A Question of Leadership
Of course, opportunities are not the same as realities. Though every transitioning church could experience these blessings, not all of them actually will. The difference boils down to leadership. Wise leaders look for and grasp the opportunities that present themselves during the interim season. Foolish leaders ignore or fumble those opportunities.
One question a congregation’s leaders should ask in times of transition is whether they are open to outside expertise. Many local leaders have rarely–or never–led a church through a transition in senior ministerial leadership! They don’t know what to expect, how to proceed, or that an interim season can pose both hopeful opportunities and dangerous difficulties.
On the other hand, some local leaders have been through these transitions far too often. (“We’ve lost three ministers in the last five years!”) Either way, a skilled and experienced interim minister can be extremely helpful.
Some churches can’t afford (financially or otherwise) to open themselves to outside intervention: too threatening, too invasive. But, for churches (and church leaders) who are willing, an interim minister can help a church reframe a season of challenge and uncertainty as an opportunity for growth, renewal, and refreshment.
Whatever your decision about outside help, managing a transition in the pulpit is all about leadership. Good leadership during the interim season builds a foundation for health and effectiveness in the future. Poor leadership in a transition can condemn a church to years of struggle, conflict, and decline. Which future your church experiences will depend in large measure on whether you–as leaders–are able to reframe the way your members view the interim season.