetings and one-on-ones to “make them feel the pain” of not changing)
- Timing is everything (I suspect the best time to start implementing massive change is after the Christmas holidays are past, then begin ramping up the planning and recruiting in the Spring. Over the summer begin pushing the message out to the congregation and talk about a “Fall Launch”)
- Iron out as many kinks as you can up front (Planning in detail. As you contemplate changing policies, procedures or whatever, find out in detail how this will affect people and how they’re likely to react)
- Communicate, communicate and communicate
Understand the Risks
Pushing people out of their comfort zone generates powerful forces intent on maintaining the status quo ante. People will unite for the purpose of returning to the way things were before the Interim Pastor started pushing for change.
- You may lose your job
- You may have to exercise church discipline
- You may lose key people
- You may see a drop in offerings
- You will make people uncomfortable
1. In this article I’m using the terms “Intentional Interim Pastor” and “Interim Pastor” to denote deliberate change agents. The term “transition pastor” is also used in this sense.
What are the most compelling reason why Intentional Interim Pastors should push congregants and congregations to change? What is forfeit if we don’t make that push? Click this link to leave your comments below.