Everybody’s Temporary

Big Day (sort of.)

temping the new permanentAs of today, I am no longer The Interim in my current position as a Middle Judicatory Church Executive.  (How’s that for a job that sounds soul-sucking?  You’ll have to take my word for it when I say that it’s actually quite soul-feeding.)

I am now considered “permanent” administratively, although no job is truly “permanent” of course. I will be “installed” at our next Presbytery meeting, as if it will take a construction professional or a wrecking crew to get rid of me.

I wish we had another term for “Temporary Ministry” which, in my denomination include only “Interim Pastors” and “Temporary Supply Pastors.”  Could we come up with new terms that mean:

  1. “Temporary As In a Year or Two”
  2. “Temporary As In This-Isn’t-Forever, Pal.

In reality, we have “Temporary Supply Pastors” who have served the same congregation for a decade or more.  The church cannot call them officially to become “permanent” because finances are uncertain and/or the very existence of the congregation is fragile.

And then we have “Permanent Pastors” who serve their churches for less than two years.  We just said “goodbye” to a young pastor who had been installed for only five months.  There wasn’t a problem.  He simply was called to a different installed position that was a better match.

As well, we have Permanent Pastors who seem parked in their positions forever.  Jobs are scarce and why leave if you have a well-paying call?  Why leave if you have less than 10 years before retirement?  Why leave if you are beloved by your congregation?  Why leave your home of ___ years?

People come and go into and out of pastoral positions for countless good and not-so-good reasons.  But what if we acknowledged the reality that Everybody’s Temporary.

Interim Ministry – also called Transitional Ministry – involves specific skills that point to the future.

Gifted Interim Pastors . . .

  • Clean up what needs to be cleaned up (e.g. that staffer who needs to go, that policy that needs revising) so that the next pastor can hit the ground running rather than having to deal with the ugly/ridiculous/difficult before Things Can Move On.
  • Prepare the congregation for what God’s calling them to do/be next.
  • Consider the church’s past, clarify the present (e.g. Who are we?  What’s our context?) and imagine the future.

Lame Interim Pastors . . .

  • Are there to keep the paychecks coming after retirement and/or no “permanent” positions are available.
  • Preach dated sermons that have nothing to do with where/who/how the church is now.
  • Have no idea how to help congregations make shifts into a new season of ministry.
  • Refuse to make those difficult changes that will help the future pastor jump right in.

None of us is truly permanent and this should impact the way we currently serve God’s people.  Are we – in any way – coasting?  Kicking back?  Doing what we’ve always done?  Refusing to attend conferences/lectures/amazing Pecha Kucha events?  Seriously, when was the last time we’ve read the perspective of a theologian under the age of 40?

If we consider ourselves “permanent” what does that mean for the future of our congregation?  Being In The Now is important, of course.  But many of us are not even In The Now, much less looking at The Future.  (i.e. We keep talking about The Past and How Great Things Were.)  It’s killing us, but it doesn’t have to be this way.


3 responses to “Everybody’s Temporary

  1. I’m so grateful to be in a position that only exist because the two pastors that came before me faithfully worked themselves right out of jobs whilst facilitating a healthy and hope-filled congregational merger that resulted in a brand-new church being born! It gives me permission to say, “how do I work myself out of my job too?” Not because I want to move on anytime soon, but because I believe the church and I are moving, growing and changing beings and we should bring ALL the gifts and skills we have to bear on being the church our community needs right now, even if that means imagining ourselves into a future that might call for new gifts, or different skills, new forms of church and community or leadership. These might be me, and they might be more than me, or they might be completely different than me. No matter what are position is called shouldn’t we all be preparing our communities for what God’s calling us to do/be next?

  2. “for such a time as this” people/positions – that’s what we’re called to be, or become. Hopefully being “re-formed” for and in ministry is part of our response to our call. Yes, I know that being “re-formed” is all to often ascribed as needed by an “other,” not ourselves.

  3. If you’re interested, I did some reflecting in this area:
    An edited version appeared in the Outlook.

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