Archives For Lavern Brown

The interim pastor has a tremendous opportunity to work with church leaders to address many of the  issues that can be hazardous for the next permanent pastor. One of the most important questions an interim pastor can ask is, “How can I set the next guy up for success?”

Several key areas will create an environment conducive to long term ministry. The idea is to prevent burnout for the pastor who follows.

Negotiate the pastor’s Sabbath rest

Very few pastors schedule regular time away from church work in their ministry plan. They can easily neglect to set time aside for rest and renewal. Interim pastors perform an invaluable service by negotiating Sabbaticals for the pastor.

Some churches have begun to see the value of this. Others still believe it is nothing more than a glorified vacation. They find it difficult to swallow paying for it.

Help the church board understand that pastors have a hard time caring for themselves. Explain that there is a huge return on investment. When a pastor is directed to spend extended, focused time with the Lord, without the pull of ministry demands, he is…

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Do you have what it takes to be an effective change leader, a skilled interim pastor? For that matter, how do you know if you’ve been called to serve as an interim pastor?

I guess the answer is the same for every variety of vocational ministry. As my favorite Bible college teacher told a group of curious, possibly pre-seminary students, “You know you’re called to ministry when you can’t do anything else.”

When we narrow the question to interim pastors the answer becomes more precise. I can’t give you a yes or no answer to the question but I can tell you the kinds of people that God seems to bless in this line of service. The Lord is free to use whom he wants in any capacity at any time so the best I can offer is a rule-of-thumb.

6 Traits of Interim Pastors

1. You lean into conflict
When you’re in a small boat you’ve got to turn into the weather. Those big waves will crash against the bow, making the hull shudder. If you try to ignore the storm you’re liable to take a roller over the freeboard and capsize. Dittoes with church conflict – you’ve got…

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Change AheadYou’ve made your decision; it’s time to resign your pastoral position. Or perhaps it’s been made for you; either submit a “constructive resignation” or be terminated.

How do you set the stage for the next pastor to succeed?

It’s never easy to resign a pastoral position.

If you’ve been called to another ministry you’re probably leaving a good church filled with good people behind. They will grieve your departure and you’ll be breaking loving bonds with people you’ve walked with through life’s trials.

If you’re bailing because you’ve hit a dead end you’ll have to deal with feelings of failure and doubts about your abilities. You may be burned out and in need ofprofessional care. If your departure has been hastened by personal failure, you will need the help of groups that specialize in restoring fallen pastors.

When the decision is made it’s time to strategize your exit so that you set the church and the next pastor up for success. Here are 10 tactics I wish the pastors I followed would have known!

Tactic 1: Renew the Leadership

Take the church’s elected leaders and ministry leaders through a refresher course on church leadership. Help them…

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Can you give a clear, concise and biblically accurate description of a disciple of Jesus?

If so, you are a select member of an elite club.

I wonder if most ministers – let alone most Christians – really know what their ministry’s “finished product” is supposed to look like? I’m being reluctantly dragged to the conclusion most don’t by what the affiliated interim pastors of the Transition Ministries Group have found in our client churches.

Try this experiment to see if you come up with the same results.

Ask the next 20 pastors you meet their definition or description of a disciple. Hopefully you’ll find consensus but my guess is you’ll receive some blank stares, puzzled expressions, a few rambling discussions and maybe – just maybe – a biblical answer.

You know what’s really odd about this?

Jesus gave a clear, concise and simple description of what his disciples should be. He gave us the spec sheet, so to speak. There are a small handful of passages where the Lord says, in effect, “if you want to be my disciple you must do this” or “you can’t do that.”

Here are seven sermon texts you can preach to…

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NoYou’re an interim pastor looking for the next call. A potential client church is toying with the idea of retaining your services. After the first consult you get a gut feeling that something’s not right.

If you don’t dig further or if you jump in because you need the job you may wake up one day in a mess that’s going to leave a bruise, maybe even a permanent scar.

Interim pastors should have a predetermined way to screen potential client churches. Having these questions answered ahead of time minimizes the likelihood of making a bad decision under the duress of needing or wanting a job.

In my years of vocation as an interim pastor I’ve developed my own disqualifying list. From personal experience and that of my colleagues I’ve learned that there are certain churches that don’t make the cut.

There are at least 10 churches I would not serve as an interim pastor:

  1. A church that will not contractually give me the needed authority (if it is an autonomous church)
  2. A church whose executive will not give me the needed authority (if it is not an autonomous church)
  3. A church that will not cover my expenses and pay…

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PlantsWill settled pastors of the future need to have the personal qualities of a church planter, the unique abilities of a turnaround expert and the specialized skills of an intentional interim pastor?

