8 Reasons Pastorless Churches Should Consider an Interim Pastor

I admit my bias here. I’ve served as an interim pastor when my schedule has allowed, and I’ve loved the experiences. I’m not asking for offers here, though. I’m simply encouraging pastorless churches to think about this option.

  1. It gives the church time to work through the emotions of the previous pastor’s departure. If the departure was a healthy one, the church likely needs time to grieve. If it was a difficult leaving, the church may need time to heal. An interim allows for that time. 
  2. It’s good to hear from a consistent voice during an interim period. It’s tough for a church to move forward when they’re hearing each week from a different voice—often from someone not associated with the church. An interim offers consistency in the leadership voice.  
  3. An intentional interim can still lead the church to move forward during an interim period. My general philosophy as an interim pastor is this: lead the church to be so moving forward that the new pastor doesn’t need to “jumpstart” them; he needs to catch up with them. We don’t always get there in my interims, but we do move in that direction. 
  4. An interim can guide and encourage the remaining church staff. Too often, a church doesn’t think much about how the departure of a lead pastor affects the staff. An interim pastor can give direction to the staff and be “glue” to strengthen their unity.
  5. Having an interim saves the hassle of finding a speaker for every week. Frankly, it’s not always easy to find a large number of available speakers who also preach the Word well. The task of enlisting a speaker for every week can be tedious, time-consuming work—but a church with an interim avoids this task. 
  6. An interim in place gives the pastor search team space for not rushing the search. Generally, the search process takes longer than expected (longer than it needs to be, in my opinion). But, a search team that rushes the process too often later regrets their pastor choice. It’s good to give them time to prayerfully work through the search process. 
  7. An interim pastor can look at the church with outsider eyes. Every church I know could benefit from outside eyes. An interim period is a good time to assess the church and “fix” some things before the next pastor arrives. An interim can take a look at the church as both an outsider and insider. 
  8. Some interim pastors feel called to this task at this point in their ministry. They’re not doing it just to get to preach; they’re doing it to honor the Lord and bless His church. I encourage pastorless churches to find out if any of these leaders live in their area. 

Church leaders who’ve experienced an interim pastorate, what would you add to this list? 


  • Robin G Jordan says:

    Pastorless churches can get accustomed to having no pastor and can adopt unhealthy attitudes and practices. I was licensed to be in pastoral charge of a small congregation but my supervising pastor discouraged me from taking on the role of pastor with the congregation. I did not understand his rational. This put me in an awkward position because I was unable to establish a pastoral leadership role at a time the church need someone in that role. The congregation would make a number of decisions that eventually led to its disbanding. Flocks without a shepherd have been known to get themselves mired in bogs and to fall to their deaths in quarries.

  • Very good article for all the reasons listed. I have been an interim in a church for 11 months. The last two years been a difficult time for this church, but we are starting to see fruit and more involvement from the members.

  • Interim pastors play a vital role in facilitating smooth transitions within churches. While they bring stability and guidance during a period of change, there are certain considerations that interims must remember to ensure an effective interim ministry.

    Establishing Interim Identity:
    1. Interims must remember their role as temporary leaders. It is crucial for them to maintain awareness of their interim status, as this helps them approach their responsibilities with the right mindset and focus.

    2. Additionally, interims should consistently remind the congregation of their interim status. This transparency helps manage expectations and ensures that the congregation understands the temporary nature of the interim period.

    Key Points regarding Interim Ministry:
    1. Grieving is not a process that churches typically go through during a pastoral transition. While they may miss their previous pastor, most congregations are ready to move forward and embrace new leadership.

    2. While it is beneficial for the church to hear from a consistent voice, interims should have a clear understanding of the short-term nature of their role. This prevents the church from becoming overly reliant on the interim pastor and allows for a smooth transition to the new pastor.

    3. Interim pastors should focus on maintaining existing programs rather than starting new ones. The new pastor will establish their own vision, and it is important to avoid burdening them with additional responsibilities or expectations.

    4. Encouraging and supporting the remaining staff is crucial during the interim period. Interims should actively engage with the staff, providing guidance and assistance as needed.

    5. Incorporating guest speakers alongside the interim pastor can bring variety and freshness to the church services. This helps maintain the interest and engagement of the congregation during the transitional period.

    6. Churches may lose pastors due to inadequate vetting processes or the candidate’s own failure to assess their fit within the church. It is important not to prolong the search for a new pastor, as this can lead to members leaving and potential new members being discouraged from joining.

    7. The interim period is not the time for the interim pastor to “fix” long-standing issues within the church. Addressing such problems during the interim phase may create additional challenges for the incoming pastor.

    8. It is common for interims to develop a deep affection for the church and even feel called to become the next pastor. However, it is important to recognize that the decision ultimately lies with the congregation, and the interim pastor should be prepared for the possibility that they may not be chosen as the permanent pastor.

    Interim pastors play a crucial role in guiding churches through transitional periods. By establishing their interim identity, maintaining a short-term perspective, and addressing key points related to their role, interims can effectively support the congregation and facilitate a successful transition to new leadership.

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