Healthy Leaders


A New Opportunity for Senior Leadership

Brian ThorstadBrian Thorstad

Many pastors in their 50s and 60s are facing a similar scenario: They sense that they are nearing the end of their current pastorates and are highly uncertain regarding the future. They know that most congregations don’t want pastors who are over 60, and many don’t want pastors who are over 50.  

These individuals know they have “a lot of good miles” left in them. While they’re not as energetic as they once were, they’re a lot smarter than they used to be in how they use their time and energy, and actually accomplish more than they ever have. They’re not ready for sitting by the fireside or even for working part-time at the hardware store. 

In some important ways, they are at the top of their game: Their Christian character and emotional intelligence are far superior to what they were in the past; their preaching is better than it has ever been; and their leadership and management skills are well-honed and effective. They love people more than when they were younger and are a whole lot more patient with them than they were 30 years earlier, or even 10 years ago.

Most churches want young pastors to draw a young crowd. Of course, it’s not biblical. In the Bible, age is honored, not youth. I could rant about this at length, but I suspect I’m “preaching to the choir.” 

A great alternative for older pastors is the ministry once known as “interim pastorate.” Whatever you call this position, the interim pastorate isn’t what it used to be. Increasing numbers of interim or transitional pastors are now deliberately using the “in between time” in churches as a great opportunity to bring about congregational revitalization.  

The interim-pastor position is shifting from merely preaching and shepherding. Lay leaders are involving interim pastors instead of holding off on congregational issues until their next “real pastor.”

Today’s interim or transitional pastors are conducting church health assessments, mediating church-wide conflicts, training and re-training lay leaders, guiding congregations through structural changes, mentoring staff members, leading strategic planning processes, coaching long-term pastor search committees and much, much more. 

To my knowledge, before the 2005 publication of David Miles’ excellent reTurn Resource Kit, there was nothing in print by evangelicals on interim ministry. Between Pastors: Seizing The Opportunity, by Canadian authors Cam Taylor and Alan Simpson, is a welcome addition to the still-sparse but growing list of books on this vital subject. Ten years later, I contributed to the discussion with REDEVELOPMENT: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches. 

Unique to Between Pastors are sections on:

• Helping interim congregations with grief and closure, related to the departure of the previous long-term pastor

• Facilitating relationship renewal among church members

• The importance of good chemistry between the transitional leader and the church’s lay leadership

• The calling to transitional leadership

• Leading change and managing conflict during the interim time

In short, if you’re an aging pastor who is uncertain about your future, consider your impact through interim ministry. And if you seriously consider interim ministry, you would do well to study Between Pastors as part of your training program.

This article originally appeared here.

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