If the trends currently changing the face of American culture continue – and they seem to be accelerating – the settled pastor of the future won’t be “settled” and neither will the church. We’ve already entered into a period of churning cultural turbulence that is redefining the American church; mainline denominations face imminent extinction and evangelicalism is being transformed into something wholly new.

Churches, denominations, Bible colleges and seminaries will need to furnish our future pastors with precisely tailored skills that go far beyond exegesis and homiletics. Our future pastors will need to be trained to think like a church planter and mentored to operate like a turnaround specialist.

Fortunately, there is solid research to point us in the right direction.

The church planter

In the near future settled pastors will have to learn how to think like a church planter but without the headaches of raising support and funding a startup operation.

Charles Ridley, Professor at Indiana University and pioneer in church planting assessment, has…

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WelcomeWhen was the last time you visited a place that billed itself as “the unfriendliest church in town?”

Me either. I don’t think I’ve ever been to one. But they’re out there in spirit if not in name. Tim Dolan reports that one of his lay ministry students found one.

As an assignment, I encouraged my students to put on their “visitor hat” and attend a local church service to find out for themselves. Normally, students do not take me up on these kinds of challenges. Barb did. Barb attended a worship service as a first time visitor the very next Sunday and reported back to me what she had experienced.

Barb’s experience at this church confirmed what I feared. No one greeted her at the door when she entered the church building. A man standing in the narthex did not know what time the service began… No one greeted her as she entered the sanctuary and sat down. One woman came along with a bus load of children and gave Barb that “you’re sitting in our pew” glare… When Barb went forward for communion, the pastor simply stared at her and said nothing….

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Eventually every preacher gets stuck where Moses spent some time. In the desert, going nowhere, staring blankly at sheep.

Fortunately it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I recall Haddon Robinson warning a gaggle of green wannabes that sermon prep can become dull and mundane. “Like hammering doghouses together on an assembly line.”

The next time you’re staring blankly at the monitor or rummaging the Internet in desperate search of an idea it’s time for a little self-assessment. Chances are you’ll find your drought started in one of four areas: your circumstances, how you cultivate creativity, conflict in the congregation or you’re sensing the approach of your ministry’s closure.

Four questions should help you dial it in.

Circumstance: Am I managing well?

Circumstances will drain us if we grant them control. Sure, we all have stretches of extraordinary demands we have to power through. But if that typifies your ministry its time to ask yourself a hard question. How good are my management skills?

Sooner or later the preacher runs into a wall.

He’s stuck. He doesn’t have a good answer.

When someone on staff asks, “what are you doing for your next sermon series?” they are met with a blank stare.

This happens to preachers of all stripes. Verse-by-verse expositors run into this wall when it’s time to figure out the ‘next book to preach.’ Topical preachers – who can still be expositors if they choose – hit a dry spell when they can’t read the ‘signs of the times’ and figure out what’s next. Our colleagues who preach from a Lectionary may have it over us, but I’d bet even they find themselves struggling once in a while.

The answer to the question lies in answering two other questions:

  • What is your weakest or least favorite area of theology?
  • What is your least favorite or least understood book of the Bible?

Your answers reveal which part of the “whole counsel of God”  you’ve neglected.Your congregation certainly needs you to teach them these things. After all, you’re the one who’s been neglectful.

So brush up your theology and do some exegesis in the less popular books. It won’t be long…

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Feed the SheepCalling an intentional interim pastor should be the first thing a church does when the pastor resigns, especially if the church meets any of these criteria:

  1. The pastor is leaving after a lengthy tenure (experts differ over”lengthy tenure”, with figures from 7 to 15 years).
  2. The church churns its pastors (a new one is called every few years).
  3. The pastor leaves under duress (forced out) or due to moral failure.
  4. The church’s leaders can’t identify or agree on the church’s mission.
  5. It has been three years since the last ministry audit (everything is reviewed for “mission fit” and amended as needed).
  6. It is a “commuter church” (members are very different from those who live near the church).
  7. Attendance has plateaued (people coming in offset those who leave).
  8. The church faces significant financial challenges.

Any church entering the transition between permanent pastors should pay careful and prayer attention to these danger signs. If not there is a danger the leadership team might utter five very dangerous words. If these words become a mantra the leadership could unwittingly inflict serious damage on the church that take years to repair.

Five words church leaders must avoid

“We can do it ourselves.”


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