Tending Intentionally to Congregations in Transition: Intentional Interim Pastor Training
by Noel Santiago
“Intentional Interim Training is a specialized ministry intended to help congregations take fuller advantage of the time between long term pastors.”
Thus begun our orientation to this training event held at the Towamencin Mennonite Church on October 26-30, 2015.
With a dozen participants from varied Anabaptist Conferences from the east coast plus one Canadian Pastor, we engaged with each other around the material, stories, resources and toolkit that would equip us for Intentional Interim work.
We learned there are five developmental tasks of this work which really focus on five points:
“The real work of the intentional interim minister is to facilitate and coach, guide and support the members and leaders of the congregation as they engage in the focus points.” (John Keydel)
“But a second task for interims today is a new one. It is to help congregations understand the seismic shifts in American culture that I and others describe as ‘the ending of North American Christendom’ and ‘the waning of modernity.” (Anthony B. Robinson)
Such were the realities we delved into during our week together. Looking at case studies provided us the opportunity to practice thinking about what we were learning. How should you address a situation where a long term pastor who has retired or stepped down from their role but wants to remain in the congregation? What happens if people still want their former pastor to do a wedding, funeral or baptism? What if there is a family or a person in the congregation that is holding all the power where no decision can be implemented unless they approve? What if there has been a wounded history of pain that no one really talks about but continues to affect our interactions together? How does one address these dynamics in ways that are healthy even if difficult? These and many other scenarios were presented for engagement.
Intentional Interim training is offered bi-annually and is jointly sponsored by Franconia, EDC, ACC and Lancaster Conferences. One of the strengths of this training is the variety of trainers. Topics are presented by seasoned Intentional Interim Ministers and Conference Ministers who offer keen insights, share from their experiences, and offer practical ideas and resources.
At the end of our time together there was a time of certification and prayer over each of those who had finished the training. We were sent forth into God’s mission as temporary shepherds over a given congregation with a renewed sense of empowerment and hope that with God, all things are possible!