Often when a church has enjoyed the stability of having the same head pastor for many years, then faces his replacement, leadership will seek an interim pastor. An interim pastor, or a specialized interim called a transitional pastor, is specially trained to assist a church in resolving internal conflicts and strife. Other interim pastors are merely hired to preach and perform church sacraments while the church leadership seeks a permanent replacement. Regardless of the type of interim, there are several questions you must ask in the interviewing process to determine if this man fits the needs of your local church.
Even if your pastor search committee has an expectation to hire a permanent head pastor relatively quickly, your interim must possess the theological savvy to help your church members grow spiritually. Compare your interim candidate's faith statement from his resume, augmented by theology questions in the interview, to your denomination's faith statement. Verify that he agrees with your local church and denomination on Christian essentials such as salvation, the sacraments, the church structure and other key distinctive features. Request that he explain, in detail, the message of the Gospel and how it is woven throughout the Bible before and after Jesus Christ's time on earth. Examine his pastoral qualifications compared to those in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus, as best you can tell, to determine if he is biblically qualified to be a pastor.
An interim pastor should have experience ministering in a hurting church. Ask for him to relay some experiences in the ministry in which he assisted his congregation through a hard time. Flesh out his communication skills and his ability to resolve conflict by asking an open-ended question such as "How would you resolve an argument between two believers in your church?" Ask his views on Matthew 18 and the concept of church discipline to see whether he will be able to address substantial sins among the congregants.
Character and Wisdom Questions
Since an interim pastor is coming into a unique and typically challenging experience, ask questions that deal with his character and wisdom. Ask him how he avoids gossip in a church. Ask broad questions such as "What is Christian unity?" to determine how he weighs church unity in contrast to other concerns such as the fidelity to the scripture. Verify that he fully understands the temporary nature of the job so that there are not hard feelings with him or the congregation when a permanent pastor is called. Ask "What is the role of an interim pastor?" and "What would be your plans for the first few months as our interim?" to verify that he has a heart for your church and wants to assist it in this transitional period. Ask questions regarding how he will counsel those hurting church members stung by the exit of the previous minister.
Interim pastors need to be loving and conciliatory to help a church deal with the change of spiritual leadership. Search for a candidate with a track record of assisting in this way, and ask questions about how successful he was when placed in a similar circumstance. Role-playing with an interim pastor candidate is useful in further determining his conflict resolution skills. Have the interviewer play the part of an angry church member and have the candidate role-play how he would try to soften his heart. Discuss the candidate's ability to work with the congregation to stabilize its finances, as many churches that are between pastors experience budgetary shortfalls.
- Ligonier Ministries: 10 Important Things To Ask a Potential Pastor
- Sand Bur Consulting: Interviewing a Candidate for an Interim Pastor Position
- Christian Communicators Worldwide: Questions for a Prospective Pastor
- Interimpastors.com: Interview Form
- Presbytery of Arkansas: Guidelines for Interim Pastors in the Presbytery of Arkansas
- Resolvechurchconflict.com: Matthew 18:15-17 The Most Misapplied Passage on Church Conflict
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