It has been said that every pastor is an interim unless they are the pastor of the church when the Lord returns or the church closes the doors for the final time. Whenever a pastor leaves his role, the church goes through an inevitable season of transition. This period in the life of a church is a critical time for their future.
For the past 20 years, Oklahoma Baptists have been very involved in helping churches navigate these seasons of transition through the Transitional Pastor Ministry. This ministry has developed through the years, adapting to better serve the churches.
In recent days this ministry has adapted again into what is being called Moving Forward Interims. Moving Forward Interims is based on the same core principles that have guided the ministry for years, while addressing a couple of key issues that churches have expressed in relation to the Transitional Pastor Ministry.
The first issue that has been raised historically, and more so in recent days, is about the length of time needed for a church to move through the transitional pastor process. In response, the Moving Forward process has shortened the timeframe for a church to move through the process from the six to eight months needed for the transitional process to three to four months.
Moving Forward has retained the core elements of the transitional pastor while making the overall time needed more concise. This will encourage more churches to utilize this ministry that will enable them to be better prepared for the future in a timeframe that is daunting for them.
The second issue that has been frequently raised is related to the church being hesitant to engage in the process because of the size of their congregation. In response, the Moving Forward process is scalable for all sizes of congregations. The transitional pastor process is based on a team of 15-25 people nominated by the church to serve with the transitional pastor.
The vast majority of Oklahoma Baptist churches have less than 75 in attendance and can see this aspect as a hindrance from participating. The church with 150 or more in attendance can still nominate the team to work through the process with the interim pastor, but for most churches with less people in attendance, any or all of the congregation can participate in the process. This shift provides an opportunity for churches of every size to benefit from the process. There have been churches with 25 in attendance that have participated in and benefited from a Moving Forward interim.
By shortening the time required for the process and making it scalable for any size of congregation, we believe that the Moving Forward strategy is something that every church should prayerfully consider when they come to an interim season. Most of the directors of missions/associational missions strategist have been trained in the process along with some of the key men who serve as interims in their associations.
Many associations have had or are planning to have Moving Forward trainings to equip the interims who serve in their areas. Oklahoma Baptists will move fully to this strategy in the future and continue to provide training and coaching for those who serve in this vital role.
The prayer that drives the Moving Forward strategy is that it would be a tool that is used to help every church advance the Gospel. We pray that the interim period that the church will inevitably face would not simply be a time of waiting but working under the leadership of a skilled interim pastor. Finally, we pray that the church would be better prepared to call their new pastor and walk with him as they pursue God’s mission in their community.