Q What is the role of an interim pastor? Is it to maintain the status quo or to "clean house" to prepare for a new pastor?

A One thing we have learned over the years—too often the hard way—is that in many situations "interim pastors" should really have specialized training and expertise if they are successfully to lead a congregation through a time of transition. The denomination's Pastor Church Resources ministry has begun to offer such training and refers to those who have participated in it as Specialized Transitional Ministers. In its words, which you can find on the CRCNA's website, "congregations are not always aware of the level of training or expertise that a minister does or does not bring to the transitional situation facing a congregation." So now that website lists 17 persons who have developed the necessary expertise in training and subsequent experience. They can "provide strategic assistance when churches need help with both regular pastoral duties and the processing of key systemic dynamics in preparation for calling a new pastor."

Churches that have seen their minister depart are free, of course, to "maintain the status quo" as you put it. They might decide to give themselves two years to find just the right preacher for the years ahead and, for that interim period, extend a call to a person for a specified term of service. Our Church Order has regulations for that kind of situation in the Supplement to Article 8. You then have an "interim pastor." But often more is needed. You refer to it as "cleaning house." Perhaps you are thinking of situations where a minister was released under difficult circumstances. Pastor Church Resources says it without laying blame: there are "key systemic dynamics" that often need to be addressed with truth and grace.

About the Author

Henry De Moor is professor of church polity emeritus at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. He is author of the Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary (Faith Alive, 2011), which interprets the CRC’s Church Order and offers practical advice on how to apply it